Johanna Rotko

Basic information

b. 1976, Juva
visual artist

Contact information

Artist’s Statement

I make pictures with living matter. My laboratory is in our kitchen, exposure happens in my studio and the research area is outdoors. With six years of experience in making of yeast images I can say that I am a professional yeast image maker.

I have a Master of Arts degree from Aalto University. Within my degree I did minor studies (26op) in biological arts, with a guidance from a wide variety of artists.

My work has been exhibited in Dublin, Oulu, Corvallis, Helsinki, Kotka, Dortmund, Tokyo and Paris. During my life I have worked in very different work tasks, for example, as a baker, layout designer and metal worker.
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Current information

Artistic work is active in the YEASTOGRAMS-Laboratory. Best way to follow the project is Instagram: @yeastograms

More information:


Visual artist Johanna Rotko makes images with living material mainly with different yeast species. The artist cultivates yeast on growth mediums to create images. The process brings photographs to life as raster images are exposed onto cultivated yeast with Ultraviolet (405 - 365nm) LED lamps. The UV-lights kill/injure part of the yeast cells during the 48-hour exposure process. The picture is formed when the yeast cells sheltered by the black parts of the raster images survive and the other cells are killed or damaged by the UV-light. Through her artistic research process, the artist studies the images by photographing them for different lengths of time, exploring the world by artistic means with methods from the biosciences. She learned the technique from Pavillon_35 art group in 2013 in a workshop that was held with the Finnish Bioart Society. Since then she has been working with yeast images.

The theme for the artistic research has been a study of Rotko’s own relationship with nature and how her actions affect the environment. Art, that uses alive elements is based on manipulation of living matter this is also the case with the yeast images.

After the exposure Rotko influences the images as little as she can and the creatures that grows on the images are in the environment or on the plate itself. The artist lets them be because nature does not need our care, even on a larger scale.

She moves from the manipulator to the observer role and the yeast images return to the cycle of nature through biowaste disposal. Observing happens through a lens of a camera and the life of individual yeastograms are saved as digital files. From this yeastimage-archive photographs are printed and videos are made for exhibitions.