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Sugar Rush
updated by Laura Cinti - 13 Aug 2013


Sugar Rush plays on a common myth associated with children, suggesting a high intake of sugar makes them seemingly excited and behave erratically. The work carries double meanings that (1) giving these bacteria a sugar rush will similarly produce a sort of fractal and erratic behaviour as cells rapidly drive themselves towards these sugars and (2) reflecting on idiosyncratic methods used by artist in the laboratory that may leave them alienated or ousted as ‘children’ in scientific laboratory contexts.

Howard Boland, Art from Synthetic Biology, University of Westminster, 2013

Howard Boland, 'Sugar Rush', 2011Sugar Rush (2011), Art from Synthetic Biology, The Royal Institute of Great Britain, London, UK, April 2013

Sugar Rush is a clock-like set-up of five sugars centred by bacteria (E.coli) providing a process based visualisation of its sugar preference. This can be seen as a movement by the entire colony towards bacteria's sugar of liking.

Howard Boland, 'Sugar Rush', 2011Sugar Rush (2011), Art from Synthetic Biology, The Royal Institute of Great Britain, London, UK, April 2013

Petri dishes containing soft agar was prepared by cutting out five rectangular pieces of agar around the circumference. Five flasks of hard agar, each containing the same concentration of the respective sugar (e.g. glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose and maltose) and a unique visual indicator using food dyes were prepared, poured into the cut holes and allowed to harden.

Howard Boland, 'Sugar Rush', 2011Sugar Rush (2011), colours denote the following sugars: Red is Galactose; Brown is Maltose; Yellow is Fructose; Blue is Sucrose; and Green is Glucose.

Inoculum of E. coli was added to the centre of the petri dish and left to incubated for several days. The experimental result showed a preference to glucose. As time progresses food colours indicated diffusion of the sugar rich agar into the adjoining media. 

Howard Boland, 'Sugar Rush', 2011Sugar Rush (2011), Art from Synthetic Biology, The Royal Institute of Great Britain, London, UK, April 2013

Sugar Rush creates a living information display where the data (i.e. a colony spreading in response to chemical attraction to sugars) is embedded in the system (i.e. specified by evolutionary metabolic adaptations) and can be visualised with the naked eye as a whole system of bacteria moving towards the attractant in spite of emerging from capacities within each bacterium. The system is closed, dynamically adaptive and based on emergent life processes rather than a simulation of these.

Howard Boland, 'Sugar Rush', 2011Sugar Rush (2011), Art from Synthetic Biology, The Royal Institute of Great Britain, London, UK, April 2013

Sugar Rush harnesses a visual experimental design rationale to bridge telling phenomena in bacteria that in this case bring about understandings of goal driven behaviour in cells.

Howard Boland, 'Sugar Rush', 2011Sugar Rush (2011), Art from Synthetic Biology, The Royal Institute of Great Britain, London, UK, April 2013

 

Acknowledgements:

The work was featured was exhibited live at Art from Synthetic Biology, UK’s first public exhibition featuring living genetically modified microorganisms at The Royal Institute of Great Britain in April 2013.

Howard Boland, 'Sugar Rush', 2011Sugar Rush (2011), Art from Synthetic Biology, The Royal Institute of Great Britain, London, UK, April 2013

Sincerest gratitude to Dr Mark Clements. 

The research is supported by a Doctoral Award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and University of Westminster.

Other References: C-LAB:blog: Britt Wray of Fluxmedia visits C-LAB
C-LAB:blog: Cells alive n' counting
C-LAB:blog: Cellulose from bacteria
C-LAB:blog: Going solid: From Fungi to Mushroom
C-LAB:blog: Growing Magnetospirillium Gryphiswaldense
C-LAB:blog: It's here - the Spring 2012 iGEM library
C-LAB:blog: KatE in a Jar
C-LAB:blog: katE sees red with Red Fluorescent Protein (RFP)
C-LAB:blog: Red Fluorescent Protein
C-LAB:blog: Sludge Bacteria - one drop
C-LAB:blog: Stress light in growth & swarming behaviour
C-LAB:event: ART FROM SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY
C-LAB:event: ART-SCIENCE TALK
C-LAB:event: BIOART FORUM
C-LAB:event: CAGE RATTLING #1: KILL SWITCH
C-LAB:event: DO IT TOGETHER BIO #5: SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY ART
C-LAB:event: GRADUATE SCHOOL LAUNCH
C-LAB:event: INTO THE LABS
C-LAB:event: RE-NEW DIGITAL ARTS FESTIVAL
C-LAB:event: SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY SOCIETY KICK OFF EVENT
C-LAB:event: THE TWO CULTURES: VISUAL ART AND THE SCIENCES C.1800-2011
C-LAB:event: YOUNG SYNTHETIC BIOLOGISTS - YSB 1.0
C-LAB:experiment: Bacteria Compass
C-LAB:project: Bacterial Light Sensor
C-LAB:project: Bacterial World
C-LAB:project: katE - Visualising Stress
C-LAB:project: KatEred
C-LAB:project: Stress-o-stat
C-LAB:project: Sugar Rush
C-LAB:project: Transient Images
Overview
Year
2011
Status
completed
Group(s)
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