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Biolumination II: Meet the artists! Helen Beech Siouxsie Wiles Mar 31

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Biolumination - Helen

On Saturday the 14th March I organised Biolumination II as part of thinkScience day at the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. I challenged a group of artists and illustrators to each come up with a work of art using just a solution of harmless bioluminescent bacteria and a collection of 25 x 25 cm square petri-dishes. I want to introduce you to each of the artists and show off their amazing pieces.

Meet Helen Beech (@beechworks)!

Helen low res

Born Morecambe England 1972
Currently living in a lovely cottage beside the
Puhoi River, surrounded by birds and trees.
Painting her heart out.
And selling it online.

Biolumination II: Meet the artists! Julia Marchwicka Siouxsie Wiles Mar 30

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Biolumination - Julia

Photo taken by Benj Brooking.

On Saturday the 14th March I organised Biolumination II as part of thinkScience day at the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. I challenged a group of artists and illustrators to each come up with a work of art using just a solution of harmless bioluminescent bacteria and a collection of 25 x 25 cm square petri-dishes. I want to introduce you to each of the artists and show off their amazing pieces.

Meet Julia Marchwicka!

Julia low res

Julia is currently finishing her BA/BSc at the University of Auckland, majoring in English and Biology. Just like in her study, she enjoys exploring the links between art and science on a daily basis. Whenever Julia is not writing last minute assignments or cramming for tests, she spends her time working with black ink and watercolours.

Biolumination II: Meet the artists! Laura Ward Siouxsie Wiles Mar 28

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Biolumination - Laura

Photo taken by Benj Brooking.

On Saturday the 14th March I organised Biolumination II as part of thinkScience day at the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. I challenged a group of artists and illustrators to each come up with a work of art using just a solution of harmless bioluminescent bacteria and a collection of 25 x 25 cm square petri-dishes. I want to introduce you to each of the artists and show off their amazing pieces.

Meet Laura Ward!

Laura Ward

Laura is a research associate at the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research. Her current work involves using genetic barcoding techniques to monitor the ecology of insects in fruit orchards and other productive landscapes. Laura is also an avid self-taught face painter and body artist on the weekends.

Glow Booth at the Auckland Arts Festival Siouxsie Wiles Mar 27

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Sticky TV

Jahmaine & Walter from kids TV show Sticky TV on FOUR experience the Glow Booth

The Glow Booth, where people are photographed illuminated only by the light of glowing bacteria, made an appearance at thinkScience day as part of the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. A huge thanks to Benj Brooking for help taking the photos. During the 4 hours the booth was open, 205 people came to be photographed. We’ve loaded their portraits on Flickr here.

Biolumination II: Meet the artists! Rodrigo Vidal Siouxsie Wiles Mar 26

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Biolumination - Rodrigo

Photo taken by Benj Brooking.

On Saturday the 14th March I organised Biolumination II as part of thinkScience day at the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. I challenged a group of artists and illustrators to each come up with a work of art using just a solution of harmless bioluminescent bacteria and a collection of 25 x 25 cm square petri-dishes. I want to introduce you to each of the artists and show off their amazing pieces.

Meet Rodrigo Vidal!

pic

Rodrigo finished his interior design studies in 2007 in Santiago, Chile. After spending 4 great years learning from a beautiful team and developing his passion for furniture and interior design, he decided a change was needed and went traveling. While in India Rodrigo developed his love of illustration, which he is continuing to develop working as part of the design team at TILE SPACE – ELLERSLIE. Rodrigo draws his own life, his own stories and points of view about the here and now.

instagram.com/rodrigxs

Petri dish art at the Auckland Arts Festival Siouxsie Wiles Mar 26

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petridish art

As part of the thinkScience day at the 2015 Auckland Art Festival, we spent 2 hours letting kids and their families make their own bioluminescent bacterial art using just a cotton bud, a petri dish and a solution of harmless bioluminescent bacteria. Many thanks to James Dalton, Claire Honney, Hannah Read, Simon Swift and Benedict Uy for their help running this activity. Almost 200 children took part. The next day I photographed their glowing art works and put them up on Flickr for them to see.

If you are in Auckland this weekend and want to come have a try, we’ll be at the MOTAT Science Street Fair on Sunday!

Biolumination II: Meet the artists! Hope Sutherland Siouxsie Wiles Mar 25

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Biolumination - Hope

Hope Sutherland’s ‘Typhoid fever’ for Biolumination II. Photo taken by Benj Brooking.

On Saturday the 14th March I organised Biolumination II as part of thinkScience day at the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. I challenged a group of artists and illustrators to each come up with a work of art using just a solution of harmless bioluminescent bacteria and a collection of 25 x 25 cm square petri-dishes. I want to introduce you to each of the artists and show off their amazing pieces.

Meet Hope Sutherland!

Hope low res

Hope is a young adult in a state of limbo between biology & the arts. Needless to say, she pounced eagerly at the idea of glowing bacterial paint.

Biolumination II: Meet the artists! Cinzah ‘Seekayem’ Merkens Siouxsie Wiles Mar 24

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Biolumination - Cinzah

Cinzah ‘Seekayem’ Merkens’ viperfish for Biolumination II. Photo taken by Benj Brooking.

On Saturday the 14th March I organised Biolumination II as part of thinkScience day at the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. I challenged a group of artists and illustrators to each come up with a work of art using just a solution of harmless bioluminescent bacteria and a collection of 25 x 25 cm square petri-dishes. I want to introduce you to each of the artists and show off their amazing pieces.

Meet Cinzah ‘Seekayem’ Merkens!

Cinzah

Cinzah (@MrCinzah) is a New Zealand based multidisciplinary artist. He is one of the fore founders of the New Zealand ‘Street Art’ scene, originally starting out putting up paste ups, and painting character based works throughout Auckland and Melbourne close to a decade ago. Since those early days of creeping around at night, Cinzah has moved on to paint at art festivals around the world, has fostered a career as an award winning commercial illustrator, run an art gallery and curated several successful exhibitions, popped out a couple of kids, and left the big smoke for a more relaxed pace of life in the sunny Hawkes Bay. He paints from and for his environment, exploring themes such as the interrelationship between man and nature, duality, mythology and storytelling.

Cinzah is more used to painting three storey buildings so when I said he had 16 petridishes to give him a 1 metre by 1 metre ‘canvas’ he asked if he could have a few more. His piece ended up being more than 1 metre in height and about 3 metres in length. It was just breathtaking.

cinzah full low res

My top 10 TB facts for World TB day Siouxsie Wiles Mar 24

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640px-TB_Culture

TB Culture” by Photo Credit:Content Providers(s): CDC/Dr. George Kubica – This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #4428.

The 24th of March is World TB day, held to raise awareness of the epidemic that is tuberculosis (TB). Why the 24th of March? Because this is the date in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for TB. So here are my top 10 TB facts:

1. TB is a lung disease that humans have had for a long long time. Each wave of early humans who left Africa took TB with them, so there are lineages of TB like there are lineages of people (1).

2. TB, or consumption as it was known, was thought to be a hereditary disease, rather than an infectious one. Many famous artists, writers and composers had TB which probably helped its image. It was the forerunner to ‘heroin chic’. Consumption wasn’t feared like the plague or cholera were because it was a slow death giving people time to put their affairs in order.

3. According to the World Health Organization, in 2012 there were an estimated 8.6 million new TB cases and 1.3 million people died from the disease.

4. The TB bacterium is a bugger to kill. Easy to treat TB = 6 months of a cocktail of antibiotics.

5. Hard to treat TB = 18 months to 2 years of treatment with a cocktail of antibiotics.

6. There are now strains of M. tuberculosis circulating around the world that are resistant to all antibiotics in clinical use. Treatment options include surgery to remove the infected parts of the lungs, or isolation.

7. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people worldwide have the TB bacterium in their lungs – they aren’t infectious but are a huge reservoir of people that can go on to get active infectious TB.

8. If you think we don’t have TB in NZ, think again. In 2013 there were 263 new cases. Three of these people died (2).

9. If you think TB just affects the poor, think again. If you are human & breathing you can catch TB. I recently gave a talk to some wealthy retired society ladies and one of them came up to me afterwards to say she had been treated for TB a few years ago. She said she was horrified when her doctor told her as she had thought “people like me don’t get TB”. Wrong!

10. If you were BCG vaccinated as a child so think you are protected, think again. BCG does not protect for life. And unfortunately it’s not just a simple case of getting a booster.

References:

1. Gagneux, S (2012). Host–pathogen coevolution in human tuberculosis. Philosophical Transactions B. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0316

2. Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd (ESR) (2015). Tuberculosis in New Zealand: Annual Report 2013.

thinkScience at the Auckland Arts Festival – Biolumination II Siouxsie Wiles Mar 23

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Print

Saturday the 14th March saw the debut of thinkScience as part of the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. As part of the day’s events, I organised a number of activities/installations involving a harmless marine bacterium that naturally glows in the dark. I got involved for many reasons, including putting science in places people weren’t expecting it, providing a space for the public to interact with scientists and also to show people that while they may be repulsed by the idea of bacteria and ‘germs’, these creatures can also be beautiful.

Biolumination II

In Biolumination II, I acted as curator, challenging artists/illustrators Helen Beech, Julia Marchwicka, Cinzah ‘Seekayem’ Merkens, Hope Sutherland, Rodrigo Vidal, Laura Ward and Katherine Yang, to each come up with a work of art using just a solution of harmless bioluminescent bacteria and a collection of 25 x 25 cm square petri-dishes. To give you an idea of scale, most of the pieces were 1 metre high by 1 metre wide. That’s a lot of agar!

Unfortunately for the artists, the bacterial solution is essentially invisible, and the artists weren’t able to see their creation until the bacteria had grown the next day. The works were displayed in the Vault, part of Q Theatre. The exhibit was open from 10:30am till midnight and was visited by over 1600 people.

biolumination summary

From left to right, top row: Helen Beech, Julia Marchwicka, Cinzah ‘Seekayem’ Merkens; middle row: Hope Sutherland, Rodrigo Vidal, Laura Ward; bottom row: Katherine Yang. Photographs by Benj Brooking.

I’ll post better pictures and more info about each of the artists over the coming week. Overall, I am really pleased with how Biolumination II turned out. It was just amazing to see the beautiful creations each of the artists coaxed out of their bacterial solution. A huge thanks to my lab, most notably Benedict Uy, as well as James Dalton and Hannah Read, for preparing the litres and litres of media needed to make this exhibit a reality. Thanks also to Gareth Baston, chief petri-dish wrangler, for turning the Vault from a bare theatre space into an art gallery for the day.

So what did the public think?

Dr Rhian Salmon, of Victoria University, Wellington, suggested using post-it notes to gather feedback from visitors to the exhibit. The ‘Illumination Board’ was born and 160 messages were left there throughout the day.

illumination board

These are just some of the messages posted:

“As an artist, I love the out-of-box-thinking and integration of science and art – most inventive.”

“Mindblowing glowing art science wonder.”

“I found that intreging (sic) and interesting, scary at the same time. Overall I enjoyed it.”

“Amazing example of art and science combining to create an amazing learning experience.”

“Fascinating and so creative. Well done. Never thought I would see something like this.”

“Science alive – every child (and big child) should see this.”

“This was cool. To think that’s bacteria. It’s amazing. I had a wonderful experience.”

As a scientist, my intention with Biolumination II was to bring people to science through art, but one message showed me the opposite was also true:

“Wonderful. The only time my scientist daughter (11) enjoyed art.”

These activities wouldn’t have happened with the financial and/or logistical help of everyone involved in thinkScience, the Auckland Arts Festival, the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, the University of Auckland, the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Discovery, and Tile Space. And of course the never-ending patience of my lab!

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