Exploring the Invisible

Anne Brodie, Simon Park & Caterina Albano
Installation at The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, London.
Friday 4th – Monday 7th December 2009

Bioluminescent bacteria are widely used in scientific research, usually as internal markers. By inverting this practice and employing bacteria as an external light source, objects and bodies, surfaces and skin are exposed to the soft ethereal glow of the bacteria, establishing new points of contact and visual punctures. What is usually seen under the lens of the microscope is here the source of light that reveals the features of human bodies and enters the world of domesticity.

Exploring the Invisible is a year long collaborative project between artist Anne Brodie, microbiologist Simon Park,
and curator Caterina Albano using a strain of bioluminescent bacteria, Photobacterium phosphoreum, to explore our ways of interacting with bacteria. Through enquiry and experimentation that transcends the traditional boundaries of art and science, the project has developed a body of photographic work and a live installation that reimagines our encounter with bacteria.

The projected photographs in the Old Operating Theatre are displayed within the original photo-booth in which the images were taken using the light emitted by living bacteria. The images restage the long exposure of the camera lens in the improbable and at times disquieting bioluminescence that gradually fades as the bacteria die. Brodie’s lens quietly captures the ineffableness of life’s formation and the fleeting reality of subjectivity.

The one-night installation in the Herb Garrett threads in Brodie’s work with ceramics and glass and continues to
question the role of the object in life’s daily rituals. Brodie’s collection of old cups, saucers, glasses, spoons,
bowls and vases bought in car-boot sales and charity shops are displayed filled with nutrient agar gel inoculated
with Photobacterium phosphoreum. The bacteria have a life span of approximately thirty-six hours. In the process
the array of objects glimpses back exposing the impermanency of use in daily life and beyond. Unsuited for the
laboratory, they magnify the precariousness of fashion, habits, and sentimentality.