BaseCamp 2021 Bio-Signatures

Translating the Locarno experience into a scientific screenplay

During our Stay at Locarno Film Festival our team had the idea to translate art into scientific codes. We called this project "Basecamp Bio-Signs." We asked young artists working in their Basecamp ateliers to submit a sample of their art work (or instruments/tools used in the production process), out of which we then intended to create bacterial signatures. We had brought along plates with LB-Agar and the artistic samples were supposed to interact with these plates, thereby creating a biological representation and extension of the artist's artistic expressions. Our goal was to have each "experiment"represent a conversation between art and science, as it captures the artistic intent in a scientific context.

Our plan:  
After the samples are provided, at BaseCamp each dish will be allowed to grow in a controlled environment and turns into an organic installation for the duration of BaseCamp. At the end of BaseCamp, before killing and disposing of the bacterial cultures in a responsible way, we will collect a final sample of the growths in each plate, and perform analysis to study the composition and molecular signatures of the bacteria present in each art piece, and present it as a “molecular signature of BaseCamp 2021” - capturing the experience in a scientific way.

Phase 1: “Sample Collection” (Aug 7-8)
- Samples are given physically by the artist, under supervision of a scientist. The act of giving the sample can also be recorded as a performance (see Experiment 1: Spit an Apple)
- Each sample will be titled as “Experiment n: (artist’s title here), (artist’s name here)”
- Samples can be:
    - Cuttings of materials used in the artist’s installation
    - Swabs of installation/painting
    - Swabs of artist’s tools in making their pieces (ex. A film maker’s camera)
Phase 2: “The Experiment Showcase” (until Aug 14th)
- After collecting samples, all of the LB-agar dishes will be kept in a locked cabinet, with glass panes to allow all BaseCampers to observe the growth of each culture.
- Safety: BaseCampers will be informed to not touch or open any of the cultures, and the cultures will only be handled by the NCCR scientists.
Phase 3: “Experiment’s End” (Aug 14)
- 10% bleach will be prepared to kill all bacterial cultures
- A small sample of each culture will be collected by the scientific team for biological signature analysis
- Transport of samples: eppendorf tubes in ziplock bags for containment.
- Final analysis will be done in a lab with microbiology expertise under the NCCR MSE umbrella.