Art (& Science!) in the Dark

By Siouxsie Wiles 10/11/2013

This weekend, Western Park in Auckland was transformed with the installation of 40 works of art. And a little bit of science….

Craig Neilson and Reza Fuard’s piece, Penduluminosity, takes the form of a series of giant glowing swinging pendulums, which trace a series of wave-forms when set in motion. Glimpsing the double helix of a DNA strand was just marvelous. This picture was taken by Peter Jennings:

And then there was our little installation, Living Light, a collaboration between myself and artist Rebecca Klee, the only exhibit powered by glowing bacteria.


Art In The Dark

Inside our little tent hung a circle of twelve 3D printed squid (you can catch a small glimpse of a squid being printed here or even print your own), each filled with approximately 250 billion glowing bacteria. This reliance on a living organism to bring our installation to life caused me just a little stress – I was so worried the cultures might not grow or glow properly and all we would have was a tent full of (very beautiful) squid that no one could see. But fortunately the little critters (over a trillion of them…) behaved as expected and were glowing beautifully by the time people started to arrive. And arrive they did. In fact, they even spontaneously formed an orderly queue and waited patiently to get inside our tent!

It was so exciting to see our installation come together after so much planning and hard work. It was also brilliant to see people reacting so positively to it. It makes all the hard work worthwhile! Rebecca and I are very keen to show Living Light again so, when the dust has settled, we will look into how and where we could do that. We are also keen to collaborate again so I’m sure we will be putting in an application for Art in the Dark next year.

I’d like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who has been involved in this project. It may have said Rebecca Klee and Siouxsie Wiles on the signage, but Living Light wouldn’t have happened without the hard work put in by Danny of Vivenda (who designed and printed the squid) and Benedict and Jimmy from my lab (who prepared all the media and kept the bacterial cultures ticking over). It also wouldn’t have been possible without the generous financial support of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the Univesity of Auckland (thanks to Tim Greene and Katie Elliot) and the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery. And finally I would like to thank my family for their tolerance of the time this project has taken me away from them, and for putting up with all the bacteria growing in our kitchen!

Here’s just a little sample….This is what 10 trillion bacteria look like!


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