Invisible You – Human Microbiome exhibition
We explore all sorts of ecosystems at the Eden Project but in this permanent exhibition we take a closer look at the invisible ecosystem within your body - your ‘microbiome’. This is part of the larger Invisible Worlds exhibition in our Core building.
Microbiology Society video about Invisible You
Hear the artists talk about their work in this video produced by the Microbiology Society.Play video
Overview of the exhibition
See all 11 artworks that make up this fascinating exhibition.Play video
Whether it’s bacteria in your gut to help you digest food, or microbes on your skin to keep it soft and fill the cracks to prevent disease, microscopic life is found everywhere in and on our bodies. In fact, human cells are outnumbered 10:1 by bacteria inside our body.
But scientists are only just beginning to understand how these organisms – which have evolved with us over time – can affect all sorts of things, from our weight to our mood to our susceptibility to autism.
With generous funding from the Wellcome Trust, we’ve invited a handful of talented artists to help bring this invisible world to life for you. Many of them collaborating with scientists, these artists have created an amazing collection of artwork, installations and interactive pieces – ranging from a sound piece based on DNA, to sculptures and textiles exploring the patterns of bacteria, to a series of portraits depicting the bacteria within our belly buttons.
The exhibition puts everything from pregnancy and faeces to guts and antibiotics under the microscope – and invites you to get involved. You’ll never look at your body in quite the same way again…
- Download the full Invisible You exhibition catalogue (PDF)
- See the portraits made by artist Joana Ricou using bacteria from our visitors' bellybuttons during our Strange Science event in May 2015 on Joana's Tumblr site.
How to visit the exhibition
The 'Invisible You. The Human Microbiome' exhibition is open in our Core building. Entry to the exhibition is included within the normal admission price to the Eden Project.
Related blogs and articles
On the Invisible You exhibition
- BBC news video
- The Observer review
- Wellcome Trust blog
- Society of General Microbiology blog
- Colossal blog about Rogan Brown's papercut bacterium
- Daily Mail article about Rogan Brown's papercut bacterium
- Wired article
- Culture 24 article
- The Scientist article
- Mental Floss article
- Craft Council article
- Microbe Post article
- Guardian photo gallery Joana Ricou's bellybutton portraits
Recent new stories about the human microbiome
- University of Exeter Medical School: 'New study will examine environment antibiotic resistance'
- Surfers Against Sewage: 'Scientists and surfers team up to assess antibiotic resistance risk'
- Telegraph: 'First new antibiotic in 30 years discovered in major breakthrough'
- Wellcome Trust: 'Antibiotic resistance poorly communicated and widely misunderstood by UK public'
- American Psychological Association: 'That gut feeling...the brain in your gut exerts a powerful influence over the one in your head'
- Science: 'A gut microbe that stops food allergies'
Related research projects
About the artists and their work
Rogan’s paper sculptures explore the patterns and repeated motifs within organic forms. From the microscopic to the macroscopic, his work seeks to reflect the immense complexity and intricacy of nature. Inspired by scientific drawings and models his new commissioned piece is entirely hand-cut and based on a single bacteria form.
Visit Rogan Brown's website
Watch a video interview with Rogan Brown
Anna Dumitriu and Alex May
Anna and Alex have been collaborating on an ongoing series of artworks investigating the human microbiome. Anna’s work blurs the boundaries between art and science, whilst Alex’s practice explores the boundaries between human perception and digital technologies. As part of the exhibition, they are presenting The Human SuperOrganism, an interactive installation that acts as a virtual petri dish.
Visit Anna Dumitriu's website
Visit Alex May's website
Rebecca D. Harris
Rebecca is obsessed with the body; in particular how it is perceived medically and socially. Her work investigates the visible and invisible, the inside and outside of the body. Where textiles are used to conceal, Rebecca uses them to reveal. For this new commission, she has created an embroidered textile hanging that represents the microbial communities of our body and will highlight the changes to the microbiome during pregnancy.
Visit Rebecca D. Harris's website
See a timelapse of the embroidery taking shape
Watch a video interview with Rebecca Harris
Paul is an artist automata maker who combines humour with delightful and intriguing mechanisms. From tiny curios to magnificent contraptions of a thousand moving parts, his work fuses storytelling, poetry, engineering and craftsmanship. For this new commission, he has collaborated with Sam Lanyon, exploring stories from the gut and the mouth.
Find out more about Paul Spooner
Visit Sam Lanyon's website
Joe Holman is a multimedia artist and designer with a focus on visual storytelling and interpretation. His work explores the crossovers between digital and traditional techniques, using print, motion graphics and 2D/3D design. His new animation delves into several microbe stories that depict our microbiome as an organised community with its very own TV network.
Visit Owl’n’wolf's website
Download a TV guide that accompanies the Bellyvision animation (PDF)
Anna’s work is at the forefront of art and science collaborative practice. Her installations, interventions and performances use a range of biological, digital, and traditional media. She will be undertaking a residency in the lab with the Healthcare Associated Infection Research Group at the University of Leeds, alongside Caroline Chilton and Jane Freeman, to develop a new sculptural installation that explores the complex story of faecal microbiota transplants.
Visit Anna Dumitriu's website
Watch a video interview with Anna Dumitriu
Aimee’s sculptures stand to discuss our endeavours to create and exist in a world of artificial nature. She explores themes of attraction/repulsion, familiar/unfamiliar and other-worldliness by examining the conventions of displaying nature within our culture. Working in collaboration with Dr Martha Clokie, she investigates the amazing Bacteriophages and how they could be engineered as an alternative to antibiotics.
Visit Aimee Lax's website
Watch a video interview with Aimee Lax
Joana is interested in the ways that biology defines the boundaries and discontinuities in the human body. Her work focuses on the human microbiome, questioning our notions of identity and challenging our perceptions of being singular and self-contained; just human. The Bellybutton Portrait Series invites the viewer to consider their ‘other selves’ and to reflect on their connection to the world.
See the portraits made using bacteria from our visitors' bellybuttons during our Strange Science event in May 2015 on Joana's Tumblr site.
Victoria is an artist and designer-maker who questions contemporary issues and explores the human condition. In collaboration with Dr Linda Long from Exeter University Medical School, and composer Jack Hurst from the Royal College of Music, Vicki has created an installation of sound and light ('Anthropocene') to illustrate the rhythms of nature that underpin our existence at a microbial level. Long used her molecular music translation technique to generate protein melodies accompanied by microbial rDNA sequences composed by Hurst.
Visit Victoria Shennan's website
Watch a video interview with Victoria Shennan
Mellissa is an artist whose background stems from an interest in the interrelationships between fine art, illustration and science. Her most recent work consists of a deep exploration of the connections between nature and the human body. She is exhibiting Microbial Me, a microbiological portrait, or bacterial sculpture, developed in collaboration with Dr Richard Harvey and Dr Mark Clements.
Visit Mellissa Fisher's website
Watch a video interview with Mellissa Fisher
Bill is a multidisciplinary artist whose installation work encompasses ceramics, theatre, performance and film. In collaboration with choreographer Jules Laville, he has facilitated a large community dance project that explores how bacteria communicate, and made a film of it. Bill enlisted the help of volunteer dancers to take part in the event '5e+16,’: up to fifty thousand trillion microbes ‘took part’, as bodies depict their own internal, invisible mechanisms. Bill was advised by Dr Simon Lock of iDat.
RSA Student Design Awards
Supported by the Wellcome Trust, Eden set a design brief for the RSA Student Design Awards, under the 'Human By Nature' theme. The annual competition and global curriculum challenge students and recent graduates to think differently about design. The Human By Nature brief asked students to design a means of encouraging people to take care of their human microbiome.
The joint winners were Katy Green and James Washington. Their work is displayed as part of the exhibition and they have been awarded internships with Eden’s in-house design team.
‘Babybiome’ by Katy Green is a product and a campaign that helps people understand the importance of nurturing a healthy microbiome from birth.
‘Inner Garden’ by James Washington is an all-encompassing health brand that includes an app, a book and a healthy food range.
Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello
Associate Professor, New York University, Department of Medicine (Division of Translational Medicine, NYU Human Microbiome Program). Read her profile.
Senior Lecturer and member of Environment and Human Health Research Group, University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter. Read his profile.
Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution and Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago, Associate Director of the Institute for Genomic and Systems Biology, Group Leader for Microbial Ecology at Argonne National Laboratory, and Senior Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, USA. Read his profile.
Senior Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology, Department of Microbial and Cellular Biology, University of Surrey and Scientific Artist. Read his profile.
Professor of Microbiology, Microbial Diseases, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, University College London. Read his profile.
Society of General Microbiology
The Society for General Microbiology is a worldwide membership organisation for scientists who work in all areas of microbiology. Find out more on their website