Posts Tagged ‘Extra Credit’

Extra Credit: They’re Here! Who Knew?! by Ryan Andre Magsino

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Extra Credit: They’re Here! Who Knew?! by Ryan Andre Magsino

Are we blind? They’re all around us, yet most of the time we pay no heed to their existence. Why is this? More importantly, who or what am I referring to?


The room was dark and eerie - only bursts of light illuminated certain stations along the wall. At each station was a console (a touch-screen Nokia 5900) handing atop sets of biological cultures in Petri dishes:


“What was the point of all this? Is this seriously art? How is it art? Aren’t these just bacteria growing on a Petri dish?” These were just a few of the questions circulating through my mind. It was not until I turned around and read the text written upon the surface of the opposite wall did I begin to get a grasp on the significance of the exhibit:


So who or what was I referring to earlier? Invisible Earthlings, of course. Invisible Earthlings? Yes, you read that correctly. Well then, who are these Invisible Earthlings? Beatriz de Costa, the artist behind this exhibit, acknowledges them to be microbes. They are too tiny to see with the naked human eye, yet they are all around us – watching, waiting, consuming biological systems and then some. They easily outnumber our species billions to one. Yet why are these life forms often disregarded?

It would seem we humans really only care about things similar to us. Therefore, it would be hard to imagine a human caring for a microscopic bacterium compared to a kitten. Rather, humans in general tend to associate creatures who share distinct similarities as higher end life forms. Take for example a monkey compared to a snail. The similarities between a monkey and a human are striking, but the same cannot be said between a snail and a human. Yet, we wouldn’t really think twice cooking up some snails (to make some escargot) compared to grilling some monkey meat. Why then would we ever turn our eye to an even smaller less resembling life form, the microbe.

But what the artist Beatriz da Costa hoped to accomplish through her installment was to reintroduce these microbes to the unknowing and unaware public. For this exhibit was an investigation into the possibilities of relating between humans and members of the lived non-human worlds.

Me @ the Exhibit

Me @ the Exhibit

If she is the artist, then I am granted the role of the judge or critic by stumbling upon her work. In the end, I felt the piece utilized unnecessary components or lacked to fully explore the options available. This was easily seen in the “interactivity” of the piece. Other than being a waste of technology, the touch screen mini-tablets were merely used as a basic interface with barely any real interaction relating to the exhibit. Possibly, they could have been used as a virtual microscope. In doing so, we could virtually zoom in and in on a location and expose these invisible earthlings once and for all. Aside from this point and the challenge to see the bacteria in the dish with tape wrapped around it, the message was still strong. They are out there, so we should be aware of their existence.