Guest Entry: Reflections on Mud and Microbes

Germs = art?

Yes! 

Nicole Clouston is a researcher in the process of completing a Ph.D. in Visual Art. Art and science meet in Nicole’s work. Last Wednesday, she led a field trip and workshop - Mud and Microbes - as part of the Common Waters project, in which we collected samples of mud from the banks of the Grand River in downtown Galt. 

Our group took a short walk in the heat to scrape up some mud from areas near the Parkhill bridge. When we returned to the BRIDGE storefront, we gave our samples of mud a boost of nutrients by mixing them with an egg (providing calcium and sulphur) and bits of cardboard (providing cellulose).

Our mud mixture was good and gooey at that point. Half the fun was stuffing it into clear test tubes (I’ve heard that handling soil is quite beneficial for mental health, so a little more gardening and/or mudpie-making would do us all some good).

Now, we give our mud a dose of natural light and simply watch as the microorganisms begin to visibly bloom over time. Nicole’s larger installations from her work around Lake Ontario show a vast and diverse visual representation of the tiny life flourishing in and around the waters we share (visit www.nicoleclouston.com for more info).

This experiment, a small taste of a whole realm of work called bioart, reminds us that life is a constant swirl of generation, decay and regeneration; that our existence is intensely and intimately connected to that of all other life, even (and especially) the kind we overlook because it’s so small and often misunderstood.

Thanks to Nicole for a fun and thought-provoking afternoon!


  • Vanessa Pejovic, July 5, 2019