Suburban Octane

Apr 2014

36" × 36"

Polyurethane resin

Life can exist in the harshest of environments. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacterium that can decompose hydrocarbons (crude oil) in diesel or jet fuel for energy. What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.

In nature, resiliency is advantageous. Pseudomonas aeruginosa thrives while deprived of oxygen, and challenges the conventions of normality and convenience. However, even the most environmentally extreme and opportunistic organisms can be predicted. If unattended, it will block fuel lines and colonizations can even occur in body organs. Understanding the unseen means being able to predict the unforgiving.

An algorithm was developed which models the bacterial growth patterns as accurately as possible. It accounts for reproduction rate, nutrient foraging, individual growth, population interactions, locomotion, environmental changes and death. A digital bacteria colony “grew” on a server until it had reached sufficient size. The culture was monitored and 2 snapshots were chosen. Bacterium position was precisely mapped and the frozen population was carved into resin, a hydrocarbon form uninhabitable by the bacteria.

The work is installed at the San Diego International Airport. More information about the Converging Ingenuities exhibit can be found online.


Suburban Octane done with the partial collaboration of Los Angeles based artist Andrew Dubow.

The source code is available on GitHub.