Jacob Douenias's Photosynthetic Furniture On View at Mattress Factory

Photos by Tom Little, Photography LLC; courtesy of the Mattress Factory.

Photos by Tom Little, Photography LLC; courtesy of the Mattress Factory.

Recent graduate Jacob Douenias and his partner, School of Design alum Ethan Frier, outshone 500 applicants from 27 countries in a bid to exhibit their room-sized installation, Living Things, at Pittsburgh's Mattress Factory contemporary art museum. The project, which began as Douenias's senior thesis, asks: How do people in a home cohabitate with microorganisms? Do you treat them as a pet, a houseplant, an appliance, furniture, or something completely unique?

The exhibit's press release describes the artists' response: 

Through an installation of domestic vignettes in which Spirulina algae are cultivated in custom glass bioreactors designed as household furnishings, Living Things creates a symbiotic environment between people and microorganisms. The three vignettes; a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen/control center each espouse a different character, and the living vessels function differently in each space. The morphologies of hand-blown glass vessels function both as lighting and heating elements for the human occupants, and high functioning photobioreactors which provide heat, light, agitation, air supply, nutrient and waste control to the living algae inside. This life support system is connected through just under ½ mile of wiring and plumbing to a hybrid between a scientific workstation and a media cabinet. At this workstation each of the nine vessel’s life support systems can be adjusted individually. 

Living Things, as part of the exhibition Factory Installed, is on view now through May 2016.