Patterns of Bacterial Life - 2009 - photography

The End of Bacterial Imperium

In spring 2009, I contacted the Department of Environmental and Health Studies at Telemark University College to acquire some expert knowledge in microbiology and bacterial cultivation . I needed to do this in order to work with organisms like bacteria which could be dangerous. This is how I ended up meeting and starting my collaboration with Professor Olaf Rosef, a microbiologist. 

The first cultivated samples of bacteria led to visually interesting results. Mixture of bacterial types and agar types cultivated in a petri dish resulted in exciting colourful compositions. Impossible to understand what the bacteria have done and why by just looking at the colourful patterns, we can interpret that they adapted into their new environment and changing conditions. Dark branching patterns formed when I left the petri dishes to dry. These patterns must have been the result of a long march for nourishment, like the historic Chinese trek...

Eshel writes:

”Under unpredictable hostile environmental conditions, when the odds are against survival, the bacteria turn to a wide range of strategies for adaptable collective responses. These cooperative modes of behaviour are manifested through remarkable different patterns formed during colonial self-organization. The aesthetic beauty of these geometrical patterns is striking evidence of an ongoing cooperation that enables the bacteria to achieve a proper balance of individuality and sociality as they battle for survival, while utilizing pattern-formation mechanisms that we have only recently begun to understand.”

 What strikes me is that bacterial colonies can visually resemble the patterned results of human activities such as the patterns of human colonies as seen from an aeroplane. This connection has led me to create a light box work where I displayed various petri dishes: some with dry bacterial colony and some with satellite pictures of big cities. This visual similarity has changed my perception of our planet, and induced me to reflect on the role we could have.

What if we are the bacterial colonies?  Is there someone who cultivates us? Why? Are we necessary or just an evolutionary mistake? Have we become resistant such that nature can’t defend itself against as homo-sapient bacteria ?

If bacterial life forms came before us in this world, is it possible that we are their direct descendants ?  Is our consciousness only a result of common processes and tasks that cells and bacteria do in our bodies?


Basilus Cerus og Ecoli

What if we are...

ORINOCO, USA                                        CONGO, AFRICA                                  Qianhuzhuang Cun, CHINA