This giant 90-foot germ with menacing tentacles was unveiled at Sheffield’s Winter Garden today.
A giant inflatable sculpture of an E.coli bacterium was installed as part of KrebsFest, an event run by the University of Sheffield celebrating the Nobel Prize winning biochemist Sir Hans Krebs.
Artist Luke Jerram approached the world’s largest hot air balloon manufacturer in Bristol to make the piece, a representation five million times larger than the actual bacteria.
The six-month process involved numerous drawings, three-dimensional mock-ups, and laser cut pieces. An earlier prototype ripped apart after it was filled with too much air, so the final product had to be cranked out in the last three weeks.
Luke, who has spent the last 10 years creating glass sculptures of viruses like HIV and smallpox, wanted to explore the tension between the beauty of his pieces and the deadly diseases they represent. His work is now featured in science textbooks and art museums around the world.
He said: “Bacteria are the first life forms on earth, so this is your ancestor. So you could almost think of this as a portrait of everyone...this is how we evolved.
“People are quite scared of germs and spray everything with antibacterial spray, which turns out to be really bad. We need bacteria to help with our immune system, so I’m interested in those debates.”
Sheffield-based artist Seiko Kinoshita is also exhibiting her work, a green sculpture of a jellyfish protein constructed from more than 10,000 pieces of paper.
Seiko learned about the process of protein folding, which allows our bodies to function properly by building and repairing tissues. The folding inspired Seiko to utilize origami as the primary technique to construct her piece.
She said ‘scientists carry out experiments again and again and again until they discover something’ and honoured that process through the repetition of creating all the neatly folded boxes that make up the piece.
Sir Hans Krebs was a physician and biochemist who received a Nobel Prize for discovering the conversion of food into energy within a cell during his time in Sheffield. He moved to the city in 1935 and it ‘19 happy years’.
Simon Foster, director of the Krebs Institute at the university, said the scientist’s research is ‘something that underpins all our lives and the people of Sheffield don’t really know about it’. He organized the festival to bring Krebs’ legacy alive ‘in a way that would be entertaining and potentially educational.’
The sculptures in the Winter Garden will be available to all visitors for free until November 3.