Friday, 2 November 2012

A Brief Microgeography of London

I was doing other things in London today so I didn't have much time. Consequently, this is a very brief microgeographical  exploration of london. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate a very rich microgeographical landscape that is ripe for exploration.

A lichen on a wall in South Bank. Also the small cracks on the wall's surface are permeated with photosynthetic life

The Uban Cryptobiotic Crust (a complex community of cyanobacteria, moulds and other microbes) on a wall in South Bank. Also a square zone of inhibition caused by something interferring with the UBC. A shadow from a building perhaps diminishing its access to light.


A mould embellished poster on the Queen Elizabeh Hall

A mould embellished poster on the Queen Elizabeh Hall

A mould embellished poster on the Queen Elizabeh Hall

The Uban Cryptobiotic Crust (a complex community of cyanobacteria, moulds and other microbes) on a wall in South Bank. Also a very prominent square zone of inhibition caused by something interferring with the UBC. Heat from the light perhaps

A community of photosynthetic microbes on the wall of a dark tunnel. Empowered by a small skylight above it in the otherwise perpetual gloom. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Serratia: The Painter

Embellished Red Suction Cups 

Shower Curtain Rothko

 Self Portrait: a water colour by Serratia


Amongst the many bacteria that I work with,  the naturally occuring red pigmented bacterium Serratia marcescens, has the most unique and most stiking natural aesthetic . In the top two images, it has embellished the otherwise mundane fittings of a damp bathroom and in one case has produced an almost Rothkoesque image. When given watercolours, it will also paint. In the bottom image the red colour is made by many billions of bacterial cells of Serratia. The other colours are traditional  watercolours and the picture is made as Serratia has moved the watercolours around its medium so that in a sense it has painted.    

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Living On Vapours

Living on Vapours: A tenacious black mould grows on a chemical store at the University of Surrey. It looks similar to Baudoinia compniacensis ,the mould that thrives on alcohol fumes and consequently grows abundantly on whiskey distillery buildings. As the mould in the photographs  grows nowhere else on the campus, I'm guessing that it too is thriving on invisible fumes of the chemicals stored inside.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


The Building That Listens: I came across this today, a building that has grown an ear. It drew me to Stelarc's work and as I photographed it I had a strong sense that this hybrid of concrete and biology was actually listeing to me. In reality, this is a perpetually wet area of the building and these conditions have supported the growth of a fungus. and its fruiting body

Obelisk Ecology. A complex microbial ecology on an otherwise lifeless obelisk made from slate. Birds have obviously used this as a perch and their nitrogenous faeces, and the run of from this, underpins this brittle crust of life.  

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A message obscured: An ancient ecology of lichens on a gravestone. As if time itself had crystalized onto the stone and obscured a poignant human message.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Glyph for a Brief Life. This glyph mysteriously appeared within a thin layer of grime on my office window. I think it was made by a nemotode, a microscopic worm, that had somehow gotten onto the window (from a fly perhaps), tried to find better circumstances, but died in the process (from dehydration). A poignant reminder of microscopic life.     

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Exemplary Life of Soil: Even the most urban of our environments harbour soil.  It might be found in a garden, a park, a flower pot, or even as a small accumulation in the crack between paving stones. In any of these cases it harbours a massively complex community of bacteria that underpins all else that grows upon it. I’ve developed a process that allows the bacterial community that resides in soil to emerge from it and become visible. These are spots of soil taken from an urban journey visualized using this process.  

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

PhotoCulture: Whenever we modify our environment for our own purposes we unwittingly provide opportunities for microbial life. In an otherwise dark cave, an electric light which allows us to see, also happens to support a thriving photosynthetic community of microbes and plants. 

AquaCulture: We adapt the environment for our own purposes and in the process unwittingly provide opportunities for microbes. A large manmade body of water, Usk Reservoir provides an environment for toxigenic blue/green algae and Leptospira interrogans (the causative agent of Weil's Disease or Leptospirosis to flourish).  

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Algae That Scape The Sky: Chengdu, China. There wasn't  much microgeography at street level, but when I found a building high enough to be able me to look down on other skyscrapers I found it!. A community of algae on the roof of a skyscraper that seems to thrive,  particularly in areas of water run off.
Great Wall Lichens:The Great Wall at Mutianyu, Beijing,  China. The wall was first built during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550 - 557) and then later rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). Dry and irradiated by harsh sunlight, for the most part it appears to be inimical to life.  During a persistent search however, I find a number of small shaded microclimates in which communities of lichens thrive. It's tempting to believe that, these are as old as the Great Wall itself.    

Sunday, 17 June 2012

ProkaryPosters: In pursuit of its aims and conveying their message, microgeographers should not shy away from controversy and risk taking.  ProkaryPosters are a novel way of conveying microgeography's message. The print on these posters  is made entirely from living and pigmented bacteria. The posters offer great benefits over traditionally printed posters in that the print is entirely natural, biodegradable, and endlessly renewable. Further to this, the use of living biological agents adds a certain frission to the message and means that the posters cannot be simply removed in that removal requires a specialist biohazard removal team!
The ink. Not a conventional printing ink, but the red pigmented
bacterium Serratia marcescens

The loaded roller

A finished poster. Appropriately labelled
Ecocidal Graffiti:  Urban microbial ecologies are easily overlooked. Microgeography is not afraid to partially and temporarily destroy such ecologies if it results in their revelation, and if in the process, city dwellers are jolted  off their predictable macroscopic paths. Ecocidal  Graffiti is a novel microgeographical technique which differentially destroys parts of microbial communities in situ so that images, glyphs or text are created within them and as a result,  the ecologies themselves become highlighted by their own absence. The initial application is invisible but as the treated parts die, the images or text mysteriously appear over a period of 1-5 days. These are tests for the process which clearly show its efficacy. Please comment should you be interested in joining me on a national campaign of Ecocidal Graffiti. 









Saturday, 16 June 2012

Chinese Microgeography I: China’s smog-filled cities harbour a less diverse microgeography than I am used to. However, amidst the pollution it’s still there, just a little harder to find.    

Built between 1406 and 1420, and located in the middle of the Beijing, The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty.  

In a neglected corner of the palace, surrounded by peeling gold paint, and probably never remarked upon before, or even noticed, a colony of golden lichen grows as if camouflaged amidst the fading splendour. 

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Exemplary Life of Soil: Extraordinary bacterial  lifeforms emerge from samples of garden soil 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

BioText: Microgeographical statements that use unique bacterial inks to convey their message This text is generated by the bioluminescent bacterium Photobacterium phosphoreum.

Monday, 28 May 2012

BioGraffiti: Microgeography draws our attention away from the macroscopic world to one that is normally invisible.  Here graffiti using  bioluminescent bacteria, and their beguiling and lure-like light, does just this.