Performance in Art & Science as Storytelling at Benton Museum of Art, Pomona College

Art and Science as Storytelling

Thursday, February 18, 2021 | 4:30 pm–6:00 pm

The air-sculpted melts found as tektites and the warping, folding, growth and stress among crystals in rocks, all indicate that seemingly inanimate rocks are always on the move, create stunning artistic displays, and can make music—it all depends upon the stories we tell about them. 

In this panel, our guests will examine the ways in which storytelling is integral to both scientific and creative breakthroughs, particularly in the era of “post-truth” and environmental crises. The scientists and avant-garde artists will approach non-human matter from different scales of time, distance, and physical dimensions— from inorganic or microbial perspectives. They thus challenge conventional beliefs and human-centered aesthetics, probing the earth’s depths and outer space in search of beauty. Register for the event.

4:15 p.m. Pre-event showcasing installation views of Art, Object, Specimen

4:30 p.m. Presentations on Art, Object, Specimen by Benton past and present interns Sam Chan ’22, D’Maia Curry ’20, 2019-2020 Post-Baccalaureate Fellow, Noor Tamari ’22, Kali Tindell-Griffin ’22

Welcome and land acknowledgement from Victoria Sancho Lobis, Sarah Rempel and Herbert S. Rempel ’23 Director, Claire Nettleton, Academic Curator, and Jade Star Lackey, Associate Professor of Geology, Pomona College. 

Performance by artist Bethan Kellough


Performances by Mick LorussoJoel Ong, and Victoria Vesna followed by Q & A

This event is co-organized by Claire Nettleton, Academic Curator, and Jade Star Lackey, Associate Professor of Geology and co-sponsored by the Department of Geology at Pomona College.

Register for the event. For more information, email Claire Nettleton.

In Proximal Spaces exhibition online at DesignTO Festival

A group of international bioartists, including me, cultured the microbes in different zones based on the science of Proxemics, or areas of social comfort. Slated to open at DesignTO in Toronto on January 22nd, it will now open online due to increased lockdown restrictions during the pandemic.

Artistic Directors: Joel Ong, Elaine Whittaker
Original Drawings: Elaine Whittaker
Graphic Design Programming: Natalie Plociennik, Bhavesh Kakwani
AR/Web development: Sachin Khargie, Ryan Martin
Roberta Buiani
Nathalie Dubois Calero
Sarah Choukah
Nicole Clouston
Jess Holz
Mick Lorusso
Maro Pebo
Felipe Shibuya

Video Editor: Nada El-Omari
Sound designer: Michael Palumbo
Web designer: Lu Zhouyang

Project website:

Sci-artist process interviews:

Microbial Theater Workshop at Ars Electronica 2020 in UCLA Art|Sci’s Telluric Vibrations garden symposium

Telluric Vibrations, UCLA Botanical Gardens – Los Angeles

Workshop: Microbial Theater

Mick Lorusso and Joel Ong

Thu Sep 10, 2020, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm (UTC +2)  Online  In English language

In this workshop participants will learn about the microbiome to develop their own stories about microbes, collect and observe samples using microscopy, and create short performances based on their stories and findings. UCLA Art|Sci Center’s Telluric Vibrations

Ars Electronic Kepler’s Gardens link

Microbial Mise-en-Scéne Workshop with Joel Ong in Toronto

In this two-part workshop at Triga Creative in Toronto, Joel Ong and I lead participants in considering the microbial umwelt (or worldview) through creative approaches to interacting, swabbing and plating the relationships that we have with each other and the environmental microbiome. Making use of the petri dish as canvas, as skin and as stage for the generation of living, biological artworks as a baseline activity for mixing science and art (Hauser 2008). This workshop also leads participants in blending artistic and narrative modes to form scripts, scores or instructions for further performative gestures.

Friday, December 6, 2019, 10-1pm

Monday, December 9, 2019, 10-1pm



Exhibiting at Supercollider-Nook Gallery in LA


Joel Ong and Mick Lorusso present selections from their collaborative projects and research situated at the intersections of microbiology, environmental mythology & computational art. By conducting field and lab research on the microbiome, installations, performances, workshops, residencies and publications, the artists inquire into the relationship that humans may have to ecological systems through microbes that traverse the earth. Algorithmic processes inform the feedback loops between performing agents: microbes, their hosts, and their Umwelten. They recently published about their research in PUBLIC 59: Interspecies Communication following their residency at the Coalesce Centre for Biological Arts at SUNY Buffalo.

Presenting prints of Mick’s performances on the Swiss Glaciers and drawings of airborne microbes made with bacteriological stains, plus an augmented reality view of the “microbial sage” or Pseudomonas syringae.



41st Century Mind Mastery – Window Display at 826LA Time Travel Mart

Please join us at 826LA’s Time Travel Mart in Echo Park for the opening of 41st Century Mind Mastery, a glimpse into the year 4019 C.E., when humans have learned how to use their minds and bioelectrical charge masterfully to create externally usable energy, to communicate telepathically, and have enhanced sensory fields. Come and try on some of the special headwear that 41st century citizens use to help focus and harness their mental energies!

Friday, August 9
6 pm – 8 pm
Time Travel Mart in Echo Park
1714 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, Ca 90026

Presenting at CTES, Transdisciplinary Colloquium in Mexico City

I just gave a talk entitled “Creatividad y Conciencia para Cuidar de Gaia” (Creativity and Consciousness to care for Gaia), at the second CTES, or Transdisciplinary Coloquium of Social Environments, at the Escuela Normal Superior de Mexico.

I led a group meditation, focused on how the air connects us all, and asked participants to write and draw any ideas that occurred during the mediation. I later discussed different creative projects, including some of my own, that approach big issues around climate change, air and water pollution. The students and professors present were very congratulatory and inspired with the talk, and I truly hope that more interdisciplinary projects arise from the colloquium.

Residency at Coalesce Center for Biological Art with Joel Ong

Joel Ong and I have been working at the Coalesce Center for Biological Art  with the Genome, Environment and Microbiome Community of Excellence at the University at Buffalo, New York, on a project called Umwelt Microbiana.

If we see the world from the microbial perspective, we might better understand and appreciate the complex living interdependencies between the air, earth, water, plants, and animals. Through the collection and analysis of samples, the writing of microbial narratives or myths, and the construction of a small world that can be experienced by only a few people at a time, we intend to crack open a door to the microbial umwelt. To begin, we propose workshops to involve interested citizens in collecting microbial samples from the air using balloons and kites, from local water sources (Great Lakes and Niagra River) using flasks and buckets, and from the soil using shovels and probes. With a fraction of these samples we will conduct scientific tests, including metagenomic profiles, to consider the ecological  networks, communication, and horizontal gene transfer between all of these realms. We will integrate the other fraction of these samples into interactive installations, where fans, heat lamps, air currents, and water currents converge around built topographies.

We have begun with samples of the Niagra watershed and in April will be launching a weather balloon in search of the microbes involved in the formation of clouds and precipitation.



Macro-Micro-Nano Climate on exhibit at International Open Air Expressions, Saitama, Japan


macro-micro-nano-climate-m-lorusso2-smMacro-Micro-Nano Climate is a series of works based on my research and interest into the relationship between Gaia, our planet Earth as a macro organism, and all of the living cells on the earth. The microbes of the planet become the protagonists of this work, featured for their role in producing clouds, and as messengers and mediators between all living beings on the planet.

I am presenting Macro-Micro-Nano Climate at two locations in Saitama, Japan, as part of International Open Air Expressions. Thanks to Onodera San and Iwaki San and all of the Iwaki students for their support and for participating in workshops for learning about microbes and depicting them in woodblock prints.

Artist and director of Arttextum, Frida Cano, is exhibiting along with me in both locations.

The first location was at the Sanbancho Gallery, from October 26th until November. The second exhibition opens at Tokyo Denki University in Saitama on December 3rd.