Sunday, March 06, 2011



One of the most famous BioArt works to date: The green flourescent bunny created by bioartist Eduardo Kac, revealed to the public in 2000. The bunny only flouresces when under blue light. Details of the project at GFP Bunny


The other is the work Australian performance artist  Stelarc, who implanted a cell-cultivated ear beneath the skin of his forearm.  According to ‘Stelarc apparently isn't satisfied with his newfound appendage just yet, however, and is reportedly planning another surgery to give the ear "more definition." What's more, he's also hoping to implant a microphone inside the ear that'll use a Bluetooth transmitter to, you guessed it, broadcast what it hears over the Internet.’ [This is a 2007 report so this may already have happened].

The Generalist was invited to Lighthouse in Brighton to attend a presentation of ‘Laboratory Life: An art-science production workshop and exhibition’. The five projects each involved an artist working with a small team of collaborators. The public, schoolkids and other interested parties were able to view, discuss and participate in the various projects over an eight-day period while they were being set-up, constructed and developed. A week-long exhibition of the finished work followed on. I was present for the final sum-up presentation by the project leaders.

BIOART 014Andy Gracie: The Quest for Drosophila titanus
Reappropriation of NASA space bio-science apparatus with the aim of creating astrobiological experiment chambers for Drosophila melanogaster. During the experiments flies will be exposed to aspects of the environments found on Saturn's  moon Titan, a key location in current astrobiological research. Via the post-experiment artificial selection of individual flies a breeding stock for a proposed new species will be cultured.

GENERALIST NOTES: Attempt to use selected breeding to produce fruit flies that could survive in the conditions found on Titan – in nine days ! Fruit flies I learnt are one of the most widely used laboratory animals because they breed quickly and contain 70% of the human genome. Fruit flies have been flying in space since the early 60s. Discussed the difficulties of sexing the flies and identifying the virgins.

Bruce Gilchrist: Public Misunderstandings of Science
Readings of biotech science and scientific practice will be presented in order to test the public understanding of science. Participants will invited to draw and illustrate their understandings of scientific information and protocol while listening to scientific discourse. The finished drawings will be compiled into an animated film soundtracked with the original discourse.

GENERALIST NOTES: Participants wore headphones and listened to a very dense scientific presentation, during which they were invited to scribble their visual impressions. Drew a parallel with surrealistic practices of automatic writing.  The results were combined into an ‘abstract narrative animation’. Much talk of ‘cross-over methodologies’, ‘stately terrains’ and ‘perplexity indexes’.


Kira O'Reilly: The Garden Shed lab
Garden Shed Lab encapsulates a space for tinkering, exploring and experimenting with the biological possibilities around us through a range of interlinked micro-projects. The making of simple DIY apparatus and reagents, and working with molds,
yeasts, eggs and plant tissues will form a counterpoint to the notion of the body as an implicit agent in our actions.

GENERALIST NOTES: Kira recommended employing good kitchen practices when tinkering with lab and tissue culture projects, reminding us that bacteria are the arch-enemy. Some of their projects created a giant stink when they got infected.

Adam Zaretsky: Tattoo Traits
This project examines and questions our understanding of the role of chance in the development and combination of DNA and the emergence of distinct species. Hybrid DNA extraction and accumulation processes will be followed by the adaptation of
tattoo gun with which to perform DNA tattoos. The rhetoric and dialogue which goes with these actions and ideas is central to the project.

GENERALIST NOTES: Adam came into the room via a wobbly  Skype video link-up from New York. It was a lively and amusing presentation. He talked about the DNA mash-up they created from a wide variety of living sources and how they use a tattoo gun to inject into other living things – vegetables, fruit etc. He does not recommend doing this genomic tattooing at home. He explored some of the bioethical and Health and Safety issues around this idea.

BIOART 010 Anna Dumitriu: Infective Textiles
The development of a series of textile based artworks that involve 'garage' and 'DIY' microbiological processes in their making. The microbiological processes involved in the project will reference and employ issue of antibiotics and engage discussion on emerging technologies of infection control. Locating, preparing and culturing bacteria  from the environment will be the starting point of the process.

GENERALIST NOTES: Anna’s team explored the world of bacteria and textiles, cultivating the one and infecting the other, creating a palette of colours. The Regency dress makes a link with Maria Fitzherbert, wife of George II; swabs were taken from Regency costumes in the Reserve Collection of the Brighton Museum. Variously coloured bacteria are growing on the dress

This was overall a very interesting experience. I found some of the language impenetrable and am concerned that we still feel we have to address the ridiculous ongoing barriers between science and art (so last century). But it was heartening to see the enthusiasm, humour and creativity. BioArt is an emerging field, still in its infancy, which promises to challenge our future perceptions.


BioArt is an art practice where artists work with live tissues, bacteria, living organisms, and life processes. Using scientific processes such as biotechnology (including technologies such as genetic engineering, tissue culture, and cloning) the artworks are produced in laboratories, galleries, or artist’s studios. The scope of BioArt is considered by some artists to be strictly limited to “living forms”, while other artists would include art that uses the imagery of contemporary medicine and biological research, or require that it address a controversy or blind spot posed by the very character of the life sciences. Although BioArtists work with living matter, there is some debate as to the stages at which matter can be considered to be alive or living. Creating living beings and practicing in the life sciences brings about ethical, social and aesthetic inquiry. The phrase "BioArt" was coined by Eduardo Kac in 1997 in relation to his artwork Time Capsule. Although it originated at the end of the 20th century through the works of pioneers like Joe Davis and artists at SymbioticA, BioArt started to be more widely practiced in the beginning of the 21st century.

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