#Biocoin – Music of Bacteria Found on Money

© 2018 Robert Bosch GmbH, Wimmelforschung, Akademie Schloss Solitude


Antoni Rayzhekov – #Biocoin – Music of Bacteria Found on Money

#Biocoin is an audiovisual installation and a performative instrument that transforms living bacteria and bacteria colonies grown in Petri dishes from coins and banknotes into sound. The installation works in real time through a technique called sonification or auditory display – a process and a methodology of transforming digital data into sound.

The artist Antoni Rayzhekov, a WimmelResearch fellow at Platform 12 in fall 2018, created the special instrument »Organic Oscillator« in early 2018, in collaboration with the sculptor Dimiter Ovtcharov. The collaboration was part of the artist-in-residence program of Atelier Art Sciences [https://www.atelier-arts-sciences.eu/Akademie-Schloss-Solitude-128] – an exchange program between Akademie Schloss Solitude and Theater L’Hexagone Scène Nationale Arts Sciences Meylan in Grenoble, France. The instrument uses advanced microscopic imagery, computer vision, and custom-designed software by Antoni Rayzhekov, which enables the examination and sonification of an image seen from a microscope in real time.

»When the bacteria had grown, the artist and researchers noticed that the biological and sonic value of a one-euro coin is higher than that of a 500-euro banknote.«

In fall 2018, the instrument became part of the audiovisual installation #Biocoin. Using a microscope, a multitouch surface, and a computer vision-sound synthesis algorithm, the project investigates the biological value of the currency expressed in sound. It critically examines the notion of value, transferring it into the realm of the biological and then the sonic domains in order to suggest a different perspective toward money’s distribution and the circulation. It thus proposes an alternative notion of a “sonic” value. Antoni Rayzhekov collaborated with the biotechnologists from Bosch to feed and make the bacteria on the money grow. In the work #BiocoinMusic of Bacteria Found on Money, money becomes a score and the biotechnologist Tanja Machuer a co-composer. When the bacteria had grown, the artist and researchers noticed that the biological and sonic value of a one-euro coin is higher than that of a 500-euro banknote. The artist created a completely new perspective on money, which referred to its materiality.

All this offers an implicit reflection on what money can be, other than a currency. It is also a reflection on the story behind coins, which travel the world and collect human traces. Such a perspective suggests that every coin or banknote is completely distinct from others; as the bacteria and fungi absorbed throughout the time of its circulation reveal its unique path. Every coin or banknote thus holds a different story encoded in the biological material on it. It almost exhibits a sense of personhood left by each owner, created in the form of a unique bacterial fingerprint, which we can hear through the audiovisual installation.

The curiosity for the unknown is a primary characteristic that artists and scientists share – one of the things Antoni Rayzhekov could experience in his three-month WimmelResearch Fellowship, whose particularity is to bring these different perspectives and approaches together.