Extra Credit: Beatriz de Costa’s “Invisible Earthlings”/Jasmine Huynh

Last Friday, I attended Beatriz de Costa’s “Invisible Earthlings” exhibit in the California Nanosystems Institute. I was a bit surprised about the setup of the exhibit. I thought that the artist would give a lecture about the work that she has done. Instead, I found a very intimate exhibit. The artist, Beatriz de Costa, had set up stations around the room. At each station, there was a set of three Petri dishes which had bacteria grown inside them. Above the dishes were interactive devices (which looked like GPS devices normally used for cars) which provided information about the bacteria.

Beatriz de Costa based this artwork on her bacterial findings in places such as park benches and garage doors. Then, she took the bacteria that she gathered from those areas and cultured them on Petri dishes. The interactive devices above the exhibit went into more detail about the type of bacteria that was present in a particular place. For example, the bacteria found above the park bench included Bacillus (rod-shaped bacteria), Staphylococcus (grape-like clusters), Chrysosporum (have hyphae). The bacteria from the porch was sedosporium. In addition to having information about these bacteria, she also put beautiful artwork-like displays in the background (of the informational slides). She took pictures of the cultures and stained them different colors, so that the bacteria looked like repeating geometric shapes rather than organisms. It was amazing how she was able to turn disgusting bacteria (their common connotation) into beautiful mirages.

I enjoyed this exhibit because I felt that it was a fresh take on exhibits and presentations. Normally, I attend events like these with the mindset that the artist is just going to speak for an hour about their findings, and how they went about doing it. Instead, Beatriz de Costa provided a new spin on things: She made the exhibit interactive and much more fun. I liked how she beautifully linked science and art, which is one of the core concepts of the class. She took the scientific side (collecting bacteria, researching about the types of bacteria, etc.) and morphed it into art (the background of bacterial pictures, in many different colors.) This exhibit mainly relates to the first lecture of the course, where Professor Vesna discussed the “third culture.” Beatriz de Costa’s exhibit proved that a separate culture isn’t required to link science and art. She showed that they can exist wonderfully as one culture.

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