'Exploring the Invisible', 2009 - 2011

Images: 'Exploring the Invisible', Anne Brodie, 2009

'Exploring the Invisible' was a collaborative project between artist Anne Brodie, microbiologist Simon Park, and writer and researcher Caterina Albano using a strain of bioluminescent bacteria, Photobacterium phosphoreum, to explore our ways of interacting with bacteria. Through enquiry and experimentation that transcended the traditional boundaries of art and science, the project developed a body of photographic and moving image works and a live installation that reimagined our encounter with bacteria.

Bioluminescent bacteria are widely used in scientific research, usually as internal markers. By inverting this practice and employing the bacteria as an external light source, objects and bodies, surfaces and skin were exposed to the soft ethereal glow of the bacteria, establishing new points of contact and visual punctures. What is usually seen under the lens of the microscope was here the source of light that revealed the features of human bodies and entered the world of domesticity.

The project began in 2008 as part of ArtAkt's 'Crossing Over' in a purpose made ‘bioluminescent photographic booth’ in a cupboard at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. The project outcomes were exhibited back here in 2011, this time out of the cupboard. Among those captured in photographic portraits are the staff of the Royal Institution and eminent professors including Lord Krebs, Richard Ashcroft, Marcus Du Sautoy, Sarah Franklin, Chris Mason and Christopher Rapley.

The booth was also installed for two days at the British Science Festival, and in Brodie’s local pub. Volunteers stood naked for three minutes inside, immersed in the dark space filled with hundreds of glowing petri dishes.

As Brodie says, “We undress for medical reasons, exposure usually associated with discomfort and fear. Exposure in this case, cocooned in the faint blue, living, light, brought calm and quietness.”

'Exploring the Invisible' is included in the publication,  ‘Bio Design – Nature, Science, Creativity’, Edited and text by William Myers. foreword by Paola Antonelli, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Published by Thames and Hudson.

Project credits:

Curator: Dr Caterina Albano, Artakt
Microbiologist: Dr Simon Park
Supported by: Wellcome trust