A work master  about the perception of invisible data hidden in nature and brought visible through the use of cybernetics, DIY machines and bioengineered organisms. Project made by Vanessa Lorenzo, student at HEAD Genève, in collaboration with biodesign.cc.

13483044_568048010033618_3486711665719459178_oBy merging electronic media and citizen science, this research and interactive installation uses bio reporters as a tool to gain understanding of a microbe’s perception of the Anthropocene. (Photo: final installation, the flask is saturated with black ink)

An artefact is an error in both telecommunications and scientific research; also, a modification of biological structure (bioengineered organism) and a object made by humans.

An artefact is also a bioreporter, an effective research tool for gaining understanding of a microbe’s perception of the world.

13475047_568048073366945_2777332066694226834_oA gene, bacteria or fungi is able to communicate metabolic and transcriptional behaviour in an habitat and furnish us with information of its immediate surroundings. This work uses artefacts in its different form as an expression of invisible, pieces of real selectively ignored by contemporary society. (Photo: Vial with standards for a test)

List of spots for data collection:

A                     46.193794°N, 6.138203°W

B                     46.201681 °N, 6.12329°W

C                     46.442°N 6.894°W

D                     46.399722°N 6.886239°W

E                     46.395489°N 6.888814°W

F                     46.311278°N 7.592298°W

G                     46.3107°N 7.5977°W

H                     46.321252°N, 7.743859°W

I                      46.306205°N, 7.778143°W

J                      46.425013°N, 7.831846°W

K                     46.301087°N 7.871608°W

L                     46.299549°N, 7.878622°W

Natural Bio-reporters, fungi and bacteria.

Through visual perception and identification of fungi and bacteria we can discover local micro-biodiversity. Imperceptible microcosmos that remain unseen to human eyes. (Photos:petri dishes with fungi and bacteria, GPS location, screenshoots form GoogleMaps)



(Photo: fungi cultures above and screenshots of its GPS locations in GoogleMaps)

In an outlook on environmental events “Camera Obscura and the artefacts of the invisible” focus on the unnatural presence of mercury along one of the mayor rivers of Europe, the Rhône.

Over the time, the river sculpted the valley and exercised the highest authority on its territories and the communities that settle down around it. Since the development of first heavy industries in the Valley (chemical industries that used the power of the stream coming down the Alps) its water flows are shaped by the rhythms of progress and witness a mutation of landscapes by virtue of social imaginary and massive spills of mercury (Used as a catalyzer in the chemical industries).

Motivated by the need of control, humans have developed technologies to domesticate and measure the power of the stream. Further, the urge of bringing visible the effects of our own pollution recently joined the constant supervision of the flow and different machines and artefacts have been developed to measure the quality of water.  Since the 1970’s, this was a sign that an early ecological consciousness and awareness about mercury spills began to rise.

Present in its original form in nature, mercury is artificially brought into our daily lives through industrial processes, artisanal gold mining and food chain (fishes, seafood, etc.). Mercury coexists as a glitch in nature, an artefact that reveals the vulnerability of the communities in its surroundings.  Together with Sachiko K. Hirosue and Robin Schreiber from BDRW, I have completed the early stage of a long-term experimental research and construction of an interactive installation of an artefact that aims to answer the research question: How can a biomedia approach help for a better understanding of the Anthropocene?”

 By merging electronic media and citizen science “Camera Obscura and the artefacts of the invisible” uses both natural and genetically modified bio reporters to raise awareness of our effects in the environment by mapping the traces of the artefacts of our progress.

On one hand, a table contains a “plot” of biological data from 12 “hot spots” in form of petri dishes placed along the graphical representation of the Rhône river (engraved in the table from Visp to Geneva). Following a protocol, I took soil, water and sound samples (sound will not be used at this stage of the project). Besides, I made the culture of fungi and bacteria colonies (natural bioreporters) to see the invisible biodiversity at each point in the map. Further, together with the scientist from BDRW, water samples were tested in order to determine its quality. Signs of mercury were detected but results were not yet confirmed at the day of the exhibition and therefore not released for the public. *** updated soon.

On the other hand, an interactive installation uses 5 samples with contaminated water and bioengineered bacteria that turn fluorescent in the presence of mercury.



A system with LEDs, lenses and light captors will excite the fluorescence of the sample and read the amount of pollution (fluorescence and turbidity) that is inside.


13522937_568048296700256_6287648879155976095_oVideo of the exhibition

A microcontroller will translate data in order to guide the piping system that will deliver bits of black ink into a spherical carboy of glass filled with water from the Leman Lake. ¨IMG_20160422_171141.jpg

The more people approach to see what happens inside, the more polluted the water and therefore the more visible it becomes the traces and anxieties of our progress.



Visit the documentation on Vanessa Lorenzo’s website, and the camera obscura github.

One thought on “Camera Obscura et les artefacts de l’invisible

  1. Pingback: Organo-mercury reporting bacteria | biodesign for the real world

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