Domus Aurea

Edgar Lissel

From the Bacterium series (1999–2010), bacteria on plaster on wood board, 60 x 50 cm

Germany 2005


For Domus Aurea, developed in cooperation with archaeologists and biologists, Lissel used the propensity of photosensitive bacteria to move towards light sources to create an image. A bacterial culture called Leptolyngba was discovered in the excavated site of the Domus Aurea in Rome, and was deemed responsible for the destruction of its frescoes. Lissel precisely transferred these bacteria onto a plasterboard that was moistened with a nutrient solution, and exposed it to the negative image of an already destroyed fresco over a period of several months. The light-sensitive bacteria oriented themselves to the bright image areas and thus after several months began to replicate the outlines of the original image. (Ju.Ju.Li.)

“[Domus Aurea] foregrounds the interaction and relationship betweeen creation and destruction; the agent responsible for the destruction of the ancient artworks – the bacteria – can, in a different medium, create a new realm of images, a bacterial fresco.” (Ingeborg Reichle 2009: 69)


Edgar Lissel, born in 1965 in Germany, lives in Vienna.



Ingeborg Reichle, Art in the Age of Technoscience. Genetic Engineering, Robotics, and Artificial Life in Contemporary Art, translated by Gloria Custance (New York: Springer, 2009).

Horst Bredekamp, Theorie des Bildakts (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010), p. 166.

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