This project is possible because of the generous help of fellow artists: Chris Bardey, Daniel Cardoza, Felicia Castro, Cassie Dixon (Mama Cass), Patrick DeSimio-Sophiliazo, Eddy Escobar (Cholo Escuincle), Freddie Jauregui, Bere Kortright, Mónica Martínez Diaz, Sergio Perez Nevarez, Bryce Richard, Pepe Solares, Katy Stuckel, and Alejandra Urquide.
The Universal Blanket is a multi-year, worldwide community art project that uses pieces of cloth from people around the planet to recreate the entire starscape as seen from Earth.
Every generation of humans has looked up at the night sky that blankets us; this experience weaves through time and connects us to our ancestors and our descendants. The starscape also connects the different times and locations we see in each speck of light: although the stars form a single blanketing vision from our perspective, the sky is more like a quilt whose patches are separated by thousands of years and trillions of miles. Each star we see comes from an immensely different location and time.
The Universal Blanket will materially recreate this starscape that is our human family heirloom, using patches of fabric whose spots – the stars – will be created by myriad human hands at manifold locations and times.
TO PARTICIPATE: Use any black piece of cloth between 3” x 3” and 4” x 4” with a white or yellow spot. That spot may be of any material as long as the piece can be washed.
Once your cloth is ready, please mail it to the address below along with your name, the location, the date and the time where you made the cloth.
In trying to find life after death I came to explore how our bodies are a landscape of life, composed of complex multitudes of co-existent beings that are a part of us and yet distinct.
By growing some of these microscopic beings in agar, the normally hidden blending between our “self” and integral organisms can be made visible – raising questions about our identity and our relations to each other and our environment.
The Communitatis Vita, Latin for “Life of the Community,” engages guests to inoculate the agar the night of the opening. By touching the agar, participants leave their bacteria on the agar, and their bacteria then grows, lives and dies in the enclosed environment that mirrors our own existence within the thin atmosphere of the planet – raising questions of interaction, survival and resource usage.
Below you can see Communitatis Vita Las Cruces, 2015 from the night of the innoculation to several days and weeks later into its growth.
Night of the inoculation:
Several days later:
A couple of weeks later:
Nearly two months after the initial inoculation:
This piece was made with the gracious help of several biologists who helped figure out the ideal conditions to safely grow the bacteria, artisans who produced the plexiglass domes, woodworkers who helped think of how to display the work, and my incredible husband who helped construct the base.
Additional thanks goes out to my friends, teachers and peers who helped in various roles.
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.
The Beginning, The Touch
Due to damage during shipping, the Agar Box had to be disassembled on 3/9/2014. Hour 2,752 is the last recording.
In places where nature has started to reclaim the man-made, where the interaction of the organic and the artificial has made something unique, there is a space of beautiful, momentary forms, of things that neither nature nor humanity could have made independently. In rusting metal, peeling paint, dirt upon the floor – in places where we normally see only decay – there exists a diversity of forms, colors, and delicate structures, each as intriguing as a painting. With close attention, each site is an aesthetic experience of beauty.
All images are unmanipulated except for minor color and tone corrections.