Orin Noel, GFA ’23


Project Overview

I wanted to represent intimacy through the language of bacteria and the germ microbiome. Intimacy operates through many layers of consent, and in some ways, this involves consent between the germs of all parties involved. Bacteria are living organisms that become involved in all intimate actions in invisible ways, but these drawings make them visible through culturing. These silent parties become personified and literally three-dimensional, both as the “character” of the phallus, and as the bacteria. Silent messages become vivid, and the vitality of the body multiplies.

This relationship between different people’s bacteria is commonly visible to people with vaginas, as an unhygienic partner can cause infections in the urinary tract and in the vaginal bacteria and yeast. In these cases, the sharing of bacteria is an invisible act of harm against a partner, actively causing pain from intimacy.


All of these cultures were done with E.coli expressing red fluorescent protein. The two “KISS ME” plates were done in different typefaces to test how well the E.coli grew in different densities. Both grew and maintained their drawn shapes well. When drawing, I used a sterile wooden toothpick dipped into 100 uL of E.coli culture. I made sure not to puncture the agar, but I left a slight indent while drawing that made it easier to see my progress. This helped me not overlap and crowd my concentration of bacteria.

I made multiple concentrations of agar to use when casting the penis form so I could see how much agar was needed to make a more stable three-dimensional object. The original LB agar contained 0.015g of agar per gram of powder. I started with 4g of LB agar which contains 0.06g of agar. The 100% increase agar solution added 0.06g of agar, and the 200% increase solution added 0.12g.

The agar penis made with the 200% increased agar was much more stable, and it was able to stand up, but during incubation the structure was still weak which caused the shaft of the phallus to split at the base. I incubated the 100% increase agar penis standing up which caused the RFP E.coli to run down with the humidity inside the beaker.

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