Sorin Popescu is a 23-year-old Romanian pharmacy student who absolutely loves art. That might seem kind of odd, what with the whole creative brain vs. mathematical brain theory—but, when you think about it, the two fields really aren't that different from each other: the purpose of both pharmaceuticals and art are to get you on to some kind of higher level. Massively differing highs, sure, but highs nonetheless.
Combining those two passions, Sorin came up with a project called Life on Money, where he incubated some of the more dangerous bacteria he found on the currency circulating around his country, then placed that bacteria in chemical fluids to accelerate their growth.
Speaking to him made me realize why my mom always told me to wash my hands after handling cash.
VICE: Hey Sorin. What message are you trying to get across with your project?
Sorin Popescu: I’m trying to convert money into an organic message, demonstrating the evil that money carries with it. Money is a hard reality that people can relate to, and I like to think that my work also has a beautiful aesthetic quality to it.
Cool. How did you go about making your project?
I harvested the bacteria off the money, then I incubated them, using special fluids in petri dishes and vials. You usually leave them for about 24 hours with most scientific studies, but I let my art evolve for much longer than that. They grew until they ate everything in the petri dishes, dehydrated, and died. How long does bacteria survive on money?
Bacteria will usually only be carried by two or three people who have touched the money. Without any nutrition, they die out. The staphylococcus can last much longer without nourishment, though, so it's likely to be more infectious than others.
Would someone get infected if they touched the money used in your experiment?
Yes, it was all infested. I discovered a load of different bacterias, like E. Coli, staphylococcus aureus, staphylococcus albus, neisseria, and enterococcus. They all cause diseases and infections of the bloodstream, the urinary tract, the genitals, and the lungs, even resulting in sepsis or meningitis. So they're not very nice. Did you show your project at your university?
I wanted to, but I didn't get permission. I eventually found some people who liked the idea of using a scientific study as art, though, so I was able to show it with them. The people who work in my field don't really care for art, but after I explained my project to them, they at least got some understanding of what I'm always going on about.
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