Extra Credit: Beatriz de Costa “Invisible Earthlings” Exhibit - Alana Chin

When I first heard of this exhibit, I actually first envisioned human-like figures that were “invisible.” Maybe transparent or ghostly representations of humans or even aliens. For some reason it never occured to me that this was talking about small organisms like bacteria. This exhibit was a surprisingly small exhibit of several stations set up around the room. Each station had three petri dishes of colonies of different kinds of bacteria collected from different places. Mounted above each station was some sort of interactive electronic device that looked like a GPS system. This GPS device told the viewer where these samples of bacteria were collected. One station was collected from a bench of bacillus, staphylococcus, and chrysosporum. One station from a porch had sedosporium. One station from inside a garage was a mixed media of rhizopus, gliocladum, and lactobacillus. And then another station from under a trashcan had corynebacterium, yeast, and serratia marceescen. At first I thought there had to be more to this exhibit. It seemed so bare and minimal and I did not know how this related to art. After I realized that this was it, I went in for a closer look. It seems that Beatriz de Costa is trying to tell us that all of these organisms are living and flourishing in places we never really think about. Especially since they are so small, these bacterial colonies are often overlooked even though they have impressive collective numbers in the millions. And then it hit me, “Invisible Earthlings!” Ohhh, not people or ghosts you can not see, but the little organisms that are just too small to be seen. Beatriz de Costa wants us to open our eyes to the other living creatures that impact our lives even though we might not realize it. And these things exist in our world and influence others just as much as we do.

Right now the word “perspective” rings through my head. But at the time, I honestly did not know why this was so important. I can appreciate the exhibit for trying to educate the public and increase awareness of these overlooked things, but I did not see the bigger picture. At first I thought that alright, it’s good to know that we are not the only ones out there and I suppose that humans tend to think that we are the only important beings out there. It is good that this serves to “put us in our place” if you will. However, I am not entirely sure that this was the main intention. Is she trying to help us visualize these otherwise “invisible” earthlings to just give us an image to the name? Or is she trying to use perspective by showing us how large we are in comparison to how small bacteria is? Is this then to be extrapolated to compare our size to the universe, meaning that we are then just as insignficant to the universe as tiny bacteria are to us? Is this then why the exhibit was held in a small and otherwise empty room? The room was small and intimate, possibly for us insignificant beings to unite with eachother and find community? Were we supposed to connect with the bacteria and realize that we aren’t really that different from eachother? To put all of these sizes and differences, I looked up comparisons and found this diagram. http://weblife.org/humanure/images/fig3-1.jpg

In the end, I suppose this is why we appreciate art so much. There are so many different kinds of interpretations and messages. There really isn’t a “right” way to interpret art. I suppose there may be the artist’s “intepretation,” just as anyone else would have their own interpretation. The important thing is that you form an intepretation, and actually think about the piece. Because overall, isn’t art just a catalyst to stir thought and conversation?

~Alana Chin

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