BioBespoke: uniquely personal personal pigments and attire

Q: I never know what colours go together, so I always just wear black and gray. Do you have any tips to make mixing colors easier?

A: Let your body’s microbiome, that is its trillions of bacteria, decide for you.

m2MicrbiomeCol

These are uniquely personal living pigments for textile designs, in that they are bacteria that I’ve isolated from my own microbiome.These pale pastel colours, and more as they become available, will be used soon to make intensely personal fabric designs for a unique clothing range. Here’s a swatch of black cotton with the some of  bacterial  bacterial pigments isolated so far.

Six Observations On The BioArchitecture Of Soil

IMG_0018 IMG_0019 IMG_0020 IMG_0023 IMG_0024 IMG_0025 Soil1

If a soil sample is placed onto a receptive surface the vast microbial community within  slowly emerges from it to form a complex design that reflects the microbiological properties of the orginal soil. In these particular images the generative form resembles frozen water and seeing such BioCrystaline state emerge in this way reminds me of both Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”  and Ballard’s “Crystal World”

Self-Portraits. Media: personal bacterial microflora, crystal violet, iodine and saffranin

The works as they would appear under a microscope. They are made up of billions of differentially stained bacterial cells from my own body.

The works as they would appear under a microscope. They are made up of billions of differentially stained bacterial cells from my own body.

Gram1

A macroscopic self-portrait

Gram2

A macroscopic self-portrait

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A macroscopic self-portrait

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A macroscopic self-portrait. No man is an island

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A macroscopic self-portrait. No man is an island

The Gram stain is the most important staining technique used in bacteriology and is almost always the first step in identifying an unknown bacterium. It distinguishes two key types of bacteria, those that are Gram-positive (these stain purple) and those that are Gram-negative bacteria (these stain pink). The stain is usually made on a small section of a glass slide and the bacteria then observed under one 1000-times magnification using a microscope. Here I decided to adapt the Gram staining technique to investigate my own bacterial microflora, that is to use it to reveal my own Dark Biology. I see this process as a form of self-portraiture and thus decided to forego the use of a microscope and to instead increase the size of the area of the stained bacteria so that the art work would be the same size as a more conventional self-portrait. These images then are macroscopic self-portraits made from my own microscopic flora. The swathes of purple, gold, and red are in fact made by the specific staining of billions of individual bacteria cells and when the works are observed under a microscope, this reality is revealed and they are found to comprise of a multitude of microscopic and coloured dots and rods (the shape of the bacterial cells). Being made of an aspect of myself, I find the self-portraits intensely personal and also think of them as a  form of microscopic pointillism.

Autogenetic Paintings: visualizing bacterial communication

Symbio3 Symbio2 Symbio1 The starting recipe here is relatively simple, the outcome most definitely not. Two initially white pigmented bacteria Erwinia carotovora and  Chromobacterium violaceum,  CV026, (or two living and “intelligent” pigments),  have been mixed together. CV026, is a mute strain, its ability to communicate with itself, and other bacteria having been genetically disabled.  If however, it detects communication signals from other bacteria it will respond to these by producing a purple pigment.  Erwinia carotovora is an unrelated species that produces such a communication signal. The painting begins life as a white splodge, as if an artist had painted white acrylic or oil paint onto a canvas, but unlike conventional paints, as the two living pigments interact, and communicate with each other, a complex and unique autogenic glyph emerges. I like to think of these as bacterial versions of Keith Tyson’s Nature Paintings.

Bacterial Messages for Christmas

  

A Wise Man

A Wise Man

The Jesus Foetus

The Jesus Foetus

The Donkey

The Donkey

A Christmas Fox

A Christmas Fox

Bambi

Bambi

Forget the Queen’s Christmas speech and the Popes! These festive “glyphs” were generated just  by the process of bacteria communicating with each other. Sometimes,  I imagine that they might also be using these glyphs to communicate with us. This is what they had to say about Christmas!

Microbial Celebrities

In May 2012, the BBC OneShow featured a short video of my work with bacteria and art. In a broadcasting  first, I managed to get a living work of bacterial art onto live television in front of an audience of more than 3 million people. The most rewarding aspect for me though was the fact that I managed to get the living bacteria into the One Show Green Room, and where Kylie Minogue or David Cameron and many other celebrities had once been, there they now were, silent but alive and breathing.

The Bioluminescent Night Light: biological temazepan

Blue light has a supposed soothing and calming effect. I’ve suffered from moderate insomnia for many years so I decided to find out whether the ethereal blue light emitted by marine bioluminescent bacteria would help me with my problem. Consequently,  I made a bioluminescent Night Light and slept under its influence for 4 days. I have to say that the light is wonderfully comforting, a beguiling faint blue constant throughout the night. In Nature, this form of light is often employed by predators as a lure, and like temazepan, I find that it has unique hypnotic and soporific propeties. Under the light’s infleunce, I sleep like a baby and dream of the sea.