Artist Statement 2019

Living Images, Yeastograms

Eläviä kuvia, hiivagrammeja

Johanna Rotko is a visual artist working with living materials mainly different yeasts. She cultivates yeast on growth mediums, which are used in basic microbiology, the yeast plates go under the UV-lights with raster images on the lids and the image is formed within the 48hour exposure process. She learned the technique from Pavillon_35 art group in 2013 in a workshop that was held with Finnish Bioart Society. Since then she has been working with yeast images.

Mainly she works with commercial yeast species but also a couple of wild and laboratory yeasts strains has been tested. Co-operations have been done with different yeast laboratories. In the near future, co-operation will be continue with researchers from VTT yeast collection and social media communities, who are specialized for example in beer making or baking with wild yeasts. From these different instances, she is trying to get different colored yeasts to be tested with their ability in image making and to get first-hand information in wild yeasts. She has tested yeast called Rhodotorula graminis which was pink and very alive, she said. Now she is waiting a delivery with Hanseniaspora osmophilia yeast from VTT.

The aim is to study the behavior of different types of yeast species in different environments and to make different ecosystems (wild, grown and their hybrids) in which the yeast images are placed in different lengths of time and examined for their behavior. The purpose is to test yeastograms durability and study their behavior in closed habitats with different types of surroundings. The process has been studied long-term in 2017 but this happened with long distance separation as the yeastograms were in Oulu art museum and the artist was in Kotka. Coming year 2019 the experinment areas and research stations are going to be moved to Science Gallery Dublin, in Mänttä Art Fesival and in Maritime Centre Vellamo in her hometown.

For now Rotko’s laboratory is in their kitchen, exposure happens in her studio and the research area is in their kitchen because of the winter temperatures. The artistic research is done in intensive periods when she is making images with living material and studying them by photographing the yeast images for different lengths of time. This experimental research explores the world by artistic means with methods from the bioscience. Projects main themes for the artistic research is Rotko’s own relationship with nature and how surraundings are affected with her actions. This happens by studying nature/surraundings/environment with taking photographs of yeastograms and studying the images. In the same time she has got to know diverse species of yeasts and lot of strange species which grow on the yeast images when they get older.

Artistic research is based on biocentric worldview where human is not placed above nature. With this study there are present a concern about the state of the world especially the loss of biodiversity.

The study continues with simple things as making the yeast images with diverse yeasts, baking with wild yeasts and growing own local yeast strains.