Artist Statement

Installation with petri-plates and lifeless microorganism. 2012. Generated using pure sound tones and a range of frequencies. In the memory of Prof. Eshel Ben Jacob.

The “Soundscapes” series is part of Bar-Shai’s body of work “Objectivity [tentative]”, a series of experiments and interventions that explores the intersection of Art, Science and Technology. Bar-Shai applies traditional lab techniques as used by scientists and artistic inquiries to visualize the “chemical tweets” of microorganisms as exceptionally beautiful and rare image patterns, while drawing a link between microbial morphogenesis and designed ecosystems. Taking inspiration from the work and research of Prof. Eshel Ben Jacob who studied “The Social Life of Bacteria”, this body of work explores the complex network and communication systems of “smart” microorganism known for its advanced social behavior, reflected in development of colonies with highly complex architecture structures. It looks into biological systems of selforganization and collective decision making, the immense complexity within seemingly simple structures, creativity and problem solving among billions of microorganisms and the process of achieving dramatically varied results with slight alterations in initial settings. In addition to the advanced social and morphological abilities, as well as the patterns and unique structures that these microbial colonies create, what fascinates Bar-Shai is that eventually, the outcome we witness here is a visual representation of a communication system. Microbial conversation that generates an image. An ever changing, developing, evolving image. A language? A map for communication? A story? A poem? The “Soundscapes” series, on display at ISEA2016HK, part of the body of work “Objectivity [tentative]”, looks into morphogenesis, complex social behavior and decision making of micro-organisms, using pure sound waves and a range of frequencies as a variable replacing traditional scientific factors (such as temperature, moisture, nutrients and antibiotics), to initiate the growth of complex compositional structures among bacteria colonies. The “Soundscapes” installation on display here, consist of petri plates with lifeless microorganisms. These living maps of bacteria social and communication systems are created using scientific technique and creative experimental practices. Audio waves are transmitted through liquid agar, a bacterium growth medium, as it solidifies, forming sound-generated topographies for the bacterium to grow on. Each outcome is unique and directly conditioned to the initial settings introduced to the bacteria – a collaboration between the microorganism and the artist. nuritbarshai.com/objectivity

  • NURIT BARSHAI is an interdisciplinary artist who works at the intersection of art, science and technology. As an artist and educator working with biological systems, she conducts experiments through creative collaborative inquiries and address the ethics and the emerging practices of Do It Yourself biology and citizen-science. Bar-Shai’s artwork looks into microbial social networks and communication systems, collective collaboration, emergence, SGM (SoftGenetic Modification) and novel biomaterial fabrications. As an artist, educator and co-founder off Genspace, a community biotech lab in Brooklyn NY, Bar-Shai values cross-disciplinary practices and see the significance of creating an environment in which artists and scientists can exchange methodologies and practices, and thus provide a platform for collaborations, innovations and critical dialogue. While Bar-Shai have collaborated extendedly with numerous scientists, she has also been developing programs to link art-science programs at community labs, at universities and within her own artwork practice. Over the years, Bar-Shai have witnessed the urgency of creating accessibility to science, while building a platform that provides a unique studio-lab space,  a rich Art & Science educational outreach and cultural programming for artists, scientists and the general public. A physical space to practice scientific knowledge, acquire new skills and techniques making science tangible, accessible, affordable and fun. Bar-Shai believes that the arts community is in a unique position to explore the social, moral and ethical questions related to new biotechnologies through their artworks, and she feels this is an integral part of public engagement in the sciences. Bar-Shai’s body of artwork spans from bacterial colonies emergence, social networks and communication systems (Objecticity [tentative]) adopting scientific techniques and artistic inquiries using sound (soundscapes, Sound to Shape), 3D agar forms and custom-made petri-plates (Morphoecology) to explore microbiome morphogenesis in designed ecosystems, which she often share with the public through exhibitions, live performances, lectures and hand-on workshops. To Biomaterials modification adopting tissue culture techniques into her work to create lab grown bone buttons (The Passing), and collaborations which raises ethical and esthetic awareness to the personal and collective biome (NYC BiomeMAP).

Full text and photo (PDF) p. 24-26