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LIVING ARTEFACTS – Ward Groutars, Exploring the design potentials of iridescent Flavobacteria

Recently, micro-biologists have discovered the ability of Flavobacteria to produce vivid iridescent colorations. These colorful bacteria pose a viable and sustainable alternative to chemical and often harmful colorants that are being used in many industries nowadays. Moving from microbiology into the field of design, this presentation will explain the challenges that occur when working with these living organisms and how their appearance can be changed and used by designers.


Combining both an artistic and scientific approach, Ward Groutars performed various projects that incorporate living micro-organisms with human technology. Among his previous collaborators are bioluminescent algae, cellulose-producing bacteria and iridescent Flavobacteria. Ward is connected to the Biobased Art and Design Research Group of Caradt.

Coloured by Flavo

This research is about artists, scientists and bacteria co-developing high-performance colour’ as a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based pigments and dyes.

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‘Bacteria, Fungi, Humans, all part of the same experiment.’

Ward Groutars is a researcher with the Biobased Art and Design research group. 

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Research Group: Biobased Art and Design

The research group Biobased Art and Design capitalises on the role of artistic practice in unlocking the unique potentials of living organisms for everyday materials and communicating these to a broader public. In doing so, the group aims to instigate and accelerate our widespread understanding, further development and usage of such materials. The group’s research approach encourages tangible interactions with the living organisms, such as algae, fungi, plants and bacteria, to explore and understand their unique qualities and constraints through diverse technical and creative methods taking artists, designers and scientists as equal and active partners in the material creation.

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