Sunday 30 October 2011

Wednesday 26 October 2011

working from home

I'm moving studio this week, working from home in the meantime. How is a person supposed to do their work in a place where there is also a large orange cat hell-bent on doing his conviviality work? In a minute he gets up and starts playing Twister with the big circles. He is very good at his job.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

making paintings with bacteria

In Simon's lab at the University of Surrey

Before and after pictures of these two plates of collaborative paintings between myself, Serratia marcescens and Simon Park.

So the paint medium is this wonderfully contaminated but nevertheless fragrant and delicious mixture of gum arabic, honey and glycerin in water.  The pigments I'm using are:

A: ultramarine  (Na8-10Al6Si6O24S2-4 , a.k.a. Reckitt's or dolly blue)
B: phthalo blue  (C32H16N8Cu , humanity's contribution to the porphyrins)
C: diarylide yellow (you can buy 100 tons per month from this company)
D: phthalo green (like the blue, only the phthalocyanine is chlorinated)
E: cobalt violet (Co3(PO4)2 )
F: zinc white ( Philosophers' Wool to you)
G: chrome green (Cr2O3)
H: lamp black (we scrape it off the gas lamps on our way to t'mill in the mornings and keep it in our flat caps.)

Because of the interactions with those opportunistic chaps in the paint this is a total flop as regards answering any of my paint-bacteria questions, and so much the better, sez I, as it means I can use some of my favourite phrases about it such as "inconclusive" and "poorly understood" and will therefore just have to do some more of this very fun and nice work.

boundary issues


I've overstepped my ethical boundaries here with this incarceration of  M. luteus inside a fortress of cobalt violet, chrome green and zinc white,  further hampered with a no-go area on the left there made by my own tears, to which it is sensitive, poor wee things.

Shame on me! I should be crying, tears of shame, not that crocodile tear that was so hard to squeeze out on that suny afternoon in a happy lab. Thing is, I think I knew that this bacteria would not like it in there and furthermore I was doing it purely for my own pleasure and voyeurism without regard for it and without giving it any way out.

It's the just-for-a-laff aspect I don't like. I'm quite happy to feed things to other things, do farming, interrogate the lives of anyone, and if it is a case of doing bad things to answer actual questions we can talk about that on a case by case basis. Hunting is fine by me too, as long as you are going to eat what you kill. (In fact my own death of choice would be to be knocked off my bicycle and eaten by a tiger, at the age of 121.) And I'll kill any amount of bacteria and other organisms simply because they I don't want them around, and not think too much about it. But this little vignette here is the opposite of what I want to do.

What I want to do is let things reveal themselves to me in the course of their activities. Or not reveal themselves, if that's the way things turn out. Preferably give them conditions they might enjoy.  I'm pretty sure the Serratia are having a fine time of it, rampaging all over and doing their fabulous swarming and replicating and what-have-you. And I don't feel too bad about the other small colonies of Micrococcus that are gently swelling into placid globs of quorum-sensing activity in their little circles here.  But this is a step too far, to leave a thing no choice but to sit glumly and wait for death, a small, sad, shit, truncated life, a condition we humans find too easy to impose on others and indeed ourselves. It is on a par with keeping hopelessly inbred dogs in handbags and keeping big cats in cages and making people have to work for Blue Arrow as far as I am concerned and I don't want to do it again. Bad Human! On your Rug!

Monday 24 October 2011

More painting bacteria!

Well I was going to wait and put these up on my website whenever I get round to making it but as I seem to have your attention right now thought you might like to see some more of the nice pictures made by Serratia marcescens, Simon Park and me. These are close-ups from two plates, in no particular order.

There are also some Micrococcus luteus and Micrococcus roseas in there, rather drowned out by ythe Serratia.  And some other bacteria who hitched a ride in the paint, I don't know what the tiny pale colonies are but they probably came off me and found my gum arabic/honey/glycerin medium a delightful place to live.

Photos by Simon Park.