Johanna Rotko creates living art with yeast to explore the perishableness of matter and how we interact with nature around us. 

Johanna Rotko is a visual artist and photographer based in Kotka, Finland, that decided to explore alternative photographic methods. The result were yeastograms, living images made with yeast on petri dishes that disappear over time as the microorganisms grow.

yeastograms johanna rotko finland

My artistic research explores my own relationship with nature and how nature is affected by my actions,” says Rotko. “I also study the perishableness and disappearance of matter.”

To create the images, the artist uses a stencil technique, not that different to the one Banksy’s graffitis have popularized. Petri dishes with yeast cultures are covered with the template and exposed to UV light, which kills the yeast in the uncovered areas. This creates a monochrome image that vanish while the yeast and any opportunistic fungi eat the medium and grow on the living canvas.

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The technique was originally developed by Lucas Czjzek from the Bioart Club pavillon_35 in Vienna. Rotko has been experimenting with variations, such as making canvases of different colors. An expert of the technique, the bioartist has even created a “making of” video that explains the process. Technically, everyone can try it at home.

Johanna Rotko’s last exhibition was at Hybrid Matters in Helsinki last December. She keeps researching new ways of making her vanishing photographs and regularly uploads her latest artworks and attempts to Instagram. We’ll likely see her work at future exhibitions, we’ll keep you updated!


All images by Johanna Rotko

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