The goal of this small and smart web series is to discuss the way biotechnology is changing our society: What are its political, social, and even philosophical implications? What happens when manipulating life becomes as simple as writing a line of code? And more importantly, what does this mean for average citizens and their future?
Pigeons, fungi, human cells, finches and flowers are just some of the mediums of bioart and design. These emerging fields are the source of daring experiments and thoughtful reflections about how aspects of culture, such as our concepts of identity, nature and environment are changing.
Matter of Life presents nine such research projects at the intersection of art, design and the life sciences
With ‘A simple line’, Essaïdi attempts to merge the abstract idea of a line with its most tangible reality by having a zebra finch look at its own brain cells in the form of a line
Twenty-five provocative artworks that explore the scientific, symbolic and strange nature of blood.
A range of practices which were once subsumed under terms such as media art, digital art, art and technology or art and science, have experienced such growth and diversification that no single term can work as as a label any more. Traditionally separated domains are brought together to become contextual seedbeds for ideas and practices that aim to overcome the crisis of the present and to invent new avenues for future developments
The artist has worked with media as diverse as fetal calf cells, human blood, maggots, multi-component 3D Human Skin Equivalent models or taxidermied insects. She is currently participating to Experimenta Recharge biennial of media art with an ever-changing face mask that uses Saos-2, a cell line that originally came from the bone cancer lesion of an 11 year old girl who died in 1973
Hendriks and Thomson are planning to build a fatberg the size of an oil rig. Not as a speculative design project, but as a process that will generate insights and tools that facilitate a paradigm shift through the creation of the FATBERG itself – “inspirational data” to stimulate the imagination
Revolutionary advances in genetics and molecular biology have given us new insights into how carbon based life on our planet originates and functions. In more recent years the development of synthetic biology has dramatically expanded our ability to design and modify life forms. At the same time, disruptive developments in computing technologies have led to the possibility of generating digitally-based artificial life. And outside traditional institutions, emerging DIY, bio-hacking and citizen science movements have begun to appropriate laboratory technologies, challenging ideas about the governance of the life sciences
The works exhibited include a robot that 3d prints then plants seeds made of a biopolymer created from corn (PLA), an installation that monitors and visualizes the breathing of corn and a series of corn plants connected with electrodes to record the interaction between plants and humans
On the interplay between a snail (a messy biological entity under scientific observation and the subject of experimentation) and an algorithm (dating back to 1887 and the development of tabulating machines) that sorts and orders data sets
A thrilling remake of a 1904 experiment in which live trees antennas act as antennas for radio contact. Simple and magical at the same time: the combination of nature and technology. This concept was not developed any further at the time, but now BioArt Laboratories has decided to take up the challenge again
Ivan Henriques collaborated with scientists from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to develop the prototype of an autonomous bio-machine which harvests energy from photosynthetic organisms commonly found in ponds, canals, rivers and the sea
The Symbiotic Machine uses the energy collected from micro organisms to move around in search for more photosynthetic organisms which it then collects and processes again
The Bio Art & Design Award used to be called the Designers and Artists for Genomics award but its objective remains unchanged: the award invites designers and artists interested in life sciences to propose projects that push the boundaries of research application and creative expression. Each year the three most exciting ideas are awarded a 25,000 euro grant to bring the project to life and exhibit it
The book contains 17 articles (in both English and Finnish) that report and meditate on the research, reflections and activities that took place during the scientists and artists’ stay in Kilpisjärvi, Lapland. The event was organised by Finnish Society of Bioart and offered one of the very few residences that allows people who engage with art&science to work and experiment directly in a natural environment and not exclusively in laboratories or galleries
The Living Mirror is a ‘bio-installation’ that combines magnetic bacteria with electronics and photo manipulation to create liquid, 3D portraits
For her project Ergo Sum Charlotte Jarvis donated blood, skin and urine to the stem cell research laboratory at the University of Leiden. These donations have been transformed into stem cells, which in turn have been programmed to grow into cells with different functions such as heart, brain and vascular cells.
The result is a biological self-portrait; a second self; biologically and genetically ‘Charlotte’ although also ‘alien’ to her – as these cells have never actually been inside her body
Adam Brown is a conceptual artist working with scientists to create art pieces that use robotics, molecular chemistry, living systems and emerging technologies. He recently demonstrated how bacteria can, over a period of one week, digest the toxins of gold chloride and spit out nuggets of 24-karat gold
During the show we will be talking about how she managed to get her hands on a fresh human brain but Helen will also discuss some of her broader projects such as The Body Is A Big Place, a large-scale installation that explores organ transplantation and the thresholds between life and death
In-Potentia exposes, in the most limpid and absurd way, how science is blurring what we are used to regard as clear-cut categories, such as where life begins and ends or what constitutes a person. Or in Guy Ben-Ary’s words:
What is the potential for artists employing bio-technologies to address, and modify, boundaries surrounding understandings of life, death and person-hood? And what exactly does it mean culturally, artistically, ontologically, philosophically, politically and ethically to make a living biological brain from human foreskin cells?
In this episode of #A.I.L., Adam Zarestky will be talking about what you can do with a preserved turd of William S. Burroughs but also eyeballs in armpits, ethics, biotechnological materials and ”Full Breadth Genetic Alterity
Kira is a performer whose work i’ve encountered a number of times in biotech art context. I’ve been particularly drawn to the works that address the ethics of human/animal interactions and more generally our complex relationships with animals. The most discussed of her work is probably inthewrongplaceness, an intimate performance that Kira developed on her return from a residency at SymbioticA in 2004. Realizing the similarities between the pig’s skin and her own, Kira danced skin to skin with a dead pig and invited members of the audience to touch both her own and the skin of the nonhuman animal,
A few years later, Kira presented the performance, Falling Asleep With a Pig in which she cohabited with a live pig called Deliah in a specially constructed sty
Curator and creative producer Ulla Taipale will be talking about ‘Biofilia – Base for Biological Arts’, a new a biological art unit interweaving artistic and bio-scientific explorations. The learning and research environment opened at Aalto University, Finland in January of this year and i’ve been looking forward to hearing more about Biofilia ever since
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?
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 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
“New Art/Science Affinities” was written and designed in one week by four authors (Andrea Grover, Régine Debatty, Claire Evans, and Pablo Garcia) and two designers (Thumb), using a rapid collaborative authoring process known as a “book sprint.” The topic of “New Art/Science Affinities” is contemporary artists working at the intersection of art, science, and technology, with explorations into maker culture, hacking, artist research, distributed creativity, and technological and speculative design
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
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
Thirty years ago, a peg-legged motorcycle mechanic walked into the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT. They had not returned his calls. The police were summoned. Forty-five minutes later he walked out with an academic appointment. Since then Joe Davis has sent vaginal contractions into space to communicate with aliens, encoded poetry into DNA, and designed a sculpture to save the world
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
The exhibition looks at the sub-aspect of fauna and flora in nature. Through the works of some twenty international artists we explore how humankind manipulates nature and how the concept of ‘nature’ constantly changes as a result of this
Last Saturday i finally dragged myself out of the armchair and visited the ‘Park of Living Art’ in Turin. Although the ‘interactive’ displays i saw in some of the rooms were appalling, I’ll be forever grateful to the place for bringing to Turin exciting artists: Michel Blazy, Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna and now Brandon Ballengee
A global overview of the ways in which contemporary artists are drawing on kinetics, biology, robotics and information technologies to explore new forms of creative expression
Vegetation and microorganisms live symbiotically inside the body of this robot. The robot draws water from a contaminated river, decomposes its elements, helps to create energy to feed its brain circuits and the surplus is then used to create life, enabling plants to fulfill their own life cycle