For several years now, I have been cooperating with Berlin-based ART+COM studios, who are experts in creating interactive spatial installations and do research into novel forms of human-machine-interactions. The cooperation was intense, highly inspiring and driven by a great spirit.
We had the great opportunity to create several media installations for an exhibition which I thought had a genial concept: MICROPIA. Conceived as a permanent show within the zoo in Amsterdam, it presents knowledge about animals whom we share our lives with but never see – microbes.
From the beginning, I considered this show a brilliant idea, which takes the concept of the zoo (a presentation of animals in cages) from the 19th century straight into the 21st. Microbes are organisms that share our lives (and often our bodies) on various levels, but cannot be perceived by the eye.
So it was ART+COM’s task to conceive a series of interactive installations which help understand and perceive the role that microbes play in our bodies and in our environment. The big wall installation (see foto above) celebrates the various types of microbes and the extreme variations in size. Even in this world of tiny tiny mini-creatures which are too small to be visible, there are giants and dwarfs.
Another large wall installation is the Tree of Life (top photo). It reveals how humans and mammals take up just a tiny branch of organisms on the overall tree of creatures. On the contrary, mibrobes and little organisms take up a large part of the tree. The installation is a data sculpture based on a large taxonomical data base, which was visualised using Processing.
The body scan (photo above) on the other hand uses gesture control. It shows a sort of mirror image of yourself and allows you to look at inner organs and the microbes that live in them. But there are also many microbes who live in extreme environments, for which they have evolved special adaptions (such as heat, high levels of salt, radiation or other toxics in the environment) etc. The Extremophile installation (below) allows visitors to navigate several of those environments and understand just how these particular microbes can survive there.
This has been a really inspiring project, and one in which I’ve learned a lot about a world hitherto completely unknown to me. If you are in Amsterdam and get the chance: GO CHECK IT OUT.