In Brief

In the Living Things exhibit, what allows the very useful spirulina algae to live also happens to be very pretty

Photosynthetic algae are very possibly the companion organism of the future. Because they eat our waste CO2 and produce energy, they are considered a leading potential source of biofuels. Spirulina algae, in particular, with its high protein and nutrient density, has gained popularity as a “superfood.” But algae doesn’t do PR, and there’s no appeal in its usual appearance, which is a dark green slurry.

However, two recent Carnegie Mellon graduates, Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier, are ready to help it shine in an exhibit called Living Things, which brings the microorganisms into a sphere they’ve yet to visit much: the human home. The intricate exhibit at the Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art in Pittsburgh sends algae through more than half a mile of piping into glass vessels filled with alkaline water into various areas of a hypothetical home.

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