STARTS PRIZE Grand Prize – Artistic Exploration
We aren’t just single individuals walking the planet: we are walking ecosystems made of microbes.
Microbes are in the soil, in the water, and even in our bodies.
The average human body is made up of trillions of cells: therefore, we can easily say that we are only 10% human. We live and co-exist with them. The other 90% of the human body is composed of different microorganisms, most of which are beneficial to their host. Microbes as bacteria, fungi, and viruses are part of our Skin Microflora, covering both the inside and the outer surface of the body. Even though invisible to our eyes, our microflora has a symbiotic relationship with the interface between our body and the environment—our skin.
Future Flora aims to encourage this symbiotic relationship that raises the beneficial presence of microbes and bacteria in the human body, suggesting an alternative: to wear probiotics and keep our body healthy. Future Flora is a harvesting kit designed for women to treat and prevent vaginal infections. The user is a woman who wants to embrace biotechnology in her house, allowing science to show alternatives to traditional medicines and probiotics.
Following DIY procedures and merging biology with health-tech, Future Flora addresses women who are taking control of their own bodies as a precious and intimate practice of self-care, becoming a participant in the culture and the knowledge of science.
How can design challenge our perception and celebrate the symbiotic relationship between the human body and its microbiome? Aiming to encourage this symbiotic relationship that raises the beneficial presence of microbes and bacteria in the human body and suggesting an alternative of wearing probiotics in our underwear to keep the body healthy.
The project tackles the experience of growing and nurturing living organisms at home. The bacterial pad grows the necessary strings of Lactobacillus bacteria to create a hostile environment for the further development of Candida Albicans, acting as a living culture of probiotics. By placing the pad in contact with the female genitalia, the healthy bacteria grow on the surface of the infected area, reconstructing the microflora missing in the vagina epithelium. Considering that 75% of women suffer from Candidal vulvovaginitis (CVV) at least once in their lifetime, Future Flora explores women’s approach in the context of personal self-care and body awareness, generating an intimate and delicate interaction between the action of nurturing bacteria while they grow, and then wearing them as a second layer of your panties.
Celebrating a Female Biophilia, Tomasello opens the possibility of wearing microorganisms in the future, and embracing them as part of our natural well-being. Taking care of her own health, the woman becomes a citizen scientist, establishing a first relation with her body and what is part of her living surroundings. Clothes and accessories become the ecosystem that balance the entire skin microflora.
Future Flora proposes alternatives to embrace biological remedies in our home, challenging the values and beliefs that our society embodied in the material culture. The intention behind Future Flora is to design a tool that will educate and enable women to take a more active role in their healthcare, prompting them to seek medical advice as necessary and ultimately break some of the taboos associated with urogynecology health. Designed to empower women and increase their self-care, becoming familiar with their own bodies, developing self-confidence, and becoming active patients able to seek healthcare professional advice, discuss their symptoms openly and ultimately break the taboos that are still associated with gynecological health. A social stigma that is still pervasive in both developed and developing countries. Future Flora aims to challenge new propositions for the society and for the future of women’s healthcare by introducing the importance of a female biophilia’s approach.
Designer and creator: Giulia Tomasello
Graduate project from Material Futures Master Course
Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design
External expert: Biologist Arian Mirzarafie-Ahi