[Aug 19] “What is the Shape of Water?” A cross-species meditation by Lisa Moren with Dr. Tsvetan Bachvaroff

The audience enters a pitch-black room with tens of thousands of invisible organisms in a bulb-like aquarium. They’re invited to speak, and if they do their voice excites the bioluminescent dinoflagellates into illuminating. The microbes create a blue glow of bubbles shaped from the pitch and volume of the voice emanating within the water. Therefore, if you ask “what’s the shape of water?”, the dinoflagellates will tell you. For more project information see the website.

Saturday August 19, 2023

1-4 pm

Location: Harvestworks Art and Technology Program Building 10a, Nolan Park, Governors Island


Lisa Moren is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with emerging media, bio-matter, public space, AR\XR and works-on-paper. She has exhibited her work at the Chelsea Art Museum, Creative Time, and the Drawing Center in New York, the Cranbrook Art Museum and international venues including uShaka Museum (South Africa), Ars Electronica (Austria), and Akademie der Kunste (Germany), and the Artists Research Network (Australia) and has a forthcoming one-person exhibition at the Peale Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She received the National Endowment for the Arts award, is a Fulbright Scholar; a multi-year recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council and CEC Artslink International and the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fellowship in Film and Media at Johns Hopkins University.

Her work has appeared in Performance Research; Visible Language; Inter Arts Actuel; New Media Caucus for her curated work“Algorithmic Pollution: Artists working with Dataveillance and Societies of Control” and “CYBER IN|SECURITY” for Washington Projects for the Arts (WPA); and her books on Intermedia; and Issues in Contemporary Theory for “Command Z: Artists Working with Phenomena and Technology.” Lisa Moren is a Professor of Visual Art and Intermedia and Digital Art (IMDA) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC); is an Affiliate Faculty at the Imaging Research Center (IRC) UMBC; and taught at FAMU and AVU in Prague; and the University of California San Diego (UCSD).

Dr. Tsvetan Bachvaroff’s is a marine biologist whose research is focused on dinoflagellate evolution with special emphasis on the parasitic dinoflagellates, using large scale sequencing and phylogenetic methods to describe the evolutionary history of different types of genes in dinoflagellates. He uses DNA sequence analysis from data collection, assembly, annotation and phylogeny; has received numerous academic awards, including the William Trager Award from the Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, International Society of Protistologists, culture independent methods such as single cell PCR, sequencing, and sequence analysis; Establishing dinoflagellate cultures. He received the Marsho award, Mid-Atlantic Section of the American Society for Plant Biology, University of Maryland College Park, and the Chemistry Prize, Trinity School, New York.

Tsvetan Bachvaroff received his B.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland College Park. He was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Center of Marine Biotechnology and subsequently with the Smithsonian Institution. He is an Associate Research Professor for the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) at The University System of Maryland.


Left: Bonnie Landers singing to the dinoflagellates.
Right: dinoflagellates expressing bioluminescence according to sound (still image shot underneath the tank).

“What is the Shape of Water?”

48”x 72” ceiling tank in 10×12’ black room.
35 liters of marine water with millions of micro-organisms, plexiglass, arduinos, Maxpatch, laptop, microphone and AV, for the “Light City Festival” in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, 2019.

Images courtesy of the artist.

“What is the Shape of Water? (photo series)”
Digital photographs, 16”x16” showing bioluminescent Dinoflagellate (pyrocystis) made from a wire bent to spell ‘alive.’

Image courtesy of the artist.

“What is the Shape of Water?” v.3

Concept drawing for work in progress. Anticipated display at the Peale Museum, Baltimore Maryland, Dec 2023 to Feb 2024.

Image courtesy of the artist.


The original version of this project was engineered by Lisa Moren, with marine biology by Dr. Tsvetan Bachvaroff, and coded by Jason Charney for the Light City Festival, Baltimore Maryland in 2019. This new version of the project is grateful for the engineering by Dan Fucich (Aglen Air) and software coding by Adam Knapp for the exhibition “Chamber of Wonders”, a one-person exhibition at the Peale Museum, Baltimore Maryland, Dec. 2023-Feb 2024. This work in progress is funded by UMBC’s Center for Research in the Creative Arts (CIRCA). The project is also grateful for the support from the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET).


Video Documentation What is the Shape of Water?https://vimeo.com/372235650

ISEA Conference and Video Publication: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6ZStr-wVx4

For more project information: https://www.lisamoren.com/shapeofwater

IMET Interview: https://imet.usmd.edu/news/what-shape-water-circa-imet-artist-residence

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