As our Art students prepare for the opening of Show One: Art, we take a closer look at some of their final projects. Graduating from MA Art and Science, Liv Bargman uses illustration to present fictional and mythical futures concerning the development of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance.
Bargman’s final project, The Office For Good Measure (OGM), centres around a fictional governmental body, created with the purpose of encouraging people to collect soils for the development of medicines, to counteract antimicrobial resistance (AMR). For Degree Show One: Art, Bargman has installed the fully-functioning Office, complete with wooden desk, Olivetti typewriter, 80s TV monitor, illustrated posters, newspapers and flyers. Combining primitive characters, gothic typefaces and instructional guides, Bargman’s fabrications reference the format of public information material alongside the aesthetic of medieval and folk horror.
During the Degree Show, Bargman’s TV monitor will display her animated film How To Do The Soil Dance. Parodying dated public service films, it demonstrates step-by-step how to do the ‘soil dance’, an increasingly complex, meditative dance. Conceived as a ‘microbial measurement of time’, its two-minute running length is determined by the amount of time it takes to develop a microbial rich remedy. In the middle ages, people would often count the number of stirs it took to mix their home-brewed remedies, chanting words and songs to monitor the time. Bargman imagines a speculative world, in which a large portion of the community will be involved in citizen science projects, developing their own drugs and medical potions in order to negate AMR. Acting as guardian and instructor, the OGM is responsible for ensuring safe, efficient and effective procedures. Alongside printed guides and leaflets, Bargman’s instructional dance video is a pseudo guide, a feasible but nonsensical marketing strategy which taps into the rituals of the past.
Bargman’s proposition of self-remedies and autonomous medical care looks both to the future and harks back to the past. Her research outlines that diseases from the Middle Ages are more likely to reemerge if we do not address AMR – tuberculosis, leprosy, pneumonia, diphtheria and scarlet fever among many others. Encouraging a return to the nutrients of the earth, Bargman is particularly interested in the potential of soil and insects. Her previous project, made in collaboration with MA Materials Futures student Nina Cutler, Quantworm Industries System, explored interspecies collaboration and the biodiversity of soil, using worms to turn toxic ground into useful material. She is currently focusing on the potential of leafcutter ants and the antibiotics strain of fungus Streptomyces – how leafcutter ants create their own antibiotics in fungal gardens.
In her illustrative, mythical future, Bargman’s medieval, folkloric visuals parallel our possible disease regression, while also creating an idealist world in which we create and maintain our own health through the use of natural resources, all under the guidance of the OGM. Using her illustrations as a starting point, she plans to develop the OGM into a research studio which looks at additional environmental issues. She is also planning to continue work on leafcutter ants with her scientific collaborator, Rebecca Devine – PhD researcher and microbiologist at University East Anglia, John Innes Research Centre.
You can come and visit the OGM and practice the soil dance at Degree Show One: Art, opening 23 May 2018.