Labor is an art installation that fills a gallery with the scent of people exerting themselves in stressful conditions. But there are no people involved in making the smell — it is created by bacteria breeding in two industrial fermenters at the center of the space. Each incubates a unique species of human skin bacteria responsible for the primary scent of sweat: Staphylococus epidermis and Propionibacterium. The project poetically reflects and interrogates industrial society’s shift from human and machine labor to increasingly pervasive forms of microbial manufacturing, and in this process contemplates the changing borders defining what is human.

Paul Vanouse

Paul Vanouse is a Professor of Art at the University at Buffalo, where he heads the program in Emerging Practices. Interdisciplinarity and impassioned amateurism guide his art practice. His biological and interactive media projects have been exhibited in over 25 countries and widely across the US. His recent projects, “Latent Figure Protocol”, “Ocular Revision” and “Suspect Inversion Center” use molecular biology techniques to challenge “genome-hype” and to engage issues surrounding DNA fingerprinting, particularly the idea the most authoritative image of our time, the DNA fingerprint, is somehow natural. He has a BFA from the University at Buffalo and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University.