Cyano Automaton is an interactive bioreactor that not only cultivates cyanobacteria (spirulina platensis); it also gives voice to this species in order to tell its long and multifaceted story.
A bioreactor is a container that provides bacteria with an optimal environment to grow. In this interactive version, several sensors indicate the growing culture’s condition, but they also send impulses to a bot to post on social media. Through an algorithm, the growing cyanobacteria communicate thoughts and links, hence intertwining a metaphorical history of their own.
As the first photosynthetic organisms that ever existed, cyanobacteria are responsible for allowing higher life forms to evolve on this planet. The Aztecs called them “tecuitlatl”, and they were an important part of their diet until the fall of Tenochtitlan, in the 16th century. Cyanobacteria are also known as “blue-green algae”, which form mats on the water surface that can produce harmful toxins to humans and aquatic life. We commonly know them as “spirulina”, which is now produced on a global scale and advertised as a fashionable superfood. Since it’s easy to grow and harvest, spirulina is an important element in a space crew’s diet. Actually, it is projected to become a nutritious source of food for the first colonizers of Mars.
Inspired by the complicated history of these microscopic beings, Cyano Automaton seeks to find connections between different scales of colonization: bacterial, terrestrial, and interplanetary. Together with cyanobacteria as protagonists and narrators of this story, the project knits a critical narrative about exploitation and conquest. In the end, whether it be on Mars or here on Earth, the mechanisms of colonization are strikingly similar.