Decay in a Box: step into the world of the breakdown
November 7, 2016 by KyleMarian
Inspired by famous still-life studies, “Decay in a Box” provides a window into the real-time process of decay, highlighting that there is so much more life after ‘death’ if you stepped a little closer. Guests interacted with the #decayinabox IRL at our Decadent Decay banquet.
We set out to create a poetic digital experience that provides a glimpse into the immersive world of our upcoming December banquet, Decadent Decay. Led by GS producer Sarah Barker — with guidance from our collaborating scientist, Craig Rouskey of the Immunity Project, and set designer Lucy Goodwin — we placed organic objects in a sealed container and livestreamed their decay on our YouTube channel. The project began on 19 October 2016 and ended on 23 November 2016.
Below are some highlights accompanied by our #SciKus, pointed out by scientist collaborators Craig Rouskey and Ami Knop. Keep following this blog for more updates as the livestream continues.
Craig Rouskey: One of the major molds of strawberries is Botrytis cinerea. This usually grows on plants out in the wild. In our decay box, we could be seeing this organism growing on the strawberries, or it could be a mold from the surrounding air. Either way, the cellulose of the strawberry is being broken down by secreted enzymes from the fungus. The complex sugars of the strawberry are being broken down and used as a carbon source for the fungus/mold.
Ami Knop: Notice the big green leaves in the back that are turning yellow. Similar to the wilting flower petals, the cells in the green leaf are dying due to lack of water and nitrogen since they have no root system supporting them. As the cells die off in the green part of a plant, their chlorophyll molecules — which provide their green color — start to break down. As this process happens, you will see different colors because the chlorophyll are no longer able to absorb those wavelengths of light. Different plants demonstrate different colors (shades of yellow, red, orange) based on the types of chlorophyll molecules they have.
Ami Knop: The liquids appear to contain biofilm. A biofilm is a community of bacteria where the bacteria act as one multi-celluled organism (as opposed to millions of single celled organisms growing in the same spot). Biofilms create the “soap scum” we see in showers and the plaque on our teeth. It is hard to say which bacteria are creating the biofilm because, typically, biofilms do not have a characteristic image to them like a mold does. Notice the wine: part of the biofilm is growing in the liquid now as well as on top. It seems to be doing the same thing with the apple juice. In our livestream, you’ll notice that the biofilm has grown on the sides of the glasses with liquids: the wine, the apple juice, and the flower pots in the back.
Ami Knop: Some of the grapes do look like they are becoming a raisin and that is because dehydration is definitely occurring to the grapes. However, it seems like for the most part the mold has taken over before the entire dehydration process of the finished raisin. I am assuming the grapes were not frozen or washed before placed in the container (but I am not sure). I point this out, because when making raisins the grapes are normally washed and frozen before hand to kill or freeze the mold growth, allowing the raisin to develop. If the mold is allowed to grow, the mold will be digesting these sugars and halting the raisin development. In all, I feel the majority of the grapes are being taken over by the mold.
Rewatch“Decay in a Box” again in real-time.