This project came about as a way to expand my view on how we continue living in several ways, especially through death. In the summer of 2013, I helped my then fiancé, now husband, with two of his grandparents before they died. At that point my Father had been gone for a little over 6 years, and that summer I took on the project to carve his gravestone. Having no religion to comfort me, I contemplated endless hours on different ways that we continue on: through our children, our actions, our materiality, and also through our bacteria. We constantly leave parts of our bacteria as we touch and interact with our environment, and conversely, we pick up the bacteria of our environment. And when we die, we leave all our matter and our bacteria that we once considered part of ourselves to the ground, where they will continue on.
With Agar Box I was looking to explore this relationship between our bacterial selves and our environment, and how to find a connection with this greater concept of ourselves. A connection that acknowledges that we are a part of this interconnected eco-system, and that even when we die, our bodies and our bacteria will continue on to be life, again and again.
To do this, I created a human-sized, rectangular Petri dish, and I inoculated it with the touch of my full-frontal body. The bacteria that grew there, large enough to be seen by the naked eye, resembled macroscopic landscapes and scenes, as if from an aerial vantage point or through a telescope. But this macroscopic resemblance only existed because of the microscopic feats of the bacteria from my body and the airborne particles that landed during the time of inoculation.
Sealed after inoculation, the plexi-glass box became an environment, an eco-system of its own. As the microscopic colonies grew, it asked questions about resource limitations and environmental changes.
Echoing our own atmosphere, condensation formed on the roof of the box, and – over the landscape of bacteria, mold and yeast – the moisture rose, droplets formed on the roof of the box, and caused it to occasionally rain. The microscopic colonies were moved by this water, and the landscape changed dramatically over time.
Best seen in person, over multiple days, weeks or months, the Agar Box was intentionally created to be an environment that would grow and change. It responded to both time and temperature, and went through distinct stages. Below is documentation.
Special Contributing Thanks to:
Patrick DeSimio, Carl Norris, Bryce Richard, Shelly White, Todd Hall, Andrea Gohl, Diana Campuzano, Brad Oechsler, Eddy Escobar, Cassie Dixon, Nic Gialanella and to the many others who gave their support and advice.
Due to damage during shipping, the Agar Box had to be disassembled on 3/9/2014. Hour 2,752 is the last recording.