Living Devices investigates the possibility of creating a series of devices that explore the simple concept of functionality between biological and technological components. Function could be understood here as the completion of a process or action. In this case, the device’s function would need to rely on both its biological and technological components to be fully realized. The work plays on the hypothesis that organisms exist within a certain spectrum of the environment, and when conditions change, the organisms will no longer grow in that environment. The artist chose to work with bacteria and the petri plate for this project. The JM109 strain of E. coli bacteria was used as the prototype organism due to easy access and availability in the lab. The design of the device is very simple: through modularly configured electrical stimulation, the user can generate different biological growth patterns realized by E. coli bacteria colonies. The artist developed custom petri plates that could allow electrode plug-ins without contaminating the growth environment. The project mainly focused on developing a method that could be applied to other types of bacteria, and in doing so, create the capacity to extend the series of work.
Images of some experimental results where voltage and stimulation zones were stable,
but bacterial seeding schemes changed between the plates. As can be seen both by dots marked on the plates and the bacterial growth around these marked areas.
The coloration of the agar is due to the oxidization of the copper electrodes. To avoid metal
poisoning from effecting the experiment results, I used gold plated electrodes in these tests,
but the gold plate eroded, exposing the copper.
However, it is still visible that bacteria colonies are able to survive in part of the environment.
The coloration in these tests also help visualize the electric fields surrounding the voltage
points. It would be interesting to test the current flowing through different parts of the agar
and observe how that may effect bacterial growth as well.
Gold Plated Electrodes
Bottom of Petri Plate
Lid of Petri Plate
Holes for Embedding
Anticipated Voltage Field for
Complex Stimulation Circuit Design
Basic Stimulation Module
Early prototype of the modified petri plate (left). Second generation prototypes of circuits used in actual experiments.
This set of protocols were developed under the mentorship of Oliver Medvedik
For the purpose of my research, a set of protocols were developed to insure bacteria from the electronics don't transmit into the petri plate and contaminate the experiments. The above is a performative video of the 3 sets of protocols for producing and seeding the petri plates.
Design of possible electrode configurations for further experimentation.