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Would You Eat Off These Bacteria-Covered Plates?

For most of us, Salmonella at dinner spells crippling gastrointestinal problems. For artists Vik Muniz and Tal Danino, it’s an artistic opportunity. In their aptly named Petri Dishes for the French porcelain maker Bernardaud, the two take exploded photographs of cultured bacteria and put them front and center on plates.


The artists took strains of Paenibacillus and Salmonella and let them grow in Petri dishes. As the bacteria grew, hauntingly beautiful abstractions took shape. Some look like out-of-this world celestial images; others like undersea coral and algae.

“Bacteria interact with each other at the microscopic level, communicating where and when they should search for food,” Muniz says. “The patterns emerge from an initial population of bacteria that swim outward through an Agar gel using their motorized tails, creating the equivalent of a microscopic traffic jam of bacteria.”

The magic of science—it’s nearly enough to make you lose your appetite.

The six-plate series will be available from the MoMA Design Store for $550.

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