membrane tensions

membrane tensions (2021)

Installation. Glass containers with SCOBY culture, bacterial cellulose sculptures, webcams, overhead projector, drawings. Livestream. Timelapse.

Commissioned piece by the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

Transforming the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery into an active laboratory, ‘membrane tensions’ features a constellation of new, site-specific works composed of cellulose that allude to the beginning of life where the delineation between internal and external was essential for life forms to first emerge. Membranes are permeable, fluid, active, and responsive. Contain but do not isolate. Are a site of interaction but at the same time, a site of tension. This work explores the contained, merged, engulfed, and stretched in order to understand common origins, evolution through associations, and ways for building a culture able of remediation, healing, and regeneration.

The first section presents living cultures of SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) whose conditions are monitored weekly. The cultures produce bacterial cellulose that is harvested on-site and used to intervene the Gallery windows. As an invitation to stretch our membranes and be able to interact with the other, to extend our range of care, this intervention wants to place us all inside of a big same membrane.

Live stream: harvesting and windows interventions (min 1:44)

 The second part of the installation presents lightweight sculptures and drawings made of the same material (bacterial cellulose). Taking as a reference the symbiogenesis theory and creating imaginary micropaleontological explorations, this wants to build on the idea that life has always been embedded in communities.

Finally, in a world where isolation and confinement are part of our current reality, where individualistic and egocentric ideas are the basis of societies, and where walls are built, this piece questions the possibility of changing them for membranes: capable of interaction, and a place of encounter and relationships. 

ground dwellers

Bio-art. Picture of bacteria collage in agar Petri dishes. 2015

The world of bacteria and mold is diverse. Sometimes considered invaders or contaminants, these microorganisms adapt so as to live almost anywhere. They perform important interactions with other organisms and their surrounding environment.

“Ground dwellers” is a group of bio-art in Petri dishes that incorporates a collection of microorganisms present in the soil where corn is cultivated. Corn is Mexico’s staple and single, most important nutrition source. The conservation of these micro-ecosystems assures future corn production, innovation in fertilizer creation and biological pest control.

The collection of species was obtained by the researchers at CNRG (National Center of Genetic Resources). This is a government institution that is committed to obtaining, characterizing and preserving species important for Mexico’s biodiversity.

The technique used in this bio-art is a collage of microorganisms previously grown in agar medium and cut in different shapes to form the piece.


Bio-art. Pictures of bacteria drawings and patterns in agar Petri dishes. 2015

As using colors in a painting, the different morphology and biochemical reactions with the agar medium of each type of microorganism were used to create patterns and designs.

Even their luminous reaction to UV light makes a new way of seeing bacteria.


Material: Petri Dishes, Potato dextrose agar, Corn meal agar, Knive, Wire inoculating loop | Equipment: Incubator, Laminar flow workstation, Nova Microcinerator | Phography: Tania Lara | Camera: Kanon EOS REBEL T3 | Collaborators: Tania Lara, Maria Micaela Gomez, Maria de Jesus Gomez, Alejandra Diaz, Aileen Jaramillo, Marlene Garcia | Special thanks: Alba Hernandez, Fernando de la Torre.