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.

 

The Gravity Stones and a viewer at the McDonough Museum of Art. The stones were a reference to gravity in planetary formation, as gravity congealed matter creating new complex molecules that gave rise to amino acids, proteins, and DNA.

 

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.

 

Small fan microbe mobile collection unit, and the gravity stones at the McDonough Museum of Art

 

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. 

 

Large fan cellular collection unit at the McDonough Museum of Art

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.

 

Large fan cellular collection unit left and small fan cell collection unit on right at the McDonough Museum of Art

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. 

 

Small fan microbe mobile collection unit at Emergent Systems during testing

 

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. 

 

Cellular collection unit with pluripotent stem cell mask

 

The first Holobiome Portrait up-close, after 1 week of growth in Agar by Ken Rinaldo. Photo Robyn Maas
The first Holobiome Portrait after 1 week of growth in Agar by Ken Rinaldo. Photo Robyn Maas

 

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 curator Claudia Berlinski videotaped this wonderful performance during the shows run. I was loving the flute, fans, and piano coming together with all that musical cellular dust.

Small fan microbe collection mobile at the McDonough Museum of Art. Maple branches from a fallen tree, recycled laser-cut Plexiglass stainless steel nuts, and bolts.

 

Large fan cellular collection unit left and small fan microbe mobile collection unit on right behind the gravity stones, at the McDonough Museum of Art

 

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.

 

Two small fan cell microbe mobile collection units, and three works from the Seed Series CRISPR phantasmagorical visualizations in the background, at the McDonough Museum of Art

 

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.

 

Gravity stones and rocks with moss at the McDonough Museum of Art

 

 

Small fan microbe collection mobiles from above at the McDonough Museum of Art

 

3D visualization of Gut Microbiome. 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.

 

 

Small fan microbe mobile collection unit at the McDonough Museum of Art

 

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.

Small fan microbe mobile collection unit at the McDonough Museum of Art

 

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.

Small fan microbe mobile collection unit at the McDonough Museum of Art

 

The cell samples collected on these filters will be grown in sealed Petri dishes, as holobiome-snapshots, collected in a present earth-time.

 

Closeup of rock showing evidence of IRON. 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.

 

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.

 

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

 

Others are visibly fossils, where life had already developed on the earth and left its imprint in these now ancient fossils.

 

I-Pluripotent stem cells masks is what the bacteria, fungi and viral cells are pulled through with the whisper-quiet fans

 

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.

 

Two cell collection mobiles in testing at Emergent Systems. Notice the beautiful lichen cultures living on the maple branches

 

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 automatically switch on when humans enter the space and collect their skin cells.

Arduino Uno’s attached to passive infrared sensors and small-signal micro relays, 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.

 

Closeup of red ban microbe mobile collection unit without filter paper

 

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.

 

 

Exhibitions:

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