bacterial landscapes

Bacteria as Space-Time Machines

Microbes and bacteria don’t understand political man-made borders. They just expand and react freely; they are sovereigns of their surroundings. They deterritorialize human topographic order to delimit their own dominion. And they always leave some sort of trace behind them. Trace evidence is left behind when different objects come into contact with one another revealing a past narrative, like fingerprints indicate a hand that was once in contact with a surface, or a warm seat in the tube, which reveals that somebody was seating there before us.

Once the cap of a Boletus Erythropus mushroom is nicked and the cell walls are broken, oxygen alters its colour from brownish-orange to a range of iridescent tones. Walking amongst these psychedelic fungi in a forest could produce fantastic blue-black footsteps, as their colour transfers onto the shoes, which tread upon them. Colours and shape distortions that appear on them provide some sort of forensic evidence. A dynamic landscape narrative starts also on us after watching these traces. Landscape sensitive properties are nonetheless preserved in spite of continuous deformations.

This process of tracking back a series of events in space deals with re-enacting and re-mapping. In this sense, it could be also considered a Deleuzian reterritorialization process, where Euclidean coordinates turn into a set of dynamic parameters. Microbiological mutations can be perceived as space-time machines as well. After watching them, our brain takes us to a different time and place through a set of topological relations. How humid an environment was that turned bacteria samples into a pale tone? Or were they rather affected by loads of dust floating in the air?

Hidden layers of reality become automatically visible for us. The essence of different places is registered and captured during a certain time lapse.  Aren’t these on-going maps almost more real than reality?

In observing microbes mutations, space is both represented and built anew in a constant negotiation of different agents; as Martina Löw puts it when referring to the relational production of space, which she understands by Spacing: the situating of social goods and people and/or the positioning of primarily symbolic markings in order to render ensembles of goods and people recognisable as such constitute space. Goods and people are connected to form spaces through processes of perception, memory and fantasy; we want to imagine what has really happened, why there is a round-shaped stain on the floor in front of us…

Building space can be considered as an architectural act, but not in the most classic perspective as the Vitruvian Triad has monopolised over centuries. The real fundaments of constructing space have actually never been Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas (firmness, utility and beauty). As Miguel Paredes states, built space must actually be unstable, dysfunctional and ugly, changeable and blurry.

daniel fernández pascual (text contribution, 2011)

With the work DOMINIONS, Julian Charrière and Andreas Greiner captured a series of landscapes through bacteria (installation at Program Berlin, 2011. Curated by Carson Chan). Each box was exposed to a different ambience in remote places of Germany and Switzerland; then, displayed at a height proportional to the altitude of each site.

[all images> Dominions by Julian Charrière and Andreas Greiner. Installation at Program Berlin 2011. Curated by Carson Chan]



  1. This is something that I would like to replicate. I’m curious if the results are very different in different places.

  2. Inspiring. This is something I might try myself someday! It makes me curious.

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