Upon meeting at the first ArtSci Nexus Think Tank in Leipzig in April 2016, artist Wolfgang Ganter and biochemist Dr. Ana Domingos of IGC Lisbon began a correspondence which lead to Ganter being invited to be an artist-in-residence in the summer 2016 to Domingos’ laboratory to develop a new series of work. Pictured here are works in progress from the Gulbenkian museum archive.
Reflection of Wolfgang Ganter:
“I brought lots of slides and colour negatives from Berlin, including some found footage, but mostly pictures from the Gulbenkian museum that I shot during the residency with Ana Domingos at the IGC in Lisbon. My plan was to take advantage of the lab work space provided in Barcelona and combine the workshop with the actual work I have to do for the upcoming exhibition in Lisbon next year. After getting to know my students a bit, we started playfully working with the found footage and cultures of bacteria and yeast available at the CRG. As I expected, these cultures did not perform very well. Apparently lab bacteria are often very picky with nutrient sources, being selected to thrive primarily on rich lysogeny broth (LB) at 37°C. Hence, the gelatin of my photographic film did not spawn rapid growth. Even the ∆yjjM E. coli strain, purportedly optimised for fast laboratory growth, was quite disappointing.
Our results showed that most of the lab bacteria do not grow in interesting shapes as they were designed to grow in easy controllable and compact shapes – forming rounded colonies on LB agar plates. What I was hoping for were more wild and branch-like vortex shapes.
Luckily I had team leaders with scientific experience in my workshop; one of them had the idea to extract bacteria from soil, as these cultures often show exceptionally interesting shapes. So we collected soil samples in test tubes from all over Barcelona and extracted and purified the bacteria from it. It proved to be a great strategy, and we observed different fantastic shapes appearing on the LB-agar plates. We selected the most interesting looking ones and tested them on the film material. The rough, wild bacteria grew so much faster in the photographic emulsion, outperforming the ∆yjjM strain by far. Using the wild bacteria we worked on the self-shot film material from the Gulbenkian museum, producing very satisfying results. With a little more time we probably could have had even more intriguing pictures. Unfortunately I had to stop the process on many slides by drying them, in order to get ready for a heading back to Berlin.”