Saturday, May 7, 2016

Unit 6: BioTech + Art

The altering of biological systems, like genomes, living cells, and tissues, is central to biotechnology research. Looking at and studying DNA codes and biological systems at a cellular level allows scientists to generate great things, such as creating new lives, and saving others. It is no secret that artists have always been fascinated by nature, and this week we learn about how strongly artists are bound to biotechnology. Artists are aware of the endless possibilities genomes hold, using them to create powerful works of art. Although the topic of BioArt is highly controversial and has many pros and cons, it sheds light on the ethical and social issues that sometimes go unnoticed in both fields separately. 

(Representation of BioArt; Eduardo Kac's Genesis project which allows viewers to create bacteria mutations.)

Joe Davis is considered the pioneer of BioArt, believing that genes and genomes were a new palette for artists. Davis was able to convince scientists to teach him how to synthesize DNA, and how to interest it into living bacteria. Many of his artistic pieces were comprised of experimenting with sound and cell structures, such as the Audio Microscope that translates light into sound, and another project where he assessed how Jazz music effects e-coli. Davis has used the limitless potentials that genomes have in order to create powerful pieces that truly are living art. 

(Joe Davis, the pioneer of BioArt, in the lab.)

Although BioArt was first anticipated by Joe Davis, it was officially created by the group SymbioticA. Partners Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr formed the Tissue Culture & Art Project, which created a place for artists to engage in science labs and experiments. SymbioticA's Tissue Culture & Art Project focuses on tissue engineering, which is demonstrated in their quite amazing project, the Semi-living Worry Dolls. These dolls were modeled after the Guatemalan worry dolls; at bedtime, children took one doll for each of their worries, shared their worries with the dolls, and then the dolls solved their problems. The Semi-living Worry Dolls represent the present stage of "cultural limbo", which is characterized by childlike innocence and a blend of fear and wonder of technology.  This project investigates the relationships we have with life and non-life, by creating something that is "semi-living."

(The Semi-living Worry Dolls.)

Cohen, Hal. "Eduardo Kac's Genesis project." Photograph. The Scientist. The Scientist, 11 Nov. 2002. Web. 7 May. 2016. <> 

Lornalab. Joe Davis. Digital image. 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 7 May. 2016. < 1122/> 

McKenna, Phil. "Joe Davis: The mad scientist of MIT." NewScientist. NewScientist, 23 Mar. 2012. Web. 7 May. 2016. 

"Synth-ethic: Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition - Vienna, Australia." Biofaction. Synthethic Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition RSS, 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 7 May. 2016. <> 

"SymbioticA." SymbioticA. The University of Western Australia, 6 May. 2016. Web. 7 May. 2016. 

Vesna, Victoria. "5 BioArt pt1." Cole UC online. YouTube, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 7 May. 2016. 

Vesna, Victoria. "5 BioArt pt2." Cole US online. YouTube, 17 May. 2012. Web. 7 May. 2016. 

Wikipedia contributors. "Biotechnology." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 Apr. 2016. Web. 7 May. 2016. 


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  2. Hi Ashley, I really enjoyed reading your post and liked the photos you used! Both biology and technology have been a disputable concept to many. I believe its a turning point to a new innovative time, making our society more advanced and at it's highest advantage.