Tal Danino grows various strains of bacteria into detailed, microscopic patterns that pull you in close. During a recent residency at Eyebeam in New York City, he researched how bacteria could be used as inks in various printing processes, like silkscreening or stamping. The resulting series of works, Microuniverses, is a marriage of nature and engineering—in the artist’s words, “you can control these patterns, but then they evolve on their own.”
The concept of “controlling universes” is part of Danino’s day job. As the director of the Synthetic Biological Systems Laboratory at Columbia University, Danino is figuring out how to program bacteria so it can detect and treat diseases in our bodies. “You can turn the bad bacteria good and get them to do all these amazing things,” he explains. “I got really interested in these pattern-forming bacteria, and as a scientist, you just start thinking about how you can engineer these patterns. So now we’re trying to see if we can use naturally forming patterns, with some level of engineering on top of that, to increase what the bacteria can do.”
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