Archive | November 2013


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.


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!


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.


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.


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