Researchers in exhibition residency

The exhibition Biocolor – Exploring Sustainable Color was accompanied with a researchers-in-residency programme, which allowed several researchers in the BioColour project to work and meet audiences in the exhibition environment. The researcher-residence provided an unique, low-threshold opportunity for encounters between researchers and the public audience, as well as insights and discussions about biocolourants. In this blog post, a few researchers share their experiences of their residency week.

I spent a week at the exhibition residence with a previously unknown project worker and left a couple of new friends richer. Even though I have been involved in the BioColour project for a couple of years, I still learned a lot about plants, color shades and the existing dyeing and dyer’s culture in Finland. At the exhibition, I met a Guatemalan woman who told me how they too use many plants for dyeing and how she was surprised by this cultural connection. Together with a teenager, we marveled at the bright pink colour produced by bacteria (“I thought only “boring” colors can be obtained from natural colors”). A father who came with his three children on a bike pondered the possibilities of color in traditional construction. On a personal level, the exhibition in Arktikum intertwined the nature hobbies that have been present since childhood, my hometown and my high school workplace in the art gallery. -Johanna Yli-Öyrä, Early Stage Researcher and PhD Student, University of Eastern Finland School of Pharmacy

Riikka Alanko making biocolour rainbows using naturally dyed yarns. Photo Satu Rajala.

It is amazing how many perspectives people can have in relation to biocolourants, and how diverse meanings are associated with them. The exhibition was an unique opportunity to meet people and discuss the importance of sustainable dyes with them at a low threshold. These discussions included one with a food science teacher about the use of food industry by-products as dyes, another with a local farmer about growing a bride, one with a French designer about seaweed and dyeing biomaterials, and also with a biology teacher about the relationship between nature and dyes. Not to mention the discussions about the colors themselves, which have been created with biocolourants! The traditional muted shades evoked experiences of familiarity and beauty, and bright shades astonishment and curiosity. Hopefully, many came to look at the biocolourants with new eyes. – Riikka Alanko, Exhibition Coordinator, University of Helsinki

The exhibition brought together different perspectives on the subject. The exhibition expanded my knowledge of biocolourants and I learned a lot from the work of other researchers as well. It is great to see how experts in different fields and the multidisciplinary research together contribute to the development of biocolourants. As I’m interested in the consumers’ views, it was nice to get to hear the thoughts of visitors about biocolours. The exhibition visitors were fascinated and at the same time confused by the diverse shades of color created by natural dyes. I hope the exhibition has sparked a wider conversation about impressions related to natural dyes. -Josefiina Vanne, Research Assistant, University of Helsinki

Johanna Yli-Öyrä and Josefiina Vanne examining photos of cells used in biocolourant toxicity testing. Photo Marko Junttila.

The exhibition was visually impressive and really informative! The exhibition presented biocolurs and related applications quite extensively and also offered new things to learn and explore. Among other things dye plants and a video introducing dyeing with indigo attracted interest among exhibition visitors. Certain themes, such as the recyclability of dyes or plant dyeing, were familiar to some guests, and many were very pleased to learn that biocolors were being studied seriously. This enthusiasm remained on top of my mind from the residency week. -Peppi Toukola, Technical Assistant, University of Helsinki