Bacterial Communication Study
Exploring the nature of communication through proximity and presence inspired by various personal research into bacterial interactions. Primary point of interest being, how does the enteric nervous system (gut microbiome) interact with us at a physio-emotional level.
I had been fascinated to find out about the enteric nervous system and wanted to learn more about bacteria so I got in contact with a bio lab and convinced them to let me observe/video record bacteria through a microscope. They were very supportive and let me play with their equipment, however one problem in looking at bacteria through a regular microscope is that E.Coli, the bacteria I was interested in looking at, is very translucent and hard to "catch" visually. So one of the lab assistants suggested that I stain the bacteria with a red dye for better viewing. I said sure, and the technician came back with a slide of dyed E.Coli. It was much easier to find the bacteria this time, however something was amiss.. they were not moving. Apparently its a common situation where the bacteria gets over dyed and they all die in the process.
My eagerness to simply view and understand a group of organism had resulted in a mass genocide of these entities. For some this instance may be rather insignificant but the experience set me off on a series of conceptual experiments and projects contemplating the nature of communication between one and another.
This video is a meditation on the power of simple gestures having metaphysical consequences.
After the incident of accidentally killing thousands (if not hundreds of thousands of bacteria) I started researching ways in which bacteria communicate. Part of my interest was in learning more about them through their mode of communication and partly, perhaps unspoken/subconscious, a desire to find a way to apologize for killing them previously.
Bacteria, specifically E.Coli, communicate chemically through electrical signals transmitted through the touching of their hair-like flagella that covers its skin. I find chemical communication to be deeply fascinating for its instantaneous nature of expression and reception, and for its seeming distance from our common mode of symbolic communication. Yet this mode of communication is not dissimilar from the way our neurotransmitters interact in our brains
This piece explores the space between expression and understanding, the gap between one and an other. How might we communicate presence and proximity?
The Roots of Connection
Mycorrhiza is a symbiotic network of fungi that connects the roots of a large expanse of trees through underground webs in an ecosystem. The fact that all these trees can chemically communicate with one another and share vital information as to potential threats, nutrient resources and access to water, is something that I found to be worthy of exploration.
The animation above was projected down into a terrarium containing myceliated soil that I had grown in my studio. the installation not only gave the darkened soil an alien liveliness but was also a naive attempt at communicating with the life network within it.