Illuminating Bugs

Illuminating Bugs

“The art practice that the artist Derek Hill has set up with scientists at the University of Newcastle is remarkable for how it represents an unfaltering stream of exceptional work that Hill has produced since the 1970s and the persistence that he has shown in linking his art production to collaborative projects with professional artists and non-professionals. When he left the Royal College and was travelling in Africa, Hill’s life was put in jeopardy by a bacterial infection. The trauma of that experience has been the mainspring of his work over several decades, and it found a ready response from the university scientists. The resulting link of intense lab work, scientific interaction, and high-tech time-lapse imaging with the organic nature of his art practice presents a remarkable opportunity for the creation of new and exciting artwork and the engagement of university personnel, schools, and communities.”.

J.Millard (former manager of Newcastle and Liverpool Museums)

The collaboration with the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology at Newcastle University began in 2015-16 under the title Illuminating Bugs, with the support of the former director, Professor Jeff Errington, FRS; Professor Colin Harwood; and Dr. Richard Daniel. Hill’s curiosity about the microbial world was initially triggered by a life-threatening streptococcal infection in 1990, which profoundly influenced his artistic development and stimulated a desire to discover more about bacteria. Hill spent the following three years working closely with Daniels, developing his research around the behaviour patterns of certain strains of bacteria.  Since 2018, the project has evolved into what is known as Hidden Kingdoms: Shifting Worlds, aiming to forge relationships with the mainstream public by developing plans for public exhibitions alongside curators and museums.


Shifting Worlds Film Sketches playlist, visit:

Inside the studio playlist, visit:

Hill’s Presentation to CBCB (PDF: 8MB).