In: KulturPoetik 2017, Heft 1


Martina King


Im Labor der Abstraktion. Mikrobiologismen in der literarischen und bildkünstlerischen Moderne um und nach 1900




This essay shows how profoundly laboratory research on microbes around 1900 stimulated literature and art. Since invisible, monocellular organisms were conceived of as highly paradoxical – as scientific facts and fantastic objects at the same time – various sets of metaphors and narratives were attached to them. Microbes, especially pathogenic bacteria, served both as the worst enemies of mankind and as our oldest ancestors, as the embodiment of ornamental beauty and as invisible threat, and – last but not least – as products of fantasy and imagination. While many creative writers, especially representatives of the avantgarde such as Paul Scheerbart, Gustav Sack and Tristan Tzara, transformed the invisible objects into poetic language, Wassily Kandinsky used images of microbes in order to develop his theory of the magical point in nature.