Bright Idea

Central students are currently involved in a very unusual creative project as part of National Science Week.

The Perth Science Festival team got UWA, Scitech, Pathwest Laboratory Medicine WA and Central to join forces with the idea of making art from bioluminescence. What a bright idea!
The parties teamed up to develop some amazing art from biological processes.

Perth Science Festival is organised by the National Science Week WA Committee, comprised of representatives from the Perth universities, the State Government, Water Corporation and Central.

The microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles was brought over from New Zealand to coordinate the recruitment of artists for this special, one off project. One of those ultimately selected was Central Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts student Jason Lee Mitchell.

Jason was born deaf and his sight has made up for what his ears couldn’t. He started out drawing animals in his childhood and cartoons became a source of inspiration. A gift of a digital drawing tablet introduced him to the world of digital art.

“I enjoyed working on the project and feel honoured to have been a part of something quite amazing”, said Jason.

Jason-Lee-Mitchell - Harmony
Jason-Lee-Mitchell – Harmony

The Science Festival team wanted to break down some of the barriers between science and art. The selected artists used Photobacterium phosphoreum to create the work. No, not just the best words ever written on this blog, but naturally bioluminescent bacteria traditionally found in marine animals. To get more technical for a second, the bacterium emits a blue-green light at 490 nanometers due to a chemical reaction with the enzyme luciferase, which transforms chemical energy into light energy.

Siouxsie Wiles guides the artists
Siouxsie Wiles guides the artists

The bacteria were cultivated and then used on the agar to make the pieces of art. These were then mounted on frames and displayed in darkness in The Blue Room, Northbridge as part of the Science Festival over the weekend. The plating of the agar and the technical support for the project was provided by Central Laboratory Technicians Tamara Cornelius and Noeline Ellis. UWA grew the culture and Pathwest prepared the growth medium.

Bioluminescence is surprisingly common, especially in the ocean where it is found in everything from fish to sea stars, microscopic bacteria, jellyfish and squid. It is not quite so common in art galleries.

Emily Rippon - Anatomy
Emily Rippon – Anatomy
Catalina Anderson - Sea Diner
Catalina Anderson – Sea Diner

(Special thanks to Catalina Blue for providing the photos)

Find out about Graphic Design courses at Central.

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