Sensorial Skin, Starts Residency at Hybrid Forms Lab, 2019-2020

title: Sensorial Skin, Report of the residency; editor: AnneMarie Maes ; curators: Hybrid Forms Lab, STARTS residencies; images: AnneMarie Maes; distribution:

The artwork L’Origine du Monde’ shows a strongly enlarged bacterial chain made from glass cells and filled with colonies of cyanobacteria carrying out live real-time photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic bacteria that live in moist soil and water, often in a symbiotic relationship with plants or lichen.
The glass cells for the artwork have been specially produced by glassblowers in Venice. Different strains of cyanobacteria have been cultured at the Hybrid Forms Lab, which is specialised in photosynthesis.
My STARTS residency at the Hybrid Forms lab (part of the biophysics department of the VU Amsterdam) offered me the possibility to study the properties of cyanobacteria and how to deploy these micro-organisms for the creation of biosensors. Together with scientists I set up experiments to grow and monitor cyanobacteria under different conditions. This residency has impacted my work because it allowed me to advance the search for biosensors in laboratory conditions and to learn more about cyanobacteria.
This specific artwork fits within a broader art science work programme that I have been carrying out for almost a decade. I am researching a ‘Sensorial Skin’ [for an Intelligent Beehive]. The biofilm/skin is grown using cyanobacteria that will react to changes in light, colour or texture based on stress caused by the atmospheric pollution in the honeybee’s foraging radius. I test these skins on populated beehives, installed in my open air lab in Brussels. Future actions will lead to further research regarding the advantages of cyanobacteria and the process of photosynthesis for CO2 reduction and oxygen production on a small scale. The production of biopolymers as a byproduct is also an interesting source for the creation of renewable materials.

Report of the Starts Residency at the Hybrid Forms Laboratory, VU Amsterdam.
Artwork Presentation in Le Centquatre, Paris, 2020