A Wellcome Trust funded project Artist Anne Brodie, microbiologist Dr Simon Park and curator Dr Caterina Albano will be collaborating in researching the communication and light producing properties of bioluminescent bacteria outside of the usual confines of pure scientific practice. Over the course of 2009 we will develop a body of artwork based on less traditional scientifically quantifiable attributes; an alternative data collection based on subjectivity, emotion, playfulness and instinctive human enquiry.
The photographs below were all created using a bacterial light source. They are part of the medical contents of ‘Box7’, a box kept out of sight containing objects deemed unsuitable for showing or handling at the Old Operating Theatre in London.
Part of St Thomas Hospital, built in the roof space of St Thomas Church around 1822, the Operating Theatre was originally used to operate on the women patients from Dorcas ward. The majority of cases were for amputations or superficial complaints as, without antiseptic conditions, bacterial infections ruled out internal operations.
With thanks to Karen Howell, the Curator.
Before 1867 every other patient carried into a hospital for surgical treatment, was carried out dead of blood poisoning, their wounds a stinking fester.
Joseph Lister, a young surgeon in Glasgow, smelled at the festers. They reminded him of sewage; and sewage reminded him of how the city of Carlisle was deodorizing its wastes—by carbolic acid. He slopped carbolic acid on the open wounds of accident cases brought to him. The acid worked; it prevented development of “hospital gangrene.” he had realised that microbes in the air were causing the putrefaction and had to be destroyed before they entered the wound.
From Pasteur and Lister’s 19th century connections of the implications of bacteria in human health, scientists most up to date techniques for fighting human disease continues to be based on the cellular activity of micro organisms.