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Jonathon Keats: Microbial Associates 

When: Tue., Oct. 21, 5:30-8 p.m. 2014

Clingers-On

When art-goers visit Jonathon Keats' latest exhibit, "Microbial Associates," they might think they've entered a science laboratory instead of a downtown San Francisco gallery. But the lab glassware and living bacteria on display are part of a bona fide artistic (and scientific) experiment: Can Keats train 100 billion bacteria in skills that are in demand at Silicon Valley tech companies? He says yes. He says he's serious. He says Apple, Google, and other billion-dollar companies can learn from his billion microbes, that'll be — prompted by pumps and circuitry — trained in "management, finance, and product development" skills, such as adapting to supply and demand. "The bacteria will be bottled in vials of approximately a billion bacteria each," says Keats, who will attend tonight's opening reception. "Any company or individual will be able to hire them. A one-week contract on a billion bacteria will cost $10." Keats promises a demonstration of "the classrooms and curricula." Keats may sound like a kind of artistic Dr. Strangelove, but he has a long history of pulling off acclaimed exhibits, and writing cogently and philosophically about art (including in his book Forged: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age). The New Yorker has called Keats "a poet of ideas." "Microbial Associates," which can be seen by appointment after tonight's opening, is a chance to witness these ideas where they can thrive: in an intimate gallery, in the city that Keats calls home.

"Microbial Associates" opens at 5:30 p.m., at Modernism Gallery, 685 Market St., S.F. Free; call 541-0461 or visit mondernisminc.com.

— Jonathan Curiel

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