Living Images -project

The Living images, yeastograms -project has been funded by City of Kotka, Art Promotion Center Finland, Bioart Society and Kone Foundation.

People behind this

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 continued with researchers from VTT yeast collection and social media communities, who are specialized for example in beer making. 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.
The artistic research is done in intensive periods when she is making images with living material and studying them by photographing for different lengths of time. This experimental research explores the world by artistic means with methods from the biosciences and she says that the project is a continuous battle between roles of art and science. Rotko’s laboratory is in their kitchen, exposure happens in her studio and the research area is in their balcony.
Currently, her project is studying wild yeasts, which are isolated from different ecosystems from her neighborhoods and grown in the home laboratory. Also, she is studying how to grow different habitats for yeastograms.
The aim is to study the behavior of different types of yeast species in different environments and to make different ecosystems (wild, bred 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. 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.
Projects main themes for the artistic research is Rotko’s own relationship with nature and how nature is affected by her actions. In the future, she would like to be a spokesman for yeasts, specializing in wild strains. And to share knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems and sustainable use of biodiversity. And also the importance of respecting nature. Starting from simple things as baking with wild yeasts or growing own local yeast strains.