“Microorganisms & Their Hosts” is a solo exhibition by Mindaugas Gapševičius, created in collaboration with microorganisms and professionals from various fields, such as scientist Auksė Gaižauskaitė (microbiology), artists Antanas Gerlikas (glass), Laura Kaminskaitė (exhibition design and glass), curator Valentinas Klimašauskas and others.
The main question behind this exhibition and workshop titled “How to personalise yogurt?” is how our aesthetic perception is affected by the products we ingest. The exhibition focuses on a project that looks at how selected microorganisms (in this case – macroorganisms (bacteria) Lactobacillus spp., Streptococcus spp., Leuconostoc spp.) affect our biota –– the populations of various microorganisms living in the gut. Biota contribute to the overall well-being of the human body and, as the exhibition considers, aesthetic perception.
The audience plays a very important part in this processual project: by consuming products saturated with microorganisms during the exhibition, the audience members will be able to alter their microbiota and their experiences, and to observe them. When asked what might constitute an artwork in such an exhibition, the artist Gapševičius replied that, aside from the artefacts created, the interactive medium between human beings and microorganisms is what might be considered the main work of art. Time and experience are both very important elements in this project, which makes it related to such art movements and styles as Fluxus and relational aesthetics as well as the increasingly popular amateur maker culture – it is no longer unusual to produce your own fermented products at home, such as sourdough starter or fermented teas.
According to Gapševičius, other important factors alongside the influence of microbiota on our aesthetic perception are the audience’s direct participation in the project, the incorporation of their experiences into the artistic value of the work, and the dissemination of the ever-changing notion of art. The more the audience becomes involved in the development of new experiences through art-related experiences, the more actualised the contemporary art discourse will be.
Microbiologist Auksė Gaižauskaitė helped isolate certain chosen microorganisms for the project. According to her, the properties of probiotics, better known to the public as the ‘good’ bacteria, have been under research for many years. In more recent studies, scientists have even uncovered that gut bacteria can indirectly contribute to our emotional well-being and mood management. By purposefully consuming certain foods containing probiotic bacteria we could attempt to regulate the amount of probiotics in our bodies by ourselves. However, the scientist warns us that these processes are not as simple as they might sound and that we should approach them with care.