Beatriz da Costa’s Invisible Earthlings Extra Credit by Mindy Truong

It’s simple to not be aware of the microscopic organisms that are around us because it cannot be seen with our bare eyes. It usually escapes our minds that a bench is not only a bench; it is a home for various microscopic bacteria. There exists a world beyond the one we witness, a microscopic world, which is unseen to us; it is invisible. Beatriz da Costa displays these “Invisible Earthlings” to us in seven individual installations. These interactive installations include seven touch screen Nokia devices set along the walls next to Petri dishes that contain the specimen. Beatriz da Costa collected these specimens in various locations including the bench, trash can, gate, garage and etc. She took these specimens and using microscopic devices, examined and identified what type of microorganisms they were. From the interactive touch screen devices we were able to further educate ourselves with what the microorganism is.

Beatriz da Costa wanted to create a connection between these “Invisible Earthlings” and ourselves. Da Costa wanted to increase the awareness and visibility of these “earthlings” to us. These microbes usually go unnoticed by humans until it directly affect us on a macroscopic way. These microscopic organisms have a major impact our on daily lives even though they are unseen and thus invisible to us. They play a huge role in our daily lives, affecting us directly. They are everywhere and anywhere around us. We can witness them in da Costa’s installation, showing us a human 20/20 view to a microscopic view of these organisms. The fact is that these organisms exist all around us but we neglect to become aware about them because we restrict ourselves to learning about higher species such as animals and plants that can be seen. However, these microbes play a huge role in our ecosystem and we depend on them. For example, there are microscopic bacteria in our stomach that help us in digestion but it usually goes unnoticed because it can’t been seen. We should try to expand our knowledge beyond what is only visible with our eyes.

Da Costa aims to bridge a connection between these invisible earthlings and humans thus making us more alert to them. Examining the installations that she set up, I became of how unaware I am of these microorganisms. Even as a science major I sometimes forget that they exist because it is hard to notice beyond what the eyes can see. These organisms make such common things around us as their home, such as a bench or trash can or flower. They claim it their home even if we are oblivious it. Many of the microbes that were in da Costa’s installations were new names to me. I had no idea what their role was or what they looked like, and it just shows me that I myself forget of their existence and should be more knowledgeable of their existence.

Mindy Truong

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