Type is organic, it’s alive…
Bruno Maag

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.