Menagerie of Microbes | 25 March – 13 May 2016

The Laboratory Gallery, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Menagerie of Microbes celebrates the microbial world, bringing together the work of artists, designers and scientists who share a passion for microorganisms, which exist in and around us. Menagerie of Microbes presents work by Heather Barnett, Anna Dumitriu, ecoLogicStudio, Patrick Hickey, Simon Park, Sarah Roberts, Urban Morphogenesis Lab and the ASCUS Lab, and is part of Bio and Beyond, the visual art exhibition at Summerhall for the Edinburgh International Science Festival 2016.


As we go about our daily business we are surrounded by vast colonies of microorganisms, thriving communities existing largely out of sight. They may be small, yet in terms of impact and numbers, they represent the predominate form of life on earth. Menagerie of Microbes brings together the work of artists, designers and scientists who share a passion for these complex organisms, which exist in and around us. Exploring the talents, behaviours and inherent beauty of bacteria, fungi and amoebae, the exhibition celebrates biological form and function, and explores the future microbial possibilities for design, ecology and health.

Combining works from different disciplinary perspectives, the exhibition also reveals different modes of creative inquiry – how we observe and interact with the natural world, and how we work with biological materials and systems in order to create, question or communicate. Menagerie of Microbes includes such delights as the experimental remains of bacterial warfare, artworks imbued with strains of Tuberculosis, explorations into biological communication, and designs for a new form of power station driven by slime mould.

Menagerie of Microbes is curated by Heather Barnett and James Howie (ASCUS Lab).


Check here for information about all talks and workshops connected with Menagerie of Microbes.

Highlights include:

Menagerie of Microbes Exhibitor Talk

Join the Menagerie of Microbes team of artists, designers and scientists for an hour of talks and discussion exploring the mechanisms, histories and future potential of simple yet complex life forms.

11.00-12.00, Saturday 26th March, Anatomy Lecture Theatre (free)



[Anna Dumitriu Infective Textiles]

Menagerie of Microbes Workshop 1

The Romantic Disease: Infective Textiles Practical Bioart Workshop with Anna Dumitriu

1.00- 2.30, Saturday 26th March, ASCUS Lab

Learn about the history of the so called ‘romantic disease’ which has inspired Anna Dumitriu’s artworks in the Menagerie of Microbes exhibition, and develop practical DIY microbiology skills to create your own bioartworks working with environmental bacteria and natural dyes which were historically used to treat the disease. We will also consider the issue of antimicrobial resistance and future directions in research such as whole genome sequencing and synthetic biology.



[Simon Park Microgeography]

[Simon Park Microgeography]

Menagerie of Microbes Workshop 2

Microgeography Field Study with Dr Simon Park

3.00- 4.30, Saturday 26th March, ASCUS Lab

In the very familiar settings of our urban environments, microorganisms have established thriving and complex ecologies that we almost always overlook. This will be a unique microbiologically informed walk and mobile workshop, which will explore the importance of this the urban microbiology, using examples found in the environment local to the Summerhall creative hub. Expect to learn about: the hidden signatures of urban microbial life, portable microcopy, and DIY microbiology.



The Physarum Experiments, Study No: 019 The Maze (film still) 02

[Heather Barnett, The Physarum Experiments]

Menagerie of Microbes Workshop 3

The Physarum Experiments: Creative Slime Mould with Heather Barnett and ecoLogicStudio

5.00- 6.30, Saturday 26th March, ASCUS Lab

The slime mould, Physarum polycephalum, is a small brainless protozoa with surprising intelligence. Used as a model organism in many areas of scientific research it also makes for an interesting design tool and creative collaborator. In this workshop you will discover the fascinating role this single celled organism has to play in the cultures of science, design and art, and create a practical experiment to test its capabilities and problem-solving skills. Each participant will take home a new microbial pet to observe and experiment with.