Living canvas update #1

Living canvas is a map that explores [ITP] cohabitation and the impact of a shared microbiota. It’s main purpose

is to visualize the invisible organisms and recognize patterns through data, sample collection and [bio] material.

living canvas

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I approached Eric Rosenthal this week with my project or at least the little pieces of it that made sense. I’m struggling to not only create a coherent project but a meaningful one for me. I think he noticed this struggle and at the end of our conversation, he encouraged me to take the path that felt right. I really appreciated his word and feedback, I came out of his office a little more confused than before but in a good way.

If my point Is to make the invisible visible. What exactly is the invisible? The bacteria itself? The colonies? The flowing? All of these are invisible. If the purpose is this project is to change the way we respond to the “ick” factor bacteria has and create new ways of representing this microorganism. How can I accomplish that?

Eric made some fair points. Somehow I was married to the idea that if I wanted to study and expose the microbiota, especially the one that as ITPiers we shared, I needed to sample the bacteria in Petri dishes, map it and graph it. But it had several implications, like the fact that ITP is not a controlled area to take measures that should be taken in a much more controlled environment; that there are other ways to see that it’s not a biohazard. Also, that seeing it is not enough.


I want to continue with “there is no love without shared microbiota” and explore it in ITP as a community, as one massive creature that breathes, moves and code. While looking at ways to make connections I remember the original wood pieces that belonged for so many years to our floor. Now framed as tokens of remembrance of those days, each day passes and we are closer to our new Brooklyn floor. Why not exploring this cohabitation as something that is very much alive in constant fluctuation. I’m interested in the visual approach as well as the material possibilities to map the impact that our presence as individuals and as a group can have in a space. How alive is it?




I don’t know if this happens to other people but when I’m feeling down, my stomach as many other parts of my body aches. If I’m very stressed out I will have migraines, my skin will burst out and once again my stomach will ache badly. Funny enough my first thought is always “Oh, I need some greens and fruit” even if I know the pain comes from an emotional event. My main thought is always that my mood is somehow reflected on my stomach and usually after some changes in my diet (until time and cravings destroy it), I always feel better almost immediately. Some time ago I read that scientist were figuring our mood changes and the part that gut microbiota had on it. They were talking about faecal transplants to treat depression!! Depression!

Recently we were talking about how we live in a germophobic country, where antibiotics are being used without measure and now we have super bacterias living in sterile environments. With our guts on a fragile state as result of this abusive behaviour. It makes sense that faecal transplants are becoming more important and effective treatment to several diseases and syndromes.

Deep down there is some intuitive knowledge of taking care or nourish my flora, I know it exists but I don’t grasp completely yet its magnitude. Its this vast ecosystem living within me, even in my eyes, hair, lungs and uterus they. I’m not alone that is for sure; an entire living cosmos goes wherever I go. My family, friends and pets share it with me, Its just mindblowing. One thing on the readings that stuck with me was the notion that babies that are born by c-section are more likely to have their immune system failure, they need their mother’s Intestinal and vaginal microbes to protect them and be able to create their own healthy ecosystem. One thing is clear; the body is very much aware of this mutualistic relationship, we need to start paying more attention to what we don’t see.


Algae / living canvas


*Bring in your updated version of your Project Proposal*

After thinking through all my ideas, I felt more strongly about the concept of a living canvas continuously changing. With living organism like plants, fungi or bacteria as the medium of exploration, especially bacteria, if not a medium as a subject.


Ill been slowly becoming more interested microbiota after starting to be personally aware of my own. Whenever I was sick and antibiotics were prescribed my stomach would be a mess, or if following normal regimes of hygiene to avoid microbes and bacteria I ended up wiping good bacteria, useful bacteria. Harming the microbiota is extremely easy. We don’t see it, we don’t know much about it and the truth is that we are unaware of these vast living ecosystems that live with an within us. We have been so obsessed with sterile environments to avoid diseases (needed, yes) that we ended up with weaker immune systems and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is becoming a real public health problem.

I was once Kindly reminded that “ there is no love without shared microbiota” and its true. Our loved ones, family members, friends and even pets share this vast microbial constellation with us.






“There is no love without shared microbiota”




(algae as material/controlled chaos/mixed media/bacterial culture/ink/biomaterial)


Maybe if we knew more about it, were aware of its existence. It outnumbers the human cells, the human has around 10 trillion cells, its microbiota is around 100 trillion! It works as a sensor of our well being and surrounding ecosystem. If you ever felt alone, just don’t.

How can we make the invisible visible? How can we make our approach to microbes and bacteria more amicable and meaningful? How to spark a healthy discussion? I think art could help to take away the “ick” around it, it will educate and help us change




Recently I came across a New York Times article that discussed the use of anaesthetics in different kinds of plants, researchers weren’t sure how the plants were losing consciousness or more likely regaining it after exposure to them. They weren’t sure about what was exactly happening inside the plant but they witnessed the effect on them.They use this word carefully, it’s a powerful word. We know plants are aware of their surroundings, they communicate with other plants, take care or fight against each other, why wouldn’t they be aware of their own existence and if they do, What would that represent to us? it will definitely start a conversation about ethics and uses of plants. In the past, we thought animal didn’t have emotions only instincts and for some women unlike men didn’t have souls (Yep, that happened) but, what if?
What would we eat? Our relationship with food will change for sure.

The idea of plants being very aware of their surroundings it’s even more powerful knowing that we know the fungi realm works like an interconnected network through their roots, it creates a community web of aid and nourishes. Imagine walking through a forest of trees that have lived for thousands of years, sending information to its peers all that long. Humboldt believed that everything is connected, therefore any changes affect everything, no matter how small; who could imagine the connection was that impressive. There is a responsibility with this knowledge, we must start preparing ourselves for uncomfortable conversations and especially actions.




Charites | AE

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*Start Conceiving Ideas for Your Project*

“A Charis is one of three or more minor goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility, together known as the Charites in Greek mythology.”

Somehow I have this science fiction tale trying to form in words and images in the back of my head, it is a blur, fast and flickering. There are some objects that  I recognize, there are bees as pets,  Petri dishes full of colourful bacteria and small animals embellished with architectural wonders. Then these images get a little vivid and the tale its a memory of things I know exist and I’ve seen in real life or through the screen. There are people who are into apiculture and create beautiful sculptures or trained them to live in glass hives for new medical diagnosis, there are scientists that use algae as a medium that puts them closer to the craft photography, and then there are artists/designers that use insects as fundamental part of their process. So, here I am, with flickering ideas lighting on an off, still dizzy at the possibilities this class provides and full of questions: What do I want to do? At the moment the best thing to do is try my best to make them visible.



( urban beehives/measured colony/ bee health tracker/ pollinators/sculpture/symbiosis/oracles)


What would happen if all the bees in the world died? Our food system will probably collapse and wild habitats as well… What if there is no more space for them?…How can we help?

We know bee population is declining painfully fast and an even with the interest of the public in faster, easy sometimes DYI harvesting of honey, we are creating more harm than space to them. How could humans and bees share immediate space in the cities? / This idea plays with the idea of beehives and colonies around architecture, design, urban planning and mostly around education. Teach people about the impact bees have on our lives through practice, tangible experience, empathic design and ethical practice.




(algae as material/controlled chaos/mixed media/bacterial culture/ink/biomaterial)


Microbial cellulose as canvas, bacteria as tools and medium to explore any art form, a living canvas continuously changing, evolving and degrading. An ephemeral hybrid practice.



(artefact/mimicry/ biological fabrication/biology as a medium/cocoon)

Nature finds a way to take back and appropriate structures and artefacts. The outcome of that encounter and the hybrid/ material is the main idea behind this charis/idea. What if the craft was from the inset and not from the human? If they were jewellers or the artisans of the world?



Apidae concept mapping in class




Synthetic biology

I wonder if cheetahs are obsessed with their hunting methods or how fast can they go. Do they keep track of their performances as runners? Do they live in a constant state of achieving perfection in their life? Maybe, the Dung beetles (makes enormous balls out of animals droppings) live with anxiety or seeks the perfect, round ball of dung… Or maybe the spiders in general are the perfectionist ones.

I think humans are obsessed with their method, hunted by the need of fulfilling a purpose and transcendence. Humans need to conquer all in their world, what surrounds them and beyond, to play with the impossible. The bigger the mountain the better, and in this same line of thought a piece from the New Yorkers article resonated with me. It mentioned Hermann J. Muller (Nobel Prize-winning geneticist), who said that “Man is a megalomaniac among animals—if he sees mountains he will try to imitate them by pyramids, and if he sees some grand process like evolution, and thinks it would be at all possible for him to be in on that game, he would irreverently have to have his whack at that too.”. No animal has manipulated their surroundings, modified/breed their food as humans had. It’s impressive this need of control/understanding that functions as a leitmotif throughout all our history.

The idea of humankind creating, subtracting, manipulating life through synthetic biology is overwhelming, marvellous and scary to me. In Proust was a neurologist the author says “By the middle of the nine- teenth century, as technology usurped romanticism… the immortal soul was dead. Man was a monkey, not a fallen angel”. Maybe, biotechnology is creating a new creature, its expanding possibilities but at the same time generating new moral and social uncertainty.