Designer Ori Elisar’s new project gives new meaning to the premise that language is organic. The Jerusalem-based creator’s “Living Typeface” is a collection of letters sprouted from a Petri dish. Made from bacteria, the blue-hued living letters poetically grow from the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet into modern Hebrew, all before the microscope lens.
Elisar’s experiment creates a living visual interpretation of the evolution of a language. Using the bacteria called Paenibacillus vortex, Elisar shaped the specimens into shapes of the ancient Paleo-Hebrew letters. Fastened onto agar in individual Petri dishes, the bacteria letter forms were then trained to transform into their modern counterparts with the aid of a protein. Elisar sketched out the modern letters with the protein, which the Paenibacillus bacteria sees as food.
The bacteria letters and protein outlines were then popped into an oven, where they warmed up to 87.8 Fahrenheit. As the dishes heated up, the bacteria, in the form of the Paleo-Hebrew letters, slowly consumed the proteins around them. As the protein was eaten up, the ancient letters slowly morphed into modern Hebrew forms.
The resulting letters were mixed. Some the artist caught mid-transformation from ancient to modern, while in others the proteins were consumed, leaving only the outlines of the modern Hebrew letters. After experimenting with 400 Petri dishes at different times and temperatures, Elisar created accurate recipes for a beautiful collection of hazy letters, crisp edges, messy conglomerations and mid-morphed letters.