Exploring the Invisible

Bioluminescent bacteria are widely used in scientific research, usually as internal cellular markers. By inverting this practice and employing bacteria as an external light source, objects and bodies, surfaces and skin are exposed to the soft ethereal glow of the bacteria, establishing new points of contact and visual punctures. What is usually seen under the lens of the microscope is here the source of light that reveals the features of human bodies and enters the world of domesticity.
Exploring the Invisible was a Wellcome Trust funded collaborative project between Artist Anne Brodie, Microbiologist Simon Park, and Writer and Curator Caterina Albano, using a strain of bioluminescent bacteria, Photobacterium phosphoreum, to
explore our ways of interacting with bacteria. Through enquiry and experimentation that transcended the traditional boundaries of art and science, the project developed a body of photographic and video work and live installation that reimagine our encounter with bacteria. The only light used to create the photographs and films came from living bacteria. The images restage the long exposure of the camera lens in the improbable and at times disquieting bioluminescence that gradually fades as the bacteria die.

Aug 4

Participants filmed in the single wavelength light emissions of deep sea bioluminescent bacteria


Dec 11
The one-night installation in the Herb Garrett threads in Brodie’s work with ceramics and glass and continues to question the role of the object in life’s daily rituals. Brodie’s collection of old cups, saucers, glasses, spoons, bowls and vases bought in car-boot sales and charity shops are displayed filled with nutrient agar gel inoculated with Photobacterium phosphoreum. The bacteria have a life span of approximately thirty-six hours. In the process the array of objects glimpses back exposing the impermanency of use in daily life and beyond. Unsuited for the laboratory, they magnify the precariousness of fashion, habits, and sentimentality.

The one-night installation in the Herb Garrett threads in Brodie’s work with ceramics and glass and continues to question the role of the object in life’s daily rituals. Brodie’s collection of old cups, saucers, glasses, spoons, bowls and vases bought in car-boot sales and charity shops are displayed filled with nutrient agar gel inoculated with Photobacterium phosphoreum. The bacteria have a life span of approximately thirty-six hours. In the process the array of objects glimpses back exposing the impermanency of use in daily life and beyond. Unsuited for the laboratory, they magnify the precariousness of fashion, habits, and sentimentality.


'The projected photographs in the Old Operating Theatre were displayed within the original photo-booth in which the images were taken using the light emitted by living bacteria. The images restage the long exposure of the camera lens in the improbable and at times disquieting bioluminescence that gradually fades as the bacteria die. Brodie’s lens quietly captures the ineffableness of life’s formation and the fleeting reality of subjectivity.'

'The projected photographs in the Old Operating Theatre were displayed within the original photo-booth in which the images were taken using the light emitted by living bacteria. The images restage the long exposure of the camera lens in the improbable and at times disquieting bioluminescence that gradually fades as the bacteria die. Brodie’s lens quietly captures the ineffableness of life’s formation and the fleeting reality of subjectivity.'


Sep 28

“From the earliest times, human civilization has been no more than a strange luminescence growing more intense by the hour, of which no one can say when it will begin to wane and when it will fade away.” W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Sep 16
The ‘Bioluminescent photograph booth’ was installed for two days at the British Science Festival. The dark space filled with hundreds of glowing petri dishes engaged with children and adults during the day, on sat evening it went into action as 9 willing volunteers stood naked, immersed in bacterial light in order that a photographic image could be produced. A huge thank you to all of the volunteers for their intrepid spirit. Everyone reported back that they felt the experience to be extremely positive and uplifting.
We undress for medical reasons, exposure usually associated with discomfort and fear. Exposure in this case, cocooned in the faint blue light brought calm and quietness.

The ‘Bioluminescent photograph booth’ was installed for two days at the British Science Festival. The dark space filled with hundreds of glowing petri dishes engaged with children and adults during the day, on sat evening it went into action as 9 willing volunteers stood naked, immersed in bacterial light in order that a photographic image could be produced. A huge thank you to all of the volunteers for their intrepid spirit. Everyone reported back that they felt the experience to be extremely positive and uplifting.

We undress for medical reasons, exposure usually associated with discomfort and fear. Exposure in this case, cocooned in the faint blue light brought calm and quietness.


Poster put up around Surrey Univeristy Campus during British Science Festival

Poster put up around Surrey Univeristy Campus during British Science Festival


Aug 30


Aug 25

May 27
'…the luminous material was scraped off and was then used to make  other corpses glow'

'…the luminous material was scraped off and was then used to make other corpses glow'



May 22
Galiieo’s Daughter en route to Italy, watching over the Lister proceedings below.

Galiieo’s Daughter en route to Italy, watching over the Lister proceedings below.


May 19

The archives of Joseph Lister are held in the Wellcome Library, beautifully folded, stored and wrapped in ribbon.

They give an insight into who Joseph was; a man who bought a lot of biscuits, gave money to the poor, sometimes forgot to take his library books back, moaned to his sister Mary about not having time to write.

His personal and surgical notebooks chart the development of his theories on bacterial infection and the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic agent. There are records of pivotal discoveries, connections and communication with Louis Pasteur, but there are also records of the mistakes, the scorings out - ‘the carbolic acid was too strong’ , ‘it didn’t work’

We used the bacterial light to illuminate Joseph Lister and in doing so felt we brought him out of the archive and back to life for just a short time.

This was made possible with the help of Rowan De Saulles, and the archivists at the Wellcome library. Thanks also to photographer Vaughan Forbes for all his help and advice.


Joseph Lister 1835 ‘My dear Mary’

Joseph Lister 1835 ‘My dear Mary’


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