Hybrid Art

Microbial Schöppingen

Anerkennung - Honorary Mentions

Mick Lorusso (US)


Cyberarts 2013 - International Compendium Prix Ars Electronica 2013

Microbial Schöppingen, a model based on an old German village, acts as a parallel town where communities of bacteria inhabit Plexiglas houses where they work together to create light. These anaerobic bacteria make an electrical current as they break down food scraps (mostly sugars and carbohydrates) into smaller molecules and ions. The technology is known as a microbial fuel cell (MFC), and in Microbial Schöppingen each MFC consists of an anaerobic anode house connected to an oxygenated cathode house via a proton-exchange membrane. The houses are wired together to power a bright white LED placed in the Plexiglas Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). Live shadow puppet performances in the light projected on the wall playfully imagine the microbial community living in the houses. On a fundamental level, Microbial Schöppingen reminds us of the versatility that all life has in harnessing and transforming energy.

While bacteria often have a negative connotation, in reality the majority of bacteria are our closest allies and companions. Microbial Schöppingen reflects on the microbial communities that have developed many special skills and societies, and can even interface with our technologies in unique ways. The researchers at the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET) in Gent, who helped me make these microbial fuel cells function more efficiently have introduced me to many different applications that microbial technologies can have: making biofuels and plastics, recharging offshore ocean sensors and cleaning wastewater while producing energy. If we look to these other, more ancient species on our planet for guidance we may find many beautiful suggestions of how to deal with our current ecological and social crises.

Sponsored by the Stiftung Schöppingen Künstlerdorf. Scientific advisors: LabMET