Scatter Surge celebrates microbial life vibrating in and on us. We think of self as an individual, though WE are a multispecies community with trillions of human cells symbiotically joining with trillions of bacterial, fungal, and viral cells. Together WE with water, light, stone, minerals, air, and atmosphere have come to form a holobiont.

Cellular collection unit with a rock on one side and fan on the other. The branch is from neighbors recently cut down, maple tree.


A holobiont is a complex and dynamic ecosystem composed of hologenomes. The host genome (us), and other associated microbial genomes intertwining determine the future of this ecosystem as well as influencing our behavior.

An example is gut microbiota which is now recognized as the key player in our health as it is connected to our neural system. The vagus nerve connects our visceral organs and the brain and is an evolved communication pathway for the gut microbiota, to influence brain and behavior.

Additionally, symbiotic microorganisms occupy a wide range of skin niches, providing vital functions, that the human genome had not yet evolved while symbiotically protecting against invasion, by more pathogenic organisms.

Cellular collection unit with pluripotent stem cell mask


This installation consists of collection units (fans in Plexiglas boxes with filters) that collect human skin cells, bacteria, fungi, and viruses riding with you.

3D visualization of Gut Microbiome


As you enter the gallery, infrared sensors hooked to microprocessors, switch the collection units on, and filter the air.  The cell samples collected on these filters will be grown in sealed Petri dishes, as holobiome-snapshots, collected in a present earth-time.

The stones in the installation reference different earth-times, and the unique mineral elements that constitute them, are also the substrate of life. For example, the iron in our blood has its origins from dying supernova stars that have entered our earth as meteors and in the original formation of our planet. Other essential amino acids of our bodies have their origins in the elements of these same rocks, and stones.

Closeup of rock showing evidence of IRON

The stones in this exhibition are between 4.7 billion to a few hundred million years old. Some have crystalline structures that have been part of giving rise to early life. Others are visibly fossils, where life had already developed on the earth and left its imprint in these ancient fossils.

Cellular collection unit with plexiglass tubes and stainless steel screw held up with laser-cut Plexi and monofilament.


I Pluripotent stem cells and stem cell mask


On the branches, supporting both the stones and holobiome-collection-units, lichen is growing, itself a fungus, symbiotically joined with algae.



The term holobiont has its origins when Dr. Lynne Margulis (1938 – 2011) observed and theorized about the complex symbiotic relationships in lichens in her theory of symbiogenesis.

Our own collective intelligence, and the unique properties and material nature of mineral substrates, have now been exploited with technological advances, as silica has been refined into silicon.

With this technology of silicon and robotic control, we can now begin to replicate some responsive and purposeful behaviors in artificial life systems.

Visualization of bacteria on human skin


These works will automatically switch on when humans enter the space and collect their skin cells. Arduino Uno’s attached to passive infrared sensors look for human body heat and when they sense a human nearby they switch on to collect the skin cells along with the bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Arduino UNO control units with passive infrared sensors


In this installation, I am particularly interested in asking questions about the skin cells, which can become any cell as I-Pluripotent Stem Cells.

What is the relationship between bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that daily interact with those cells in tuning them and keeping them healthy?

Some Staphylococcus Epidermidis bacteria are known to prevent cancer on the human skin.


A new study discovers that common skin bacteria can protect against cancer. Researchers say a strain of Staphylococcus Epidermidis, highlights the importance of some microorganisms to the health of the human body.

Scientists have discovered that bacteria can also be used to prevent and treat various forms of cancer and the study’s results are in the journal Science Advances. The scientists described the strain of Staphylococcus Epidermidis, and how this bacteria secretes a chemical that eliminates harmful bacteria, that are known to be responsible for infections.




MCDONOUGH MUSEUM OF ART                                                                               Youngstown, Ohio Jan 24, 2020
Scatter Surge exhibition presents the installation,  I Pluripotent,  a worldwide premiere, surrounding microbiome and holobiome portraits, origins of life and the Seed Series, invited by director Claudia Berlinski


Ken Rinaldo 2019; Concept, 3D modeling, rendering, fabrication, electronics, programming, and direction

TradeMark Gunderson; Plexiglass Fabrication and studio assistant

Pen Anders; studio assistant tying off stones with monofilament