Midterm: Microplate Self Portait

1536 Microplate Self Portrait

Midterm: Microplate Self Portrait.

Artist: Rodolfo Antonio Salido Benítez

Completion Date: Monday, February 16, 2015

Place of Creation: Assay development and screening lab at a biomedical research institute.

Style: Pixel Art Genre: Self Portrait.

Technique: Liquid handling robot dispense of different food colorant solutions into 1536 well microplates.

Material: Food colorant, 1536 white tissue culture treated microtiter plates, solenoid valve liquid handling device, Photoshop, Excel, Excel VBA.

Link to documentation of piece:


My midterm project aimed to repurpose the devices and medium used in drug discovery to recreate a self portrait in an effort to blur the lines between instruments and materials used for science and those used for art. I work with liquid handling devices in a daily basis and have a thorough understanding of they practical capabilities; thus, I knew I could “paint” an image in microplates ordinarily used for screening. After pondering about the best approach to achieving this goal, I decided that painting a self portrait was the best way to raise a dialogue about identity.

The process behind dispensing an image of my face into the microplates required me to strip down a photo of what I consider the closest visual representation of myself: my face. As I progressed through the steps behind constructing the self portrait, I saw how my face deteriorated. First I saw how some of my detailed features disappeared due to image compression (needed for pixel art). Then I saw my face deconstructed into individual segments. I started to stop recognizing myself after I couldn’t see my facial features. However, translating and filtering colors into computable numbers  was the step that completely alienated me from my own face. I knew this was going to be a step yet seeing the arranged numbers and not being able to identify myself in them felt uneasy.

I wanted to draw attention to the process behind creating the self portrait because there’s many parallels that can be drawn between it and drug discovery. Screening for a potential drug treatment for a specific disease forces researchers to strip down the individual into it’s basic components. Drug screening is done both at the cellular and biochemical level. As a quantitative science, data interpretation becomes mathematical evaluations of numbers that a microplate reader returns which reflect the activity of the whole cell or biochemical based assay. Superficially, one only sees numbers organized in spreadsheets, similar to the process behind the self portrait. Only when one analyses the data and places it within a “big picture” context one is able to understand its meaning or purpose.

In the dropbox folder I included many files documenting the process behind building my self portrait. These are just a few sample images.

Photograph of liquid handling device setupFinal product (eye:glasses)
Sample of a finished plate (part of mouth)
I invite everyone to take a glimpse at the dropbox folder linked.

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