Donna Franklin & Gary Cass

Criticism

Micro"be" Fermented Fashion

Donna Franklina & Gary Cass.

School of Communications and Contemporary Arts, Edith Cowan University
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science, the University of Western Australia

...Franklin a contemporary textile artist, Cass a scientific technician can combine their forms of knowledge and with a little inventiveness, a new system will result in the bacteria’s fermentation of a garment. “Now that’s Aussie ingenuity, turning a wine glut into a fashion statement.” (The Australian Newspaper, 2007). This new collaborative project Micro‘be’ fermented wear, allows the biological clothes to be worn on the body without issues of fragility or outside contamination. This collaboration was also made possible by the unique environment of SymbioticA: The Art and Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at the University of Western Australia. SymbioticA is in an exceptional position to link university faculties by integrating science and the arts.
New technologies are rapidly shaping our understanding of reality, identity and environment. It is therefore important for the arts to evaluate these potential futures, as they will inevitably impact upon sociological and cultural awareness. As reiterated by Catts & Zurr 2004, “Modern biology as part of its art making and as its main subject of concern, is undeniably art of this time, dealing with the topical issues of the day while raising profound and timeless questions about life”. It emphasises the “impact of scientific discourses on social relations, and the social forms that technology takes” (Fantone & Catts, 2002).

Imagine a fabric that grows…a garment that forms itself without a single stitch!
The fashion that starts with a bottle of wine…

...The Micro"be" project investigates the practical and cultural biosynthesis of microbiology – to explore forms of futuristic dress-making and textile technologies. Instead of lifeless weaving machines producing the textile, living microbes will ferment a garment. It smells like red wine and feels like sludge when wet, but the cotton-like cellulose dress fits snugly as a second skin. The material is very delicate, comprising micro-fibrils of cellulose. The colouration of the fabric will depend on the wine used, red wine - red fabric, white wine or beer - a translucent material. A fermented garment will not only rupture the meaning of traditional interactions with body and clothing; but will also examine the practicalities and cultural implications of commercialisation. This project redefines the production of woven materials. By combining art and science knowledge and with a little inventiveness, the ultimate goal will be to produce a bacterial fermented seamless garment that forms without a single stitch.

“Microbes à la mode”

[www.bioalloy.org/projects/micro-be]

Works History/origin
Micro"be" Fermented Fashion

Imagine a fabric that grows…a garment that forms itself without a single stitch!
The fashion that starts with a bottle of wine…

Micro"be" Fermented Fashion investigates the practical and cultural biosynthesis of microbiology – to explore forms of futuristic dress-making and textile technologies.
Instead of lifeless weaving machines producing the textile, living microbes will ferment a garment. A fermented garment will not only rupture the meaning of traditional interactions with body and clothing; but will also examine the cultural implications of using the material for artwork.
By combining art and science knowledge and with a little inventiveness, this project redefines the production of woven materials. The living part of Micro‘be’ is a colony of safe, non-hazardous micro organisms, Acetobacter, five microns in size that produce microbial cotton-like cellulose.
The organic biodegradable fabric has been reported, while it was damp, felt "very natural, almost like a second skin."
The initial images of the fabric in the ‘Spirit Awassi’ collection ran with the narrative of the evolution of a new garment. The garments were given a prehistoric and organic appearance, representing the fundamental elements of life, earth, fire, water and wind.
It smells like red wine and feels like sludge when wet, but the cotton-like cellulose dress ‘grown’ at the Institute of Agriculture, University of Western Australia (UWA), fits snugly as a second skin.
The unique bacterial fermented dress, made from wine, could mark the start of fabrics fermented by living microbes entering the $330 million per annum Australian textile manufacturing industry.
UWA researchers Gary Cass, Donna Franklin authored Micro'be', an arts project using science to convert wine into a cellulose product.
Inspiration for the cellulose garments came when Mr Cass noticed a skin-like layer covering a vat of wine that had been contaminated with bacteria and gone "off".
Micro"be" examines the practical and cultural biosynthesis of microbiology, using biological specimens in art pieces. Biotechnology is used in the futuristic dress-making and textile technologies, as we attempt to redefine woven material production” Mr Cass said.
As the project’s scientist, he equips UWA arts students with the fundamental knowledge necessary to work in scientific laboratories.
Institute of Agriculture Director, Professor Kadambot Siddique said such cross faculty projects inspired students to appreciate the exciting potential of applying science to agriculture and other industries.
Artist Donna Franklin, whose dress made from living orange bracket fungus is touring museums around the world, said the project challenged conceptions of clothing and explored the implications of fermenting fashion from bacteria.
"This material looks at the evolution of future fashion and how garments can change," she said.
The researchers are using other forms of alcohol, including growing the bacteria on beer, to produce a translucent material.
Further research will examine the practicalities and cultural implications of commercialisation.

[www.bioalloy.org/projects/micro-be]