Living Things

Through an installation in which Spirulina is cultivated in glass bioreactors designed as  furnishings, Living Things creates a symbiotic environment between people and microorganisms.

Ethan Frier and Jacob Douenias, Living Thing. View of the installtion at the Mattress Factory, Museum of Contemporary Art Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“Living Things” the installation at the Mattress Factory (Museum of Contemporary Art Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) contains furniture of a possible and not too distant future where the symbiosis between human beings and microorganisms is externalized and celebrated in the built environment.
Microalgae are some of the most ancient and prolific organisms on earth. They are single-celled proto-plants without roots, stalks, or leaves. Despite accounting for less than 1% of the Earth’s total biomass, microalgae drive the biological pump which maintains our atmosphere and the balance of carboniferous matter theirin. The energy dense and nutrient rich material left behind by these microorganisms remains an almost entirely untapped renewable resource by humans.
Ethan Frier and Jacob Douenias, Living Thing. View of the installtion at the Mattress Factory, Museum of Contemporary Art Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Ethan Frier and Jacob Douenias, Living Thing. View of the installtion at the Mattress Factory, Museum of Contemporary Art Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This installation conceived by Ethan Frier and Jacob Douenias reveals the phenomenological qualities of the highly beneficial micro-algae and challenges visitors to consider what the future of the domestic environment may become in the context of the precarious agricultural and energy needs of a ballooning population.

The three vignettes – a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen/control center – each espouse a different character, and the living vessels function differently in each space. The morphologies of hand-blown glass vessels function both as lighting and heating elements for the human occupants, and high functioning photobioreactors which provide heat, light, agitation, air supply, nutrient and waste control to the living algae inside. This life support system is connected through just under 0,5 mile of wiring and plumbing to a hybrid between a scientific workstation and a media cabinent.

At this workstation each of the nine vessel’s life support systems can be adjusted individually. The 3D printed nylon knobs embedded in the surface of this workstation actuate eighteen valves which allow for the harvesting of Spirulina when the culture becomes dense enough, and the supply of fresh liquid media to each vessel. Inside the cabinet the pumps, tubing, manifolds, LED drivers, air pumps, heater connections and filters which comprise the heart of the life support system.

Ethan Frier and Jacob Douenias, Living Thing. View of the installtion at the Mattress Factory, Museum of Contemporary Art Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Ethan Frier and Jacob Douenias, Living Thing. View of the installtion at the Mattress Factory, Museum of Contemporary Art Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The microorganism Spirulina was selected for the installation for its ability to thrive in very alkaline waters, where most bacteria cannot live. As the algae grow very quickly the character of each vessel changes continuously. The liquid becomes a deeper rich green and absorbs more and more light from the internally lit vessels. Individual Spirulina filaments which are just barely visible to the naked eye (1/3 of a millimeter long) can be seen mixing inside the glass vessels. Once filtered, the algae can be dried from a viscous paste into a fine, green powder which is over 60% protein by weight and is mostly flavorless with a hint of grassiness. During the course of the installation the artists and museum will work with bartenders and chefs to create drinks and dishes which feature Spirulina at special events held in the installation.

until March 27, 2016
Ethan Frier and Jacob Douenias
Living Thing
Mattress Factory
Museum of Contemporary Art Pittsburgh
500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh

Latest on News

Latest on Domus

China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views