In an effort to spread the word on vaccination, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored the creation of art by more than 30 world-renowned photographers, painters, sculptors, writers, filmmakers, and musicians to tell a story about the power of immunisation. One of the works, by Vik Muniz and Tal Danino, surprised everyone.
Flowers is the name of this artwork. It doesn’t look any different to wallpaper you’d find at a home design store, but there’s a secret in the print: the floral design is actually made from liver cells that have been treated with the smallpox vaccine.
Muniz and Danino worked with MIT professor Sangeeta Bhatia to design the pattern and turn it into a rubber stamp that could deposit a thin layer of collagen onto a petri dish. From there the cells were added and, according to Wired, “they thrive on the collagen, then perish on plastic and are photographed”.
“People are quite surprised to realise that the images are made up of real cancer/liver cells and real viruses,” Danino told Wired. “They are not photoshopped. They are equally struck by the fact that beyond the photograph, the cells are alive, move around, and fluoresce.”
“Flowers allows the audience to draw a deeper appreciation for how the Vaccinia (smallpox) vaccine and cells interact, and brings awareness to the importance of the vaccine,” said Muniz.
See the process in its entirety here: