Baroque Biology (Petri) is a series of LB Agar petri dishes containing imaginary biological vignettes where non-human organisms teach humans complex biotechnological processes. Reminiscent of William Hogarth’s serial engravings combined with fairy tales from a biotech future, each allegory focuses on a non-human organism who tries to communicate with humans in a helpful manner about the biological processes they employ for survival, for reproduction, and/or aesthetic pleasure. Sometimes the human characters are open to receiving the communicated information, and sometimes they are hostile, or ignorant to the messages they are receiving across species. This work is inspired by Lynn Margalius and Dorion Sagan who argue that humans learned genetic engineering from microorganisms, and Bruno Latour who argues that Pasteur collaborated with microorganisms in the discovery of penicillin. These perspectives upset the more common biotech narrative of human ingenuity and discovery as the central force in advancing biotechnological research.
Each vignette is staged within the context of a paper theatre collage. Petri dishes growing GMO bacteria also contain paper cut outs, gold leaf, and 3D sculptural agar forms. The dished are incubated and photographed after the bacteria have time to interact with the print components.
Photo credit: Justin Elliott