The Shareable Biome project is rooted in a fascination with microbiome theory and Western culture’s recent adoption of the Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) as a radically life-saving probiotic procedure. The rapidly increasing accessibility of this treatment is largely due to the work of the nonprofit stool bank OpenBiome, a great example of a sharing community. The artists have explored the giggle-inducing and often taboo subject of “poop” through a mix of playful and critical approaches in an attempt to ask us to consider human waste as a valuable resource as we do other, more obviously recyclable, waste products.
Works on display from the series are:
Sphinctegraphs (gut bacterial ecologies of 7 FMT donors)
Data from OpenBiome, Topic modeling with rost-cli, Digital print on aluminium
The Sphinctegraphs are special pie charts humorously built around images of anuses. They illustrate the gut bacteria ecologies of OpenBiome’s anonymized stool donors, whose poop — inundated with healthy bacteria — is used to combat deadly disease. OpenBiome shared the counts of each bacteria species in each of the donors’ guts. A person can easily have a thousand species of bacteria in his or her gut, making it hard to visualise. The artists ran the data through a machine learning algorithm to condense hundreds of variables into just ten patterns. These groupings reveal the relationships of bacteria across a collective of 30 sharing approved donor samples. Each colour represents one of the identified patterns, allowing us to see the wide variety of bacterial content in healthy biomes.
Fecal Microbiota Transplant Shipment Animation
Data from OpenBiome
Digital video; duration 04 min 28 secs
This animated poop-splotched map tells the story of OpenBiome’s Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) deliveries in relation to seniors over 62 years old across north American states. FMT donations have to be processed quickly, so all of the life-saving fecal matter comes from Bostonians local to OpenBiome. By combining a poop emoji with a digital map reminiscent of a command center display, the video provides an opportunity for us to let the truth really sink in: fecal matter is being flown all over the United States to save lives.
An interactive version which allows FMT delivery to be correlated with education, ethnicity and poverty is available at http://caitlinandmisha.com/shareablebiome/
Bacteria Swarm, Swarm Transfer, Gut Garden, Commingling
Framed drawings on paper
In drawing poop in such a gentle way, the artists aim to show the “funny and cute” side of poop, overcoming the gross and dangerous side of it. In aiming to create this “kind of aesthetic alchemy”, they are interested in how children talk and joke about poop before they really learn that it is taboo.
SuperTurd card game
Playing cards and instructions
The SuperTurd card game is designed to encourage a willingness to share personal health stories and issues which are often kept private, particularly internal problems that aren’t visible. Our microbial cells outnumber us 10 to 1, making us more microbe than human in some unexpected ways. Our ‘gut gardens’, which connect our internal and external environment, crave diversity. The game seduces players into a sharing community: inadvertently exchanging bacteria as they pass cards around learning about ecology via the playful characterisations of actors (foods, medicines, and so on) affecting microbial diversity. Players compete to avoid getting cards which reduce diversity and strive to receive a SuperTurd which replenishes points if their microbiome becomes dangerously depleted.
The artists describe the stools of OpenBiome’s donors as SuperTurds due to their potent mix of bacteria and life-saving properties. Drawing the poop as a “caped saviour” refers to the child-like utopianism of super heroes.
Political Party & Fecal Shipment map, Disease Risk by Zip & Fecal Shipment map, LDS Church Gains & Fecal Shipment map
Data from OpenBiome and USA Census Bureau (2010), The Association of Religious Archives, Phillip Harold Hendrickson, US Presidential Election Results (2012)
Each of these maps shows Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) Shipments in the US correlated with a selection of political, religious and health data which could be affecting the acceptance or rejection of FMT in certain locations. Data explored includes Republican and Democrat voting patterns, risk levels of C.Diff cases, and gains and losses of Mormon Church affiliation and general population. Some of these correlations can be explored online in the interactive data visualisation at caitlinandmisha.com/shareablebiome/
Hypnosis Daily 6 – Beautiful Microbiome
Digital video; duration 04 min 15 secs
Series of artworks, varying formats
2018 at the Open Data Institute
Caitlin and Misha work collaboratively as artists and curators to create works which engage ideas and practices that involve sharing communities, liveable ecologies, and the transmutation of waste. Their projects include interactive games, installations, and happenings…