Arch composed with Petri dishes painted with bioluminescent bacteria
An arch composed with Petri dishes painted with bioluminescent bacteria. The piece -- approximately 9 feet high by 5 feet wide -- was installed in December 2002 at the O'Malley Library, Manhattan College, Riverdale, New York.
The painting was created as part "Bioglyphs", an exhibition of living bioluminescent paintings that brought science and art together in the form of a collaborative project involving students from Montana State University's School of Art and science and engineering students from MSU's Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE).
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"Bioglyphs" consisted of two exhibitions of living bioluminescent paintings created by teams of student and staff artists, scientists and engineers.
Microorganisms live all around us but we are rarely aware of their presence. The "Bioglyphs" exhibition allowed viewers to have direct sensory contact with a microscopic organism. Scientists were unsure of the exact identity of the bioluminescent organisms that were used in the exhibit, but they were believed to be single-celled, marine-environment bacterial isolate, probably of the Vibrio species. These bacteria only grow on a high-salt medium at relatively low temperatures--considerably lower than the internal temperature of the human body. Like many marine organisms, they produce blue light through a chemical reaction. Other Vibrio species such as Vibrio fischeri, will produce light after a certain number of organisms have accumulated. Why the light is produced by communities rather than by a single organism in these species is unknown, but the phenomenon raises questions about the nature of communal response and interaction.
In order to obtain the bacteria used in the exhibit, scientists from the CBE prepared plates with a nutrient medium that would sustain the bacteria for a limited period of time. Successful growth however, depended on numerous factors, not all of which could be controlled. How the bacteria would respond to an environment created for them was inherently unpredictable.
When the bacteria were transferred to Petri dishes, they were invisible, but within 24 hours, they rapidly multiplied and began to emit a blue light. Over the course of several days, light production peaked and then began to decline, as the available nutrient was used up. This life cycle heightens our awareness of resource limitations, as well as species-interdependency. [This copyright text was used by permission from the MSU-Bozeman Bioglyphs Project.] (Year of image: 2000)
Credit: ©2002 MSU-Bozeman Bioglyphs Project
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