Artists: Pixels and Plans (Julia Krolik & Owen Fernley)

Microbiota was first exhibited as a photographic installation at the Union Gallery in Kingston in 2010. In a collaboration with Owen Fernley, the work was re-created as a projection through the use of a custom HTML5 image processor and exhibited at Toronto’s Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts and Ontario Science Centre in 2014.

Artist Statement
Microbiota is a photographic installation that maps bacterial life. Blending microbiological protocols with artistic vision, Julia Krolik reveals invisible yet ubiquitous aspects of our shared environments. This collection of bacterial photographs were sampled, cultured, stained and photographed to raise public awareness of the unseen bacterial environment around us. While pathogenic bacteria are extensively studied and are of most concern, this installation places our environmental co-habitants in their own spotlight.

The unaltered photographs depict environmental microbial flora, as cultured from selected urban and rural locations, stained and photographed by the artist. A custom microscopic photography method was devised specifically for this research to provide a natural black background and softened sphere-like edges to obtain a satellite-like aesthetic relating both the micro and macroscopic aspects of our universe.

Science Statement
Microbiota manipulates the Gram Stain – a bacterial identification staining method, traditionally used in Clinical Microbiology. For this installation exact Gram Stain protocol was abandoned and the staining method was allowed to exist in a creative context. Although, generally, bacterial staining methods are used in an overall process of identifying potentially harmful strains, this work sought to reveal a hidden ubiquitous microenvironment. To display the bacterial images in a large-scale format, Computer Science techniques were used to create a custom display method, which cycles through and naturally blends bacterial photographs adding a dynamic element to the work.