Paz & Ben: Week 6
The democratization of invisible information
The Earth, a terrestrial laboratory which provides infinite numerical data to reinterpret both science and art, establishes diverse paradigms in the face of communication processes, translation and understanding of the information extracted from a scientifically unqualified public. The understanding of ecological phenomena that can be measured, that is to say, are part of an ecological taxonomy, become a turning point between democratization versus the scientific, political and business control and censorship mechanisms. That is the main reason why the representation of ecological invisible data, of hypothetical open access, is nowadays one of the great dilemmas to solve.
The mapping of polluting substances in the atmosphere, for example, which is monitored using technological tools, has led to controversy, as the lack of accuracy and reliability casts doubts over the measurement techniques. Such doubts are caused either by defects on such techniques or, it would seem, by spurious political or business interests.
In face of such uncertainty, the lack of authenticity of the invisible data that surrounds us, the option of working with organic mechanisms sparks my interest. These measurement techniques are more intuitive, visual and quite distant from the arithmetic or electronic methods used in weather stations. Thus, I prioritize the biochemical, physiological or morphological changes of the living organism which are associated with exposure to ecological polluting substances. In this experiments, alternative to technology, ecology studies the mutations of nature in the face of alterations in the environmental chemistry thanks to the so called biomarkers and bioindicators of numerous reactions due to exposure to polluting substances.
The interest for observing and democratize that which is “invisible” by obtaining data from nature using organic mechanisms led me to harvest environmental samples during an artistic residency at Casa Tres Patios Foundation in Medellin, Colombia on May, 2015. The objective was to detect environmental bacteria in an artistic space.
The subjects needed to have the attribute of presenting color without been altered by selective-differential means or a chromogenic growth medium (detection of some sort of bacterial enzymatic activity). Additionally, after a period of incubation the colonies acquire a characteristic color typical of certain bacteria. In this case, an unselective mean such as nutritious agar was chosen. Back in Ecuador, at the Microbiology Institute of the San Francisco de Quito University, diverse environmental bacteria the presented coloration were isolated. For a correct identification of the bacteria, the DNA was extracted from isolated colonies and a preserve region of the bacteria was sequenced during the summer for 2015.
Conclusions obtained by some of the experiment were the following:
− Some of these bacterias showed resilience to the chemical compound toluene at 1μl, 5μl and 10μl concentrations.
− Some of these bacterias showed sensibility to the chemical compound phenol at 5μl y 10μl concentrations. At 1μl of phenol, bacteria are resistant.
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Paz Tornero is an artist, visiting professor at the University of Caldas in Colombia, researcher at the University of Murcia, Faculty of Fine Arts in Spain, and visiting fellow at the Institute of Microbiology (USFQ) in Ecuador.
Benjamin Andrew is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist, storyteller, and Instructor at Pennsylvania State University.