Try as we might, no human artist can ever come close to matching the brilliance and creativity of nature. But some, like Moscow-based microbiology enthusiast Daria Fedorova, manage to harness nature’s wonders and arrange them into incredible compositions. Straddling the boundary between science and art, Fedorova – who works under the name Dasha Plesen – collects strains of bacteria, fungi, and slime molds and uses them to inoculate Petri dishes that become little works of living art.
The result of each experiment comes down to a combination of skill and coincidence. Fedorova takes samples from her collection of organisms, stored in plastic containers in a drawer at her home, and basically “draws” with them onto the Petri dishes. Each one is allowed to grow for between five and 20 days. The results vary depending on which organisms come into contact with each other, how they react, and whether any contamination is present.
“As usual, all of the most successful experiments are born by chance, when you least expect it,” the artist writes on Instagram. “I remember the day when I tried to transplant some colonies with a loop in the lab, and nothing came of it, there was just simply no growth and the final picture was completely different. When I sow my cups, I dance, touching everything around, singing wonderful songs and mentally floating in the air, collecting microscopic particles. Sometimes it seems to me like I’m collecting tiny spirits, that show themselves for a second [before] disappearing again. This is no longer microbiology, not even art, this is probably what micro-quantum entanglement looks like.”
Close-up images of each composition reveal bizarre landscapes of wrinkled jelly-like substances, fuzzy balls resembling pom-poms, fine glittering dusts produced by millions of spores, and what looks like bubbling witches’ brews. Some of these striking creations call to mind alien planets. Fedorova sometimes carries out her process of “seeding” the Petri dishes in public as a sort of performance art, and she’s even turned some of her painterly scenes into imagery printed onto textiles.
“We are all swimming in the ocean of tiny spores and organisms, breathing them in, and carrying them on the top of our skin and inside the body,” the artist told Colossal. “I was interested in this parallel between the physical world we can touch and also another physical world, which also presents, but is kind of metaphysical, invisible, somewhere between the air layers, vibrations, energies, nature.”
Slime molds are some of the most fascinating organisms on Earth. If you ever come across an absolutely bizarre-looking substance in the woods, chances are you’ve found one. Feeding on bacteria, yeasts, and fungi, slime molds exist as single-celled organisms when food is abundant but congregate and move as a single collective body when needed to detect food sources. In this state, they might look like clusters of blood vessels, coral, beads, or abstract graphic shapes. They don’t have brains, but they’re smart, remembering the locations of food sources and even completing complex mazes. Doesn’t that make these Petri dish creations even more incredible?