Biocreativity on the Road: Bacteria Art at SXSW

For anyone in Austin for SXSW, you really shouldn’t miss a very biocreative event happening tonight, from 5-9pm at The White Horse at 500 Comal.

Join the folks of as they exhibit some of their synthetic biology design work and help us get to know our microbiomes. They will also be offering you the chance to swab from your own living ecosystem and contribute to their digital art project! Meet and mingle with some amazing synthetic biologists and designers. You’ll be able to see your anonymous contribution to this work on within a couple of weeks. It’s a great chance to learn about your biology and have fun doing it! Some of the folks from Synthetic Aesthetics will likely be there.

 “We are fascinated by how microbes work together with one another and with the human body to produce chemicals and odors, and we explore these ecosystems as artists and as scientists, dissecting and analyzing as well as synthesizing and re-creating.” –

Also on display at the event — E. chromi — a collaboration between designers and scientists in the new field of synthetic biology. In 2009, seven Cambridge University undergraduates spent the summer genetically engineering bacteria to secrete a variety of coloured pigments, visible to the naked eye. They designed standardised sequences of DNA, known as BioBricks, and inserted them into E. coli bacteria.

Each BioBrick part contains genes selected from existing organisms spanning the living kingdoms, enabling the bacteria to produce a colour: red, yellow, green, blue, brown or violet. By combining these with other BioBricks, bacteria could be programmed to do useful things, such as indicate whether drinking water is safe by turning red if they sense a toxin. E. chromi won the Grand Prize at the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM).

Read more at Joe Hanson’s blog Many of the Austin Science Communicators will be there (including the folks from Austin’s Science in the Pub) and we invite you to join us for this and future events via our facebook page.

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