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MicroCloud

Altering the human micro cloud through microbial sculptures

Project team: Niek D’hondt & Matthijs De Block

Location: z33 House of Contemporary Art

Year: 2019

For the past year, De Block has been researching the world of microbes
through bio-hacking. He thus discovered that all people have their own
‘microbial cloud’ or microbiota. This cloud is considerable: we all consist of
hundreds of thousands of billions of microbes, ten times the number of our
human cells. All our microbes together weigh a kilo and a half.

De Block discovered scientific research results that confirmed that the
microbial diversity of one’s environment has an impact on human microbial
diversity. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that people who live in and
around natural environments such as woodlands enjoy a more diverse and
better microbial cloud than city-dwellers and are thus better protected against
illnesses, allergies and even depression. The reverse is also true: the weaker
microbial composition of the city can lead to worse mental and physical health.

De Block is now bringing the rich microbial diversity of natural environments to city-dwellers. He distilled as many different types of microbes as possible from the earth, air and trees in five different high quality and biodiverse woods in Flanders. He combined these into one biodiverse cocktail of hundreds of thousands of billions of microbes that have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.

De Block developed Microbial Terrazzo, a new material in which the
microbes are integrated alive, in order to be able to transfer the microbes.
The material consists of natural raw materials. With this new material, De
Block creates an installation with which visitors can interact and adopt new,
advantageous microbe species. The longer the interaction, the bigger the
chance of adopting positive micro-organisms and thus improving your
health and resilience. For this project, De Block collaborated with a biologist
who ensured that nothing could go wrong. It is important to emphasize that
the vast majority of microbes have a positive effect on human health. The
term has simply been imbued with an undeserved negative connotation.
The aim of this project is to show the direct link between humans and nature.
For example, De Block demonstrates that humans can even benefit socially
from protecting nature. After all, the worse we treat our natural surroundings,
the worse our own health becomes. This new material does not pretend to
be a solution, but rather to offer a new perspective on the importance of
nature in relation to our society.