For many of us, what we know about bacteria is dictated by marketing. Some products claim to have "good bacteria", while many are determined to stamp out the bacterium menace, as explained in TV spot ads where parents relieve their children of the potential to contract something horrific through the simple squirt of a transparent liquid.
There are bacteria all around us, all of the time. They are on your computer keyboard (or your phone), right now. We carry a whole ecosystem of the stuff within and on us. It's the location, type and number which determine whether they are infectious or symbiotic.
It's this potential that excites Anna Dumitriu. Trained in Fine Art but, from an early age, fascinated in the untold narratives behind science, she is unlocking the untold stories of bacteria, working with scientists to find new, artistic methods to show bacteria in new and different contexts.
Her recent work features textiles, stained with bacterial pigments. Their patterns are created using quorum-sensing processes and a mixture of natural and synthetic antibiotics. Her works also feature digital video mapping to augment the sculptures, resulting in time-lapse videos of bacterial communication in process. As Dumitriu suggests, bacterial communication is critical to her work, but also to human health. Quorum-sensing is used by bacteria to control things like virulence factors, sporulation and toxin production. The more in which we understand how bacteria communicates and behaves, the greater chance we have of developing new antibiotics.