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Microbial architectures

“Microbial architectures” opens up the possibility of delving into unexplored landscapes.

Through a VR exploration experience of the collectively build architectures of microorganisms, developed from confocal laser microscopy images of actual biofilms. Biofilms are fascinating structures with a defined architecture. In biofilms, bacteria produce a matrix (EPS) that sustains it.

The work starts with the culture of biofilms from pure catalogue bacterial strains, and from mixed microbial communities collected from the ecosystems in and around Buffalo. Then, high-quality images of the architectural structures show a tridimensional rendering of the morphogenesis of biofilms. From these tridimensional images, I will compose landscapes on Unity to be explored in VR or regular screens.

Enter the test hubs here.

These unknown field-collected communities can be sequenced to better understand the populations that generate those specific architectures. The actual biofilms as a culture can also be displayed because their structures are captivating even to the naked eye. “ Microbial architectures” is inspired by the work of Insperpecifics “Speculative communication” and wants to allow people to explore the diversity of structure of biofilm in different species and of different microbial communities where architecture is culture.

Why is it relevant?

Microbes function as superorganisms, blurring the limits of an individual: These structures demonstrate group behaviour of supposedly unicellular organisms but also organization, communication, differentiation, they exchange genetic material and perform cellular death (apoptosis). In this way, biofilm becomes a tissue, a living tissue. Interesting architectural structures of biofilm take place in for instance, colonies of Bacillus circulans, Bacillus subtilis (responsible for natto), dental plaque microbiome and microbial nano-cellulose of SCOBY, among many others.

The posthuman perspective of this work is of a shift in the protagonists, to grant microbial agency. And more importantly to the notion of microbial cognition (Lyon 2015) questioning human exceptionalism. In biofilm, organization and communication take place via chemical signals in quorum sensing but also via electric signals and vibration, a particular set of senses, expanding our notions of perception. This change of scale challenges the predominance of human- centred temporal and spatial scales, as well as the exceptionalism of cognition and structurally organized cultures.