inspired by the unseen universe of microbes that inhabit our bodies, german designer julia lohmann has produced pixelated images of bacteria colonies of the most common species, which appear in the bases of the petri dishes, combined with perspex and lighting, form the shape of naked women. the positioning of each microbe within the artwork shows the part of the body in which it most commonly lives. ‘co-existence’ is the latest commission of the wellcome trust.

the wellcome trust windows by julia lohmann are on display until end of january 2010. it is located in 215 euston road, london NW1 2BE.

julia lohmann: 'co existence' 9000 petri dishes brightly illuminated with colors and designs, form the shape of two naked women lying head-to-head

julia lohmann: 'co existence' close-up

julia lohmann explains: ‘it’s been really fascinating delving into the science behind our bodies. when I started working on the project, I did not realize that we are hosts to such a vast number of different species of microbes. we decided to use the female form as females contain a greater variety of microbes than males, which is a surprise in itself!‘

for the project, lohmann consulted professor michael wilson a microbiologist at the university college london (UCL) eastman dental institute, whose recent book ‘bacteriology of humans: an ecological perspective’ describes the bacterial communities that live on the body. information from this book was used to identify those bacterial species which inhabit particular regions of the body. dr. derren ready, a clinical scientist in professor wilson’s laboratory, grew and photographed colonies of the various bacteria used in the display, of which a total of 750 images were produced.

professor wilson comments: ‘only one in ten of the cells constituting a human being is mammalian – the rest are microbes and multicellular organisms. this symbiotic association between mammalian cells and microbes forms the stable, living structure that we think of as the human body. so, in reality, the human body is not only a beautifully integrated assembly of organ systems, it is also a complex ecosystem that provides a variety of environments – each of which is populated by a distinct microbial community. a symbiotic existence is probably the most common form of life on this planet and we humans are popular hosts. I’m delighted that julia has used this concept as an inspiration for her work.‘

‘julia lohmann’s new work is a distinct from previous commissions for our window display. rather than asking designers to pitch their own ideas using the wellcome trust for inspiration, we already had a theme in mind: the symbiotic relationship between the human body and the microorganisms that live in and on it. we really liked julia’s suggestions, and we will also be working with her on a related event later in the year,’ commented james peto, senior curator at the wellcome trust.

the wellcome trust is the largest charity in the UK. it funds innovative biomedical research both in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. the wellcome trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.