Victoria Shennan


Mining the Body

Body pieces 
Armpit ecologies

Hidden in plain sight

The average human is host to around 100 trillion microbes, including bacteria, fungi, archaea and viruses. We unknowingly carry these around with us, as they are part of our fabric. Together, they make up about 1.5 kilograms of our body weight.

We have co-evolved to need each other, and in fact, much of our DNA is broken viruses.* They have shaped human evolution.

Microbes fit the body perfectly, occupying every crevice, exploiting negative spaces. The human microbiome has so many functions that it has been likened to an organ. Through this collection I consider what we carry around with us, experimenting with weight, volume, negative space and notions of value.

Microbial mouthpiece
Your mouth is full of microorganisms. 700 species of bacteria, live there, along with all kinds of fungi, archaea and viruses.
With every breath, you take in tidal waves of microbes.

Your intestines are the undisputed capital of your microbiome. Of the 100 thousand billion microbes in your entire body, the vast majority lives in your intestines. That’s an enormous proportion, with a role in your health that should not be underestimated. Intestinal microbiota consists primarily of bacteria, about 1,200 different species.

What if you could feel the weight of these invisible worlds in proportion to the body parts they inhabit?

*Ancient viruses are buried in our DNA. Our DNA contains roughly 100,000 pieces of viral DNA. Altogether, they make up about 8 percent of the human genome.

Gut mass

Photographer: Dorry Hsu       
Model: Eugenie Scrace       

Body Cartography

The landscape of the body is host to many habitats, vastly uncharted, and part of a wider ecosystem.

Research groups all over the world are using the newest technology to map out the human microbiome. We are therefore seeing our bodies in a whole new way.

Microbes and metals are intrinsic ingredients that compose the human body, both are vital to sustain us.

These non-human elements are placed in context with the body, so that we can begin to chart the micro compositions that form us and are key to life.

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