Cipher – A Macro Wiev Of Micro


Bacteria, beings measuring just a thousandth of a millimetre across, are the most widespread organisms on Earth. They are everywhere and can survive in extreme conditions. They mutate, adapt and seem able to communicate to collectively carry out actions that are not possible for a single bacterium acting alone. Their mechanism for communication has been given visibility by artist and microbiologist Simon Park who, with his project Exploring The Invisible, has used living matter to create a series of works that explore the inherent creativity of the natural world, revealing hidden wonders. Chromobacterium violaceum is a common soil bacterium that owes its name to the purple colour that is generated by a flow of communication with other bacteria of its own kind. Park has created a modified version of this bacterium (CV026) that is able to receive and respond to signals, displaying a purple colour but unable to send new signals. The artist, who is interested in revealing a mechanism usually invisible to the human eye, has documented the communication process he triggered between Chromobacterium violaceum and “dumb” bacteria CV026 in a series of images. Initially, both strains are white and indistinguishable from each other. Upon incubation they begin to communicate with each other and a hidden cypher is revealed as the reporter strain detects the signal and turns purple.

Benedetta Sabatini