Poetry and Lights Activate Fluorescent E. Coli Proteins

The green fluorescent protein, derived from E. Coli, glows neon under blue and purple lights.

by Alyssa Buffenstein
11 February 2016, 6:25pm

Detail of the GFP. Image: Courtesy of Interspecifics Collective

A Dan Flavin sculpture eats some bad Chipotle. It goes awry and begins to flash uncontrollably. That’s sort of the aesthetic of the newest work by Interspecifics Collective, a multispecies, nomadic arts and technology lab (Read: Dirty Beats: Music Generated from Bacteria) that specialises in merging biology with art-making practices.

For a new project called GFP Screen, the collective turned proteins derived from E. Coli into a neon light installation that responds to poems written in code. Light in the blue to ultraviolet range activates the fluorescence of the protein, fittingly called the green fluorescent protein, or GFP. It's comprised of residue from 238 amino acids, and while it's typically found in bioluminescent jellyfish, Interspecifics Collective produced it from E. Coli bacteria.

The installation. Image courtesy of Interspecifics Collective

The artists mounted 16 large vials of GFP onto tripods, and wired each one to a relay. They wrote a poem using found text from the Google search for “human,” and encoded it into ASCII. Every three milliseconds, two characters are sent through the controller, activating certain lights and lighting up their respective proteins.  


GFP-SCREEN from LessNullVoid on Vimeo.

At least from the look of it, E. Coli isn’t all bad. Check out more from Interspecifics Collective on their website


Dirty Beats: Hear Music Generated from Bacteria

[Video] Coral City | Atlantis for South Florida's Fluorescent Sea Creatures

Original Creators: Minimalist Light Sculptor Dan Flavin

light art
bio art
Interspecifics Collective