About Big Bacteria – University of Copenhagen

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About the Big Bacteria Research Network

The Big Bacteria Research Network aims at establishing an interdisciplinary research platform between the natural and the health sciences, the arts and the humanities, in order to strengthen the latter in the light of rapid biotechnological advances and related worldviews. One central goal is to increase public outreach of knowledge and sensitivity of the societies to the transformations which affect cultural and natural heritage. To achieve this goal, Big Bacteria examines the role of bacteria as omnipresent tools for rethinking relations between the natural and the health sciences, the humanities and the arts. One central hypothesis of the Big Bacteria Research Network is that bacteria provide a new, shared, however underestimated paradigm in arts, sciences and humanities. The ultimate goal of the Big Bacteria is to explore the potentials of an interdisciplinary bacterial research to boost an immense variety of its applications. Big Bacteria builds on recent research by combining the scientific and humanistic fields of art and art history, architecture, bacteriology, (general, synthetic, system- etc.-)biology, epidemiology, geology, literature studies, media studies, medical and health sciences, philosophy, science theory and -history. In particular, the Big Bacteria Research Network shifts the attention from the paradigm of Big Data with its immeasurable sequential data to Big Bacteria, emphasizing the importance of relational networks essential for the future natural-cultural heritage- and health research. The variety of relevant and interwoven research areas include: Bacteria as art media, Biotechniques, Microbiome research, Infinitesimal aesthetic and Bacteriological modernism.

Being the oldest, smallest, most abundant and structurally simplest organisms, bacteria are ubiquitous, diverse and variant, as well as vital for all other life forms. They require to be treated not only as indispensable motives, metaphors and models of knowledge, but increasingly as material, medium and methods for its acquiring as well. We live in the age of bacteria, in close symbiosis with trillions of bacteria inside and on us which have major impact on both ecology of the world as well as on human survival and well-being. Through their materiality, aliveness and invisibility, bacteria challenge the concepts of representation and of information. Only recently, the research based art and art based research have begun to sensibilize us for the social practices which lead from ‘individual codes’ to ‘cellular cities and societies’ by taking bacterial forms of organization as role models. Traditionally described and antagonized as ‘invading animals’, bacteria are increasingly understood as potential collaborators, so shifting our attention not only from the computational and ‘semi-living’ virus-metaphor to the factual aliveness of bacteria, but also from Big Data to Big Bacteria, so supplementing the expectations from genetic therapies with microbiome transplants and from Human Genome Project to Human Microbiome Project