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. A holobiont is a complex and dynamic ecosystem composed of hologenomes. The host genome (us), and other associated microbial genomes intertwining determines the future of this ecosystem.
This installation consists of collection units (fans in Plexiglas boxes with filters) that collect human skin cells, bacteria, fungi, and viruses riding with you. 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. Other essential amino acids of our bodies have their origins in the elements of these same rocks and stones. The stones here 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. This element of the installation was partially inspired by this video.
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 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.
Computers and algorithmic logic have given rise to artificial intelligence, and AI now plays a significant role in the nature of how we identify, categorize, visualize, and form the world. AI has become a fundamental part of our evolution as a species.
We are “becoming with” with the algorithm, as they are functioning as idea amplification devices, allowing life-like simulations, and artificial life, to bloom.
The Seed Series in the background, looks at the logic of plants, their evolved wisdom, and agency, using wind, water, and fur to propagate their genes. We can understand that logic, and those growth strategies can then be applied to computer algorithms, to help shape and create phantasmagorical seeds. Seeds that do not naturally exist, but through software, design strategies, and speculative fictions can come into existence.
This Seed Series also speaks to the ease with which we can now use CRISPR Cas9 genetic manipulation technologies to shape actual genetic variants. CRISPR Cas9, genetic scissors, allow more precise editing of genes and will enable the creation of designer seeds beyond our wildest imaginations, where plants and animal genes can be mixed. Amazingly, this technology was adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system, discovered in bacteria.
In the Seed Series, I use 3D software to propose these conflations of plant, animal, bacteria, and insects, all coming together into speculative fabrications. The Seed Series defines ways to understand, make, and rethink our relationship with artificially constructed, non-human others.
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.
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 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 now ancient fossils.
On the branches, supporting both the stones and holobiome-collection-units, lichen is growing, itself a fungus, symbiotically joined with algae. In this installation, I am particularly interested in asking questions about the skin cells, which can become any cell as I-Pluripotent Stem Cells and in particular their relationships with the microbes that tune them.
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.
These works automatically switch on when humans enter the space and collect their skin cells.
What is the relationship between bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that daily interact with those cells in tuning them and keeping them healthy?
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