Microbiologist Dr. Simon Park presents four unique series of images created with fluorescent bacteria and slime molds.
These close-up images of bacterial colonies were used in an installation called Microcosmos which has been widely shown in the UK. This was a collaboration between myself, the composer Mitlon Mermikides, BBC cameraman Steve Downer, and culturist Pattie Hendrie. The soundscape for the installation was derived directly from the colour and shape of the colonies, and the DNA sequences of each individual bacteria species.
Exploring the Invisible
These images form part of a Wellcome Trust funded project which is a collaboration between myself, artist Anne Brodie, and curator Dr Caterina Albano in which we are exploring the communication and light producing properties of bioluminescent bacteria outside of the usual confines of pure scientific practice. One of the outcomes of this project is the “Bioluminescent Photobooth” which is a darkened, and portable booth into which people enter to have photographic portraits taken using only the ethereal light generated by the bioluminescent bacterium Photobacterium phosphoreum. For further information see: http://bioproject.tumblr.com/
Slime Mold Memories
Here the slime mold Physarum polycephalum was fed on fluorescently labeled food and then exposed to ultraviolet light (UV). The living slime mold absorbs UV so it doesn’t fluoresce as it intercepts the UV before it can reach the fluorescent dye. However, when the slime mold moves on it leaves the dye behind as a conditionally visible track (not visible in daylight and can be seen only with UV) and this fluoresces but only after the slime mold has gone. In these images, the living slime mold thus appears as the darker threads which now occupy the successful routes it found between its food sources. It is surrounded though by a cloud of glowing probability, i.e. the paths that the slime mold explored but that were never successful yet are still recorded by the fluorescent dye. To my eyes, the slime mold has “painted” a remarkable representation of evolution, life, and perhaps even quantum mechanics.
The Artistic Adventures of Physarum polycephalum
Here the slime mold Physarum polycephalum, growing in a Petri, escapes after a careless microbiologist leaves the lid off the dish. It assesses one of his books and then moves on to generate beautiful biogenic and living designs on a pair of his old denim jeans.