On Friday we managed to get into the labs to start experimenting with growing bacteria and experimenting a little with liquid nitrogen. We were shown the lab and the process of sterilisation that we will need to undergo in order to start with a sterile platform on which to grow bacteria upon. There were several methods for this, the only one that seemed suitable for our modroc mould is to use UV light, as the other methods require using hot steam in an autoclave, which would completely disintegrate the structure.
Mark then showed us how to put agar into agar dishes and told us that the normal mix of agar is 1% agar mix – but that we could add more to create a stiffer consistency that may be better to sculpt with. The agar is mixed up and kept in a water bath at 60 degrees, which stops the agar from solidifying. Mark also explained that the red agar had dye in it – certain bacteria will grow on this dye and turn red too.. which opens up some new opportunities, but this requires more research.
We then decided to start collecting bacteria, or our ‘data’. We used swabs to take samples from Mell’s face. We focussed on ; eyelids, chin, inside cheek, inside nose, ear, hair, lips and forehead – in order to hopefully get a range of bacteria. This should be ready on Monday hopefully – so we can start to see shapes, patterns and colours.
As mentioned before, I was curious as to what would happen when you froze agar with/without bacteria in liquid nitrogen. Mark explained that freezing bacteria would contaminate the liquid nitrogen, and therefore poses some health and safety risks. We did however, have a go at freezing agar. As we could only test a thin sheet, we are still unsure if this is a route we would like to take. Ideally we would have liked to have frozen a plug of agar, to see how a thicker piece reacted. But, as expected, It came out very very brittle – but once thawed, it went back to its jelly form – which is interesting.