Teresa van Dongen

Electric Life, 2019

Below our feet is a world teeming with micro-organisms, most of which fulfill important tasks for our environment. The geobacter, a bacterial species living in the muddy soil of rivers and lakes, has a metabolism that purifies water while continuously releasing energy into its environment. Together with Ghent University, designer Teresa van Dongen has been studying these organisms since 2016 as a means to generate electricity for domestic use, and using her findings to create installations. Mud Well, a light installation made for a festival in 2019, was directly powered by bacteria in the mud at the bottom of an old bomb crater. Based on multiple mud samples taken from the surroundings, Van Dongen discovered that the crater has a strong and self-sufficient ecosystem: isolated from other waters, with an abundance of organic materials, it functioned almost as a closed cycle and thus as a self-perpetuating source of energy.


Electric Life is van Dongen’s translation for domestic use of this experiment in creating alternative and natural sources of energy and light. The light source is entirely powered by micro-organisms that have electrons as a waste product. The future owner of this living light installation will have to feed and nurture it: a little tap water with some additional nutrients and a teaspoon of vinegar a week will do. Van Dongen imagines that having to feed and thus take care of Electric Life, could result in a closer relationship between the light installation and its owner.

 

Teresa van Dongen (1988, The Netherlands) calls herself a bio-designer. She is fascinated by alternative forms of energy and light, and material innovation. Interested since childhood in nature and science, she studied biology for two years before graduating, cum laude, from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2014. This switch in disciplines was prompted by her realisation at university that many of nature’s secrets are virtually unknown to the public, while significant scientific developments seldom make it beyond the doors of a research lab. Van Dongen sees design as a means of translating this potential and thus becoming a catalyst for change. With her designs she seeks to interact with the viewer, share scientific knowledge, and spark a conversation about what nature can teach us about sustainability.


http://www.teresavandongen.com

Teresa van Dongen

Electric Life, 2019

Steel, lenses, glass, electrode materials, electroactive

bacteriasolution containing geobacter, 127 x 155 x 119 cm

Photo by Rene Gerritsen