RIP dear samples, go and become someone else / by Catinca Tilea


The other day I was in the bus with a friend. In the context of another conversation, he told me about a study he read somewhere about the human body. When a human baby is born – my friend said – there are hardly any other lifeforms inside that body. This gradually changes through nutrition and regeneration, and slowly, by around the age of 8, the human body becomes host for loads of micro-organisms and cells, none of them having been part of the original body. The study my friend was telling me about proposed that the mature body is in fact merely a symbiosis of billions of other microscopic lifeforms that assure its functioning, none of them originally part of the human. This, as if we'd be a giant sum of other life, with a giant mind of its own.

I don't know if this study is accurate, I have no way to verify. However, the idea is very interesting in relation to our sense of self, the way we perceive our individual identity, and the ways in which we relate to our environment.

In parallel and for immediate and practical reasons, I also buried half of our grown HOW (household organic waste) samples into the ground the other day. We are studying a new material synthesised from HOW. We care that this material keeps being organic and biodegradable. I buried the HOW samples to assess the rate to which they break down.

Somehow, burying these samples brought me back to my friend's story. The biodegradation process that I'll be now following is in a sense the death of the samples just as much as it is their transformation into something else. And in the same train of thought as my friend's story, one could even argue that the HOW samples – whilst disappearing – will become not something, but loads and loads of someone else's. All micro-organisms that we are now chasing around on a microscope in the lab will go travel, each discovering totally new worlds and other micro-organisms like themselves.