Charlotte has donated parts of her body to stem cell research. Her tissue and blood samples are now in a lab where they will be transformed into induced pluripotent stem cells and from there into a range of completely different substances. A second self of Charlotte will be created, made from a collage of in vitro body parts.
The project is called Ergo Sum and it recently received the Designers and Artist’s for Genomics Award. It will be exhibited this Summer in The Netherlands. But until then, Charlotte is in the studio to tell us more about this work.
Zoe has spent the past year exploring the scientific and technological developments in Artificial Reproductive Technologies. She particularly looked at questions such as “Will the techniques themselves have the potential to fundamentally change the way we perceive parenthood and reproduction? How will the stories we tell children evolve?” In the show, we will be talking artificial uterus, the orphan child who had 5 parents, artificial gametes, and premature babies exhibited in freak shows
This week i’m talking with Ollie Palmer is a designer, artist, a tutor at Bartlett but he is also the guy who’s so interested in dancing insects that he’s embarked on a 6 year project to choreograph and stage an Ant Ballet.
During the interview, Ollie talks ants and more precisely Argentine ants, a particularly invasive species that the UK wants nowhere near its shores. We also learn about the best way to collect ants, to synthesize pheromones and end the show with a few words about the Godot Machine, a device built for the sole purpose of preventing a single ant to move around
Koen Vanmechelen who has spent the past 20 years crossbreeding national species of chicken in order to create the ultimate ‘Cosmopolitan Chicken Project.’ You might or might not know it but each country has created its own peculiar type of chicken: the French, for example, have the Poulet the Brest. It’s white and red with blue feet, the same colours as their flag. Americans like their chicken to be big and powerful. The Chinese have a chicken covered in silky feathers
This week we are talking about Pigs Bladder Football with artist John O’Shea and Professor John Hunt.
Pigs Bladder Football looks back at the time when football balls were made from inflated pigs bladder. But instead of using an existing organ, John O’Shea collaborated with a group of scientists at Liverpool University to bio-engineer balls using animal cells harvested from abattoir waste, replicating the same techniques used to create artificial human organs
After Agri is a collaborative investigation between Michiko Nitta and Michael Burton. Their collaboration looks at the future evolutions of our food systems, asking What new cultural revolution will replace agriculture? How will our species and civilisation be transformed?
Blighted by Kenning is a bioart work that Charlotte Jarvis developed in close collaboration with The Netherlands Proteomics Centre (NPC), a research center located in Utrecht that studies proteome, the ‘set of proteins expressed by a genome, cell, tissue or organism’.
Together they bio-engineered a bacteria so that its DNA encodes for the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Glasses, lipstick, false teeth, the contraceptive pill and even your mobile phone – we take for granted how commonplace human enhancements are. Current scientific developments point to a future where cognitive enhancers and medical nanorobots will be widespread as we seek to augment our beauty, intelligence and health.
Superhuman takes a broad and playful look at our obsession with being the best we can be. Items on display range from an ancient Egyptian prosthetic toe to a packet of Viagra, alongside contributions from artists such as Matthew Barney and scientists, ethicists and commentators working at the cutting edge of this most exciting, and feared, area of modern science
This week i’m talking to Thomas Thwaites. During the radio program we’ll talk about that toaster of course but we will also look at some of his other projects. In particular, Unlikely Objects: Products of a Counterfactual History of Science, a work that explore what our scientific knowledge would have been like had the Darwinian revolution never happened
One of the most curious, amusing and thought-provoking projects of the Design Interactions graduation show this year asks questions that range from ‘What is more important in making us who we are: our genes or the experiences we go through in life?’ to ‘Can a mouse be Elvis?’ and ‘Does buying a pre-owned item gives one the legal right to another individual’s genetic data?’
The project is called ‘All That I Am’ and with it, Koby Barhad suggests that we could create an Elvis mouse using a specially-designed set of training cages and 3 online services
For this episode, i went to Battersea to interview the new graduates of RCA’s Design Interactions. In order of appearance: Koby Barhad will talk gene sequencing and Elvis Presley, Rapahel Kim is still working with rotifers but this time he designed a farm for them, Ai Hasegawa talks about the next frontier for Japanese love hotels and Angela Bracco (who is from Design Products) is of course answering my questions about If You Can Smell It It Has Mass
Howard Boland is in the studio today. The artist and mathematician co-founded C-LAB, an interdisciplinary art platform that explores the meaning and idiosyncrasies of the organic and the synthetic life.
7 years ago, I interviewed them about cacti that grow human hair and interstellar plant species. The radio programme catches up with their current interests, mostly magnetic nanoparticles and bacteria that might or might not smell like bananas
The Cold Coast Archive project investigates and explores human beings’ efforts to preserve civilization and defy the inevitability of its demise. We look at the vault as a whole: its practical, political, historical and symbolic structure, its arctic location, as well as its infrastructure and cultural nuances, with all the research concentrated at this site, as a backdrop to explore the human relationship to time between now and eternity
The guest of today’s edition of #A.I.L. (Artists in Laboratories) is Richard Pell, the founder and director of The Center for Postnatural History in Pittsburgh, the first museum that seeks to research, document and exhibit man-made biological systems. I interviewed him on the blog last year as he had just opened the museum and the radio show looks at how the center’s doing right now, its challenges, its projects, the spider silk-producing goats and the english bull terrier
The first episode of the radio show about art & science i’m recording for Resonance FM is broadcast today Monday 21 May at 16.30 (London time.) There will be a repeat on Thursday at 22.30. You can catch it online if you don’t live in London.
This week i’m talking with the lovely and lively Anna Dumitriu, visual artist and respected founder and director of The Institute of Unnecessary Research
Ollie Palmer’s Ant Ballet is a three-year research project into control systems, paranoia and dancing insects, and has culminated in the world’s first ballet to exclusively feature ants. The projected insects is part of the FutureEverybody Art Exhibition at the 1830 Warehouse in Manchester
On Friday at 4pm, set your radio to 104.4fm if you live in London and your browser to http://resonancefm.com/ if you don’t. That’s when the pilot for programme i’ve recently recorded for Resonance104.4fm, London’s edgy, radical, art radio is going to be aired. The focus of the programme is art & science/technology.
Critical designers Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen were kind and kamikaze enough to join me in the studio for the first episode. We’ve discussed topics as diverse as the beauty of life support machines, pigeons that poop soap, using design to infiltrate synthetic biology, collaborating with scientists and communicating the complexities of a projects that explores critically the impact of science on society
Brains: The Mind as Matter has a seemingly very specific, very narrow focus: the brain and not even the mind, just the physical organ. Yet, the exhibition branches out into issues of ethics, history, and reminds us that while some of the moments in the history of neuroscience are glorious, others are downright disgraceful
One of the works on show at the AV Festival this month is the extremely long-term project that sees Agnes Meyer-Brandis training a flock of young geese to fly to the moon. The whole training started last Spring and according to her schedule, the birds will go on their first unmanned flight to the satellite in 2024
70% of chicken, the UK’s favourite meat, is currently produced in an unethical and unsustainable manner. The welfare provided in intensive farming systems is insufficient and always will be. At the Centre for Unconscious Farming, welfare is eliminated. Chickens have their brain stem separated from their neocortex and are unconscious throughout the growing period. Their homeostatic functions continue but they are oblivious.
The falling cost and increase in speed of DNA sequencing has given rise to two extreme scientific worlds: giant pharmaceutical companies who trawl the Arctic Ocean in search of potent genes that would profit them in a lucrative cancer market; and DIY biologists who try to beat the system
Japanese love hotels go out of their way to satisfy the most outlandish fetish: some rooms offer the feeling of being inside a subway carriage, a class room, or a Hello Kitty SM room, others locks you into an alien abduction nightmare (/dream).
Ai Hasegawa, second year student in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art in London, proposes to close loving couples into an even more extraordinary fantasy.
Her Extreme Environment Love Hotel simulates impossible places to go such as an earth of three hundred million years ago, or the surface of Jupiter by manipulating invisible but ever-present environmental factors, for example atmospheric conditions and gravity
“People who are comfortable with eating meat, should be equally comfortable with killing animals.”
Because he is interested in the ethics and dilemmas of eating meat, John O’Shea is looking into schemes to achieve a more compassionate meat consumption. Since 2008, the artist has been working on Meat Licence Proposal. Under this law proposal, citizens willing to buy or consume a certain type of meat would need to obtain a licence to do so first. The only way to acquire the licence is to slaughter the animal yourself
With HORTUS, the architects from ecoLogicStudio are inviting the public to become cyber-gardeners and “invent new protocols of urban biogardening.”
There’s a bright green carpet on the floor and hundreds of intravenous-style bags are suspended above our heads. The bags are in fact photo-bioreactors and they form a ‘greenhouse’ that hosts nine different species of algae, from chlorella to algae found in London’s canals. Visitors can blow into flexible plastic tubes, fostering the growth of the algae with their carbon dioxide and activating the oxygen production
Some researchers have observed that apes held in captivity watch tv programmes. Some of them are fond of the Teletubbies, others favour emergency room dramas or Disney cartoons. But is it possible to script, shoot and screen cinema just for primates? That’s what Rachel Mayeri set out to discover with her work Primate Cinema: Apes as Family
Jurema Action Plant is a machine which interfaces a sensitive plant (Mimosa Pudica). Its aim is to empower plants by enabling them to use similar technologies as humans use. It is also explores new ways of communication and co-relation between humans, living organism and a machine. Plants don’t have nerves, wires or cables but much like humans, animals and machines, they have an electrical signal traveling inside their cells
Summer is back in London and dozens of bees have now settled in the middle of Spitalfields. Real bees passersby don’t try to wave away. They are dead and hang on fishing lines as if they were caught in mid-flight inside a giant glass case, surrounded on all sides by office blocks
Ever wondered how to turn a simple webcam into a microscope, safely cultivate GFP bacteria, hack DVD burners to make your own nano and bio experiments, or how to use other cheap, easy to come by material in order to build an hydrometer (instrument to measure the relative density of a liquid), an incubator or even a bat detector? Then you should check out the DIY pages on Hackteria’s wiki or enroll in one of their workshops
To understand how mysterious jumping fish can survive in a puddle with trucks driving through it, Mateusz Herczka recreated a South American puddle in an unheated Belgian space. The huge cube of glass and metal contains a reconstruction of a puddle found in the middle of a road in Guyana, with a truck wheel rolling through it. His work is documented in an exhibition which recently opened in Antwerp
To enter garden installation EXOTE, part of Kris Verdonck – EXHIBITION #1, visitors have to wear protecting clothes. They can then walks on the bark soil between plants and parrots, just like a nature explorer. The terrestrial plants, crustraceans, insects, fish, amphibians, birds and other organisms they encounter are all “Invasive Alien Species”, they thrive outside their natural distribution area and threaten biological diversity
A few weeks ago, i was in The Netherlands to see the result of the first competition. You might remember that i had interviewed the 3 winning artists/designers just as they were about to start developing their projects (The Miscroscopic Opera, 2.6g 329m/s, aka the ‘bulletproof skin’ and System Synthetics) so i was curious to see whether the final pieces lived up to their (and my!) expectations
In a bold self-experiment aimed at blurring the boundaries between species, Marion Laval-Jeantet was injected with horse blood plasma. Over the course of several months, the artist prepared her body by gradually introducing into her bloodstream horse immunoglobulins, the glycoproteins that circulate in the blood serum, and which, for example, can function as antibodies in immune response. The artist called the process “mithridatization”, after Mithridates VI of Pontus who cultivated an immunity to poisons by regularly ingesting sub-lethal doses of the same
Shaped like flying saucers, the Nanodrizas are floating autonomous robots which measure, in real time, the environmental conditions of polluted water surfaces. The data collected is then transmitted for interpretation and analysis. Once the level and nature of pollution has been identified, the nanodrizas directly intervene by emitting synthesized sound and releasing bacterial and enzymatic remedies in the eco-system that, ultimately, should regulate the quality of the water
The project is based on two opposing inspirations; research trips to learn about intentional communities like the Amish, who carefully select technologies for their community, and an extrapolation of current scientific research which embraces technological alteration of nature. The outcome of the project is a fantastical caravan, a nomadic module of illusionary freedom, which explores our belief in technological progress
The aquatic fern azolla is one of the world’s fastest growing plants and a rich source of nutrients, yet it is virtually unexplored as food. In Super Meal I experiment with azolla-food together with farmers, chefs and scientists and try to get some insight into how we produce our food today and could be producing it in the future
So far, explaining children how babies were made involved storks, cabbages, bees and other fantasies. Science, however, has added new modes of reproductions to the discourse. From in vitro fertilization in the 1970s to today’s research into artificial gametes from stem cells or somatic cells that would allow sperm and eggs to be created from anyone’s cells, regardless of age, gender or sexuality. New Scientist called it male eggs and female sperm at the time.
How will the stories about human reproductions evolve as our methods of reproduction become increasingly more diversified?
Ready-to-use Models, a work-in-progress project developed for Alter Nature: The Unnatural Animal, attempts to question the current definitions used to indicate living creatures. Does one denominate a manipulated organism as an object, product, animal or pet? What consequences does this choice of definition entail for our perceptions, feelings and behaviours regarding living creatures?
If you want to see a penguin, you go to the zoo. If you’re curious about dinosaurs, any natural history museum will enlighten you. But what if you want to learn about spider silk-producing goats, anti-malarial mosquitoes, fluorescent zebrafish or the terminator gene? Right now, we can only rely on good old internet. But in June, the Center for PostNatural History will finally open its doors to anyone interested in genetically engineered life forms. This public outreach organization is dedicated to collecting, documenting and exhibiting life forms that have been intentionally altered by people through processes such as selective breeding or genetic engineering
For ‘Cook Me – Black Bile’, designer Tuur Van Balen used leeches and his own blood too cook a recipe for controlling the feeling of melancholy. Synthetic biology and the new interactions it can trigger within our body are proposed as a new form of cooking, guided by one’s personal metabolism
Biomedia artist Paul Vanouse’s latest work, the Suspect Inversion Center, comments on the way genetic evidence is brandished as the ultimate evidence in courtrooms. He set up an operational laboratory at the Ernst Schering Foundation in Berlin where he creates identical “genetic fingerprints” of criminals and celebrities using his own DNA