Type is organic, it’s alive…
Much of the recent work in the field of synthetic biology involves the expression of pigments by bacteria in response to stimuli. Typical applications of this often include identifying contaminants in drinking water or the early symptoms of a disease.
I wanted to explore the potential of this developing technology in a more personal and cultural context. I wanted to ask how people would go about adopting it and how they would feel about using it.
I was also inspired by a recent talk from typographer Bruno Maag. He spoke about type as being organic, he described it as being alive. While he was speaking metaphorically it sparked a thought in my mind: what if synthetic biology meant that type really was alive? What if out letters were living organisms?
I developed a scenario around a private love letter, written in a unique ink that is shared by two lovers. The couple also share a unique bacterial infection in their saliva. This bacteria expresses pigment when in comes into contact with the ink. A unique ink and bacterial combination would be created by couples to express their commitment to each other.
I created a video piece to explore the abstracted reality of this scenario. In shows a woman decoding a love letter using her saliva, licking the letters one by one. The use of the hand written love letter is pertinent as we already have a physical connection with them, we lick the envelops and stamps, sending a piece of ourselves along with the letter.
I used an extract from a letter send from English poet John Keats to his lover Fanny Brawne in 1819. The text is peculiarly appropriate to the message I wished to convey.