Week 15

Art In The Dark

Photo by Peter Jennings

Rebecca says:

What happened this week?

This week was the final countdown to Art in the Dark. I put in some late nights to seal up the rest of the squid and finish the other elements of the installation.

Siouxsie and I also presented the project at Nerdnite, a monthly event that takes place on the first Tuesday of every month,  featuring “beer and interesting stuff to listen to a talk about”. We presented along with scientists Heather Hendrickson and Peter Schwerdtfeger to a crowd of 60-odd, which was apparently the best turn out that the event had had so far.

nerdnite

Art in the Dark was meant to kick off on Thursday 7 November, but heavy downpours earlier in the day meant that the event was called off for that evening. The park was a boggy mess, so it was the right decision, but the disappointment was shared by the organisers, participating artists and the public alike. We were particularly heartbroken as we hadn’t seen the email calling off the event until after we’d filled and sealed up the squid with the bacteria solution for that evening. We had a set of beautifully glowing squid and no one to show them to!

Fortunately the weather cleared for Friday and fined up further on Saturday, so Art in the Dark went ahead on these evenings and our squid had their first public exposure. The response was even better than I had expected, with numerous positive comments about the installation. On Saturday, we had queues of over 100 people at a time lining up to see it!

Queues

Siouxsie did a fabulous job of sharing the story of the curious relationship between the bioluminescent bacteria and the squid, and relating this back to her area of research. She kept people engaged, despite the considerable amount of time that they had been waiting to see the work. I stepped in to give her a hand where I could.

What did you learn?

I certainly gained an appreciation of the amount of work that goes into putting on this amazing event. Hats off to the Art in the Dark team!

I also learnt a lot more about bacteria thanks to Heather’s Nerdnite presentation – that imbalances in good gut bacteria could be causing (or be caused by) obesity and that this can potentially be rectified by faecal transplants, hmm…

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

It was so inspiring that so many people were so keen to see, touch and learn about our installation . It certainly made all the hard work worthwhile.

What’s next?

We’ve been talking a bit about what’s next, as both of us are keen to explore further collaboration. We’ve also received several comments that people would  have liked to see Living Light, but they couldn’t make it to Art in the Dark, couldn’t find us at the event or couldn’t be bothered queueing to see it (!), so we’re looking into opportunities to show it again.

Siouxsie says:

What happened this week?

This week was the one we’ve all been waiting for – Art in the Dark. Finally we got to see our Living Light installation in all its glory. Torrential rain in Auckland meant the first night was cancelled which was a big disappointment, but definitely the right decision for the organisors to make. The ground was absolutely soaking – we even had a couple of huge puddles near our tent that the ducks had taken a shine to.

ducksonfield

Opening night on Friday went really well, although our installation was dwarfed by the gigantic light show next to us, so I heard that a few people missed our little tent. But those that did find us all said they loved our piece, which was great to hear. We spent Saturday making a sign to make our tent a little more visible – it certainly worked and we had a queue of people patiently waiting to come and see the squid.

One of the things I found most stressful about our project was our reliance on a living organism to bring our installation to life – without the bacteria glowing, we would have a tent full of (very beautiful) 3D printed squid that no one could see. But fortunately the little critters (all 10 trillion of them…) behaved as expected and were glowing beautifully by the time people started to come around. Phew!

I’d like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who has been involved in this project. It may have said Rebecca Klee and Siouxsie Wiles on the signage, but Living Light wouldn’t have happened without the hard work put in by Danny of Vivenda (designing and printing the squid) and Benedict and Jimmy from my lab (preparing all the media and bacterial cultures when needed). It also wouldn’t have been possible without the generous financial support of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland (thanks to Tim Greene and Katie Elliot) and the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery. And finally I would like to thank my husband Steven and daughter Eve for their tolerance of the time this project has taken me away from them, and for putting up with all the bacteria growing in our kitchen!

What did you learn?

That Art in the Dark doesn’t happen without the tireless work of a fantastic team behind the scenes. Thanks everyone for bringing this amazing event to life!

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

It was so exciting to see our installation come together after so much planning and hard work. It was also brilliant to see people reacting so positively to it. It makes all the hard work worthwhile!

What’s next?

That’s a good question! Rebecca and I are very keen to show Living Light again so, when the dust has settled, we will look into how and where we could do that. We are also keen to collaborate again so I’m sure we will be putting in an application for Art in the Dark next year.

clubsandwich

AV producers, Club Sandwich, used an image of our squid in their interactive projection.

Week 13

Rebecca says:

What happened this week?

Now that we had got the squid glowing nicely, we were keen to see how they would look assembled together. We decided to do a trial run in my backyard, so hired a pop-up canopy for the evening and set it up with the squid that I had already prepared.

There’s still a few elements of the installation to finish off, but the trial gave us a great indication of how it should look on the night.

squidincanopy

What did you learn?

The trial run was a great opportunity to check measurements and tweak different aspects of the installation. I definitely learnt a lot from the process.

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

I’d like to say that I’m excited about picking up the rest of the printed squid, but I anticipate that they’re going to take over my life from here on in!

What’s next?

I’m picking up a giant digital fabric print of the moon from AUT’s Textile and Design Lab next week. Wait to see what we’re doing with that!

Moon

Siouxsie says:

What happened this week?

Last week Rebecca and I had a trial run, setting up five of the glowing squid in a tent in her back garden. Fortunately all the bacteria behaved and were glowing beautifully. It was great to get a feel for what our piece is going to look like.

What did you learn?

That Rebecca’s garden is full of mosquitoes! I picked up 75 bites in the two hours we were setting everything up.

Mozzie bites on Siouxsie's legs

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

I can’t wait for the event and seeing what everyone thinks of our project.

What’s next?

On the bacteria side, we are just preparing the litres and litres of growth media we will need to fill all the squid each night of the festival.

Week 11

Rebecca says:

What happened this week?

We’ve had a break from the blog over the past two weeks, as I’ve been working with Danny to stop the 3D printed squids from leaking. We finally cracked it  – a low-tech solution of coating the models with layers of PVA and then polyurethane.  I’ve done a couple rounds of testing, and they all seem to be holding well.

On Thursday, we finally got to see the sealed up squid with bacteria in action. They’re looking amazing!

Side on squid

What did you learn?

It’s definitely been quite a learning curve working with these new materials and techniques. Similar to other creative projects that I have worked on, you never quite know what you are going to end up with, until you get stuck in and give something a go.

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

I can’t wait to see and hear other people’s reactions to the project once the installation is in place. We’re pretty excited about our glowing squid, and we hope others will be too!

What’s next?

Next up is printing the twenty-odd squid and starting the production line to seal them all up. My workspace is going to be overrun by squid for the next week or so!

Following that is finalising the last structural elements of the installation. Just over three weeks to go now!

Siouxsie says:

What happened this week?

It’s been a quiet few weeks on the lab front while I waited for the little squid to be made leak-proof. After several attempts it looks like Rebecca and Danny have cracked it and today Rebecca brought around a couple of models for us to play with. They look absolutely fantastic filled with the glowing bacteria.

What did you learn?

That it is possible to make a leak-proof 3D printed squid. Phew!

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

If I’m this excited at seeing two glowing squid, I can’t imagine what I’m going to be like when we have about twenty of them!

What’s next?

Now we know it’s all going to work, we need to decide how many squid to have in the piece and get them printed and made water tight. Meanwhile, back in the lab we’ll start making up all the twenty or so litres of media we are going to need to grow the bacteria in.

Squid triptych

Week 8

Rebecca says:

What happened this week?

This week was exciting as we had some prints of the squid made up by Danny at Vivenda, and they look very cool!

Proto squid

The models are based on the Hawaiian bobtail squid, which forms a symbiotic relationship with the bioluminescent bacteria that we’re using to create light.

What did you learn?

The squid look great, but they’re not watertight, which is not ideal for containing a solution of bacteria. I looked into some options for sealing the outer surface of the models – this even included visiting a boating specialist supplier.

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

After seeing the photo of the (albeit leaky) glowing squid, I’m particularly motivated to find a way to make it work in this form.

What’s next?

We’ve got a few ideas for getting around the leakiness, so now it’s just a matter of experimenting with these ideas. We also set up the time-lapse video to run again this weekend, so all going well we’ll have a video to show next week.

Siouxsie says:

What happened this week?

This week Rebecca brought round some 3D printed squid prototypes that Danny made for us. She had tried to make them watertight so we could see how well the bacteria looked inside them. Unfortunately, several layers of sealant later and they still leaked. But they still looked amazing when filled!

Filled squid

What did you learn?

That the squid will look amazing if we can get them leak proof.

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

Even though the prototype models are leaky, I can’t help but be excited about how the project is coming together. Rebecca and I had a bit of a brain storm and had plenty of ideas for things to try to resolve the problem. It feels like just a minor set back.

Filling the squid

What’s next?

Rebecca and Danny are going to try sort out the leaky models. All I can do now is wait.

Week 7

Rebecca says:

What happened this week?

We tested the brightness of the bacteria solution through the 3D printed vessels, and it looks great!

What did you learn?

I was amazed that the petri dishes that I painted up last week were still glowing this weekend. For the moment, we’re assuming that the bacteria will glow for a day or so. If we find that the culture actually lights up for a longer period of time, perhaps this could save us having to replace it each evening of the event?

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

It’s been satisfying answering some of the key questions that we’ve had since the start of the project – now we know we’re on track to achieve what we’ve got in mind.

photo-15

What’s next?

The next step is to start getting some models made up. It’s probably going to be a bit of trial and error to get the design to look and work how we imagine, but I can’t wait to get started!

Siouxsie says:

What happened this week?

This week Rebecca had some little cups 3D printed for us, so we met at the lab to make sure the glow of the bacteria can be seen through the material. And they can, which didn’t come as a huge surprise given that light can travel through flesh and skin – just trying putting your hand over the top of a torch! I also had another go at the time-lapse photography and finally captured the bacteria starting to glow.

Vessel glow

What did you learn?

That the little 3D printed cups weren’t leak proof!

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

It really feels like we are making progress! I can’t wait to see how the 3D printed models come out.

What’s next?

Finalising the vessels to show the glowing bacteria off in.

Week 6

Rebecca says:

What happened this week?

This week I had some simple models made up using a 3D printer, so that we can check the luminosity of the bacterial solution through the printed material. Thank you to Danny at Vivenda 3D printing for whipping these up so quickly!

I also experimented with some other petri dish painting techniques and designs, which produced some interesting results. Here’s one of the designs with the lights on:

Petri dish design

What did you learn?

The watertightness of 3D printed models can be variable depending on the design and density of the print. We certainly don’t want bacteria leaking out from whatever receptacle we choose, so we’ll need to find some way to overcome this.

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

3D printing is a pretty exciting process to experiment with. You can see results very quickly and the possibilities really are endless.

What’s next?

More models, mark-making, time-lapse photography and experimentation ahead!

Siouxsie says:

What happened this week?

This week I picked up an AC adapter for my camera and tried out the time-lapse photography again. For some reason though the bacteria weren’t growing very brightly, which was a shame so I’m going to have to try that again.

I also tried growing the brightest bacteria from last week (BB1) in a larger volume of media E to see if the 300,000 relative light units measured by our luminometer is enough to see by eye. And it is, yay!

glowing solution

What did you learn?

That my eyes can see 300,000 relative units just fine!

What are you most inspired by/excited about?

I’m so excited that we’ve found good conditions for growing the bacteria so they glow, and that the light is bright enough to see by eye. Now we just have to work on what we are going to be putting the bacteria into.

What’s next?

I’m going to try the time-lapse again, but really we now need to be focusing on what some of receptacle we will be using to contain the bacteria for our piece.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.