Press release

Invisible You. The Human Microbiome exhibition to open at the Eden Project

The Eden Project, supported by the Wellcome Trust, is to launch a new permanent exhibition entitled 'Invisible You. The Human Microbiome,' with accompanying programmes of live science events, web and formal education.

Eden has previously explored all kinds of ecosystems but until now, one has been missing - the invisible community of the body. Human Microbiome is the phrase used to refer to the community of microbes, comprising bacteria, fungi and viruses that live on and in every one of us.

Jo Elworthy, Eden’s Interpretation Director, said: "These trillions of microbes outnumber our cells ten to one and, in the main, work together to keep us healthy - whether it’s the bacteria in the gut helping to digest our food or the microbes on our skin working to keep it soft. This fascinating new exhibition is one of the most compelling and important we have ever staged."

For the exhibition, which opens this spring, Eden has commissioned 11 artists to create new exhibits that explore the unfolding story of the human microbiome.

Jo Elworthy added: "We are really excited about the diversity of work that has been put together. We have fabulous collaborations between artists and scientists, and will be presenting an amazing collection of new artworks. You may even be able to see what your microbiome looks like, with your own belly-button portrait."

The full list of artists contributing to the exhibition is:

  • Rogan Brown. Rogan’s paper sculptures explore the patterns and repeated motifs within organic forms.
  • Anna Dumitriu and Alex May. Anna and Alex will be presenting The Human SuperOrganism, an interactive installation that acts as a virtual petri dish.
  • Rebecca D. Harris. Rebecca will be creating an embroidered textile hanging that represents the microbial communities of our body and will highlight the changes to the microbiome during pregnancy.
  • Paul Spooner. Paul is an artist automata maker who will be collaborating with Sam Lanyon, exploring stories from the gut and the mouth.
  • Owl'n'wolf. Joe Holman’s new animation will delve into several microbe stories that depict our microbiome as an organised community with its very own TV network.
  • Anna Dumitriu. Anna will be undertaking a residency in the lab with the Healthcare Associated Infection Research Group at the University of Leeds, alongside Caroline Chilton and Jane Freeman, to develop a new sculptural installation that explores the complex story of faecal microbiota transplants.
  • Aimee Lax. Working in collaboration with Dr Martha Clokie, Aimee is investigating the amazing Bacteriophages and how they could be engineered as an alternative to antibiotics.
  • Joana Ricou. Joana is creating the Bellybutton Portrait Series, which will invite the viewer to consider their 'other selves' and to reflect on their connection to the world.
  • Victoria Shennan. In collaboration with composer Jack Hurst from the Royal College of Music, Victoria will be creating a sound installation piece that translates bacteria rDNA sequences into sound to illustrate the rhythms of nature that underpin our existence.
  • Mellissa Fisher. Mellissa will be exhibiting a Microbiological Portrait, a bacterial sculpture, developed in collaboration with Dr Richard Harvey and Dr Mark Clements.
  • Bill Wroath. In collaboration with choreographer Jules Laville, Bill will facilitate a large community dance project that explores how bacteria communicate, leading to the making of a dance film.

Rebecca D. Harris, one of the artists contributing to the exhibition, made the news recently after a picture of her work, which depicts a naked pregnant woman, was rejected by Facebook for violating their guidelines.

Tom Anthony, National Programmes Adviser at the Wellcome Trust, said: "The huge impact that the human microbiome has on health is becoming clearer and clearer. Invisible You is a fantastic project that will allow the Eden Project’s large public audience access to the science and research behind our understanding of our own internal ecosystem, through the medium of art. The Wellcome Trust has a long history of supporting high quality collaborations that help artists, scientists and the public to engage with complex issues that affect human health, and we’re delighted to be able to help bring a topic this compelling to a venue as unique as the Eden Project – we can’t wait to see it."

In association with the exhibition, Eden has set a design brief for this year’s RSA Student Design Awards. The brief, entitled Human by Nature, asks students to design a means of encouraging people to take care of their microbiome. The winner will have their work displayed as part of the exhibition and awarded an internship with the in-house design team.

The exhibition, which launches 22 May, 2015, will be in Eden’s education centre, the Core. A family-focused programme of activities, 'Strange Science', will follow during May half-term (May 22-31).

The exhibition and programme of events is supported by a multi-disciplinary advisory group made up of scientists, industry specialists and creatives from universities and research institutions across the world as well as an internal project team.

More information is available on the Eden Project website.