In 2002, students of biology and fine arts collaborated at MSU-Bozeman, a large state school, to create an exhibit called Bioglyphs. The students cultivated petri dishes of bioluminescent bacteria and artfully arranged the dishes on gallery walls. Kill the lights, and dazzling patterns appear. The installation was expanded in
It is no stretch to think about the display in a religious register. “Bioglyph” is a riff on hieroglyph, which is a backformation of hieroglyphics. The Greek word hierogluphikos is derived from the parts hieros, meaning “sacred,” and gluphē, or “carving” (Oxford American Dictionary). The word “hieroglyphics” contains within it the holy, and while it is most often used denotatively to describe the historical writing system, it can also be used figuratively to mean any writing that is enigmatic, elusive, even incomprehensible—quite at odds with the mission of science. One can then view Bioglyphs as mysterious, inconclusive experiments, a sacred script vivified, made through science with a sense of awe.
This artwork is definitely an interesting case study. I've got some ideas gestating, but I think I need to sleep on it.
Check out the Bioglyphs website: http://www.erc.montana.edu/Bioglyphs/default.htm