Fecal Alchemy 2022/2023


Fecal Alchemy is a playful, speculative exploration of scientific fact and fiction within the fields of microbial ecologies, nutritional health and more specifically, microbial assimilation. It is presented as an audiovisual documentary artefact of several comparative bioinformatic analytical processes that result in an evolving rendering that maps specific genera of bacteria to a 3D object that is shaped initially by the gut microbiome of the artist. This rendering is remediated and reshaped through the integration of the oral microbiome and finally from the soil microbes. 

Using machine learning, the additional samples are integrated into the initial rendering so that matching genera of bacteria find each other and when this occurs, turn the shit into gold (in reference to the initial data being obtained through fecal sampling). All microbial samples use the same process of DNA extraction and 16S sequencing to obtain the data. This same data is also sonified through a 3-channel, 21 oscillator synthesiser to create a soundscape that acts as a proposition for a microbial choir. 

Fecal Alchemy aims to explore the complex, near impossible to understand scientific relationships between oral and gut microbiomes, in relation to taste and digestion and their wider ecological contexts in relation to environmental health, human health, high and low level scientific inquiry and scientific fact / fiction. The title refers to a spectrum of cultural discourses that traverses Pierre Manzoni’s Artist’s Shit, Freud’s On Transformations of Instinct as Exemplified by Anal Eroticism, Alchemic Lacanian notions of civilisation and waste removal and an urban slang term for achieving the impossible from problematic beginnings. 

This work was debuted during a Leonardo Laser Talk: BioARt in the Public Sphere @Coalesce at Hallwalls Center for Contemporary Art in Buffalo (US) in early 2022 and was then exhibited as part of a fermented foods dinner performance at both the Island of the Day Before Beishi (for the _AND Festival Taiwan) and at the DH5 Hedonistika Exhibition in Linz in late 2022 and again in 2023 at the PANSIQUÍSMO Y LO MAQUÍNICO exhibition in Guadalajara.