Bacteriality

Bacteriality, by Wolfgang Ganter, is comprised of two series, titled, “Micropaintings” and “Works-in-Progress”, realized in collaboration with biochemists Dr. Ana Domingos, Dr. John LaCava, physicist Prof. Dr. Ben Eshel Jacob, biologists Prof. Dr. Klaus Hausmann and Dr. Diego Serra. The process involved in creating “Micropaintings” consists of instigating chemical reactions on glass plates (measuring maximum 5 x 5 cm), while instantaneously digitally documenting these reactions under a microscope in real time.

The Self-organization of the reaction (based in chaos theory), also called spontaneous order (in the social sciences), is a process where some form of overall structural order arises from local interactions between parts of an initially disordered system, without a controlling external element. In the case of “Micropainting”, the consequence is the creation of an image that is mutually executed both by the artist and by the medium itself, passing the authorship beyond the realm of human creation. The artist stitches, stacks, and enlarges the microscopic data to show the rich information contained in these images that is otherwise impossible to perceive with the naked eye. The results are analogous to pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope or Google Earth.

In the second series “Works-in-Progress”, the artist begins by visiting museums and significant private collections to produce photographic DIA slides and color negatives depicting the “great masterpieces of the world history of art”. After duplicating then the photos onto 35mm analogue film, the artist infects the films with various bacteria strains, yeasts or fungi, to transform the original image through biological processing. As the bacteria feeds on the gelatine layers of the photographs, while eating the emulsion, the color and pictorial arrangement of the image is altered, bringing hidden colors to the surface according to the gastronomical preferences of the particular strain of bacteria used. With the assistance of his scientific partners, Ganter has gained access to a large variety of microorganisms while in residence in their laboratories and remotely by consultation. When a slide has reached an optimal stage he stops the process by means of dehydration. Back under the microscope Ganter takes up to 300 digital detail photos to cover the surface of the 24 x 36 millimeter sized piece of treated reproduction film. He then seamlessly stitches the image back together and by this method he is able to realize supreme quality prints in any size. The results are both aesthetic, scientific, and challenge the notion of what is a “masterpiece” and how the canon is constructed. It shows the beauty of decay, the necessity of change and can be seen as symbol of “Vanitas” or “Memento Mori”. The series indicates that decay is less disappearance but rather a change to something new. This transfer also touches the question of whether a piece of art is ever really finished.