Elaine Whittaker (IN)TREPID CULTURES

A large mixed media installation of petri dishes & microscopy digital images flows through the gallery & on the walls are a series of smaller digital microscopy images & and petri dishes with live cultured halobacteria.

(in)trepid cultures


That Beauty that hath terror in it.
-- William Wordsworth

It is possible to agree with the radical cultural critic Mike Davis that panic and an ecology of fear increasingly defines modern society. The cultural and social worlds we inhabit are being transformed in unexpected, and often, uncontrollable ways. Microbes, the oldest forms of life on earth, terrify us: an invisible invader with the possibility of contaminating our cellular lives. Yet all of us are biological hosts, housing a vast and thriving community of micro-organisms. Coexisting within us symbiotically, microbes mostly do us no harm. It is those 'other' microbes, the ones that cross over from insects or animals or different ecologies, that artfully become pathogenic, causing illness, or even death, escalating fear and terror.

Located in the precarious intersection between art and science, (in)trepid cultures is an installation that considers biology as contemporary art practice, concentrating on the paradoxical beauty of micro-organisms and the daily – and often societal – fear they generate. To explore the boundaries between art and science, I cultured Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, and with a microscope and digital camera, I photographed the growth of these brightly coloured colonies. These digital images flow through the gallery and inhabit the walls.

Situated in the new realms of BioArt, (in)trepid cultures is the first in a series of installations that is based on the salt-loving and salt-thriving halobacteria, and our ubiquitous fear of microbes

(in)trepid cultures 2010 by Ruth Roach Pierson.