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Hybridizations.

Roles and opportunities of artists and designers in the context of biotechnology.

Vanessa / Lorenzo Toquero Master Thesis I (théorique) Tuteur: Nicolas / Nova

Haute école d’art et de design – Genève Master HES-SO en Design, orientation Media Design Février 2015

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Hybridizations: roles and opportunities of artists and designers in the context of

biotechnology.

#Design #Art #biology #biotechnology #transdisciplinarity #technosciences #life

#hack #speculative #futures

Hy1

Hybrid practices --> page. 5

Sh2

Shedding light --> page. 7

Li3

Life Matters: The origins of knowledge. --> page. 10

Fi4

Filling the gap: from digital media to biomedia. --> page. 12

Ra5

Radical, critical and biological --> page. 17

Ma6

Manufacturing life --> page. 21

Un7

(Un) necessary research? --> page. 34

Op8

Open science and biohacking --> page. 48

Co9

Conclusion --> page. 52

Ac10

Acknowledgements --> page. 54

Bi11

Bibliography --> page. 65

An12 Conversation pieces in Annexe. --> page. 70

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Hy1

Hybrid practices

Artists and designers get often involved in collaborative processes with scientists,

anthropologists, computer software specialists, photographers, dancers, actors, phi-

losophers, physicians, technicians, and writers. This unorthodox practice is often

successful and can lead to results by chance, achieving recognition outside of the traditional scientific method1.

The reason why I investigate hybridizations or hybrid practices between biology,

art and design is because I am witnessing deep changes in the palette of tools and

media that are, since few decades, accessible to artists and designers. Importantly, I

would like to clarify that hybrid interactions are not related to a specific community or organization but to a transdisciplinary research and philosophy that is emerging in a specific and contemporary sociocultural context. NBIC (Nano, Bio, Info, Cognitive)

technologies are merging2 at the same speed as citizen science is revolutionizing the

way we generate knowledge and how we bestow information with authority, building

1 ANKER, Suzanne, 2014. “ The beginnings and the ends of Bio Art”» Artlink » vol 34 no 3, 2014. (Consulted on January 2016) http://www.suzanneanker.com/wp-content/uploads/2014-The-beginnings-and-the-ends-of-Bio-Art-Bio-Art-Life-in-theAnthropocene-Artlink-Magazine.pdf 2 ROCO, Mihail C. and SIMS BAINBRIDGE, Williams, 2001. “Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: Integrating From the Nanoscale.” (online) Kluwer Academic Publishers (currently Springer). (Consulted on September, 2015) http://www.wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/Report/NBIC_report.pdf 3 AUSTEN, Kate, 2015. “Designing for embodied understanding of complexity in citizen science” at Katausten, Wordpress, 30/11/2015. (Consulted on December 2015) https://katausten.wordpress. com/2015/11/30/designing-for-embodied-understanding-of-complexity-in-citizen-science/ 4 SCOTT, Lash, 1999. “Objects that Judge: Latour’s Parliament of Things” (online) EIPCP, European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies. (Consulted November 2015) http://eipcp.net/transversal/0107/lash/en/#_ftn1

on ideas around the search for truth in science, trust and expertise3.

What are hybrid practices and what are they needed for? In We Have Never Been

Modern (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993) Bruno Latour argues that “modernity” was never any more than an ideology that affected how we classified and sorted things4. He explains that this modern dualism, witnesses the proliferation of

quasi - objects or hybrids, such as gene technologies, thinking machines and ozone layers, that totally violate their own categories. Additionally, they have become so omnipresent that we can no longer deny their existence.

From this argument, I assume that this quasi - objects or hybrid objects are meant

to be approached with hybrid practices from a wider cultural context. As Dann Fried-

man said in his book Radical Modernism, designers should avoid a hyper - specialisation and see their work as a larger aspect of a cultural whole5.

5 FRIEDMANN, Dann, 1994. “Radical Modernism” New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

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“Disciplinarity: Individuals demonstrate understanding of one set of conceptions

and one methodological approach and contribute new research in this field. (…)

Trandisciplinarity: Individuals demonstrate at least two disciplinary competences,

neither of which is primary. They work in and contribute to both and generate unique

conceptions and artifacts as a result odd an emergent transdisciplinary perspective.

They are able to communicate with individuals from a variety of disciplines in a synoptic manner. (…)

Unsdisciplinarity: Practice shifts from being “discipline - based” to “issue or pro-

ject-based”. “Undisciplined” research straddles the ground and relationships between different idioms of distinct disciplinary practices. Here a multitude of disciplines

“engages in a pile - up of jumbled ideas and perspectives” Undisciplinarity is as much a way of doing work as it is a departure from ways of doing work”. It is an approach

to creating and circulating culture that can go it’s own without worrying about what

histories of disciplines say is “proper” work. In other words, it is “undisciplined.”6 -

Azimuts 40 -41, La revue de recherches en design. Un panorama - École des beaux-

arts de Saint-Etienne

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6 AZIMUTS 40-41, 2014. “La revue de rechercher en design. Un panorama.” École des beauxarts de Saint-Etienne, September 2014, page. 180.


Sh2

7 PETRIČ, 8/12/2015. See

Špela. interview

Interview transcript,

Skype Annex.

8 NITGEN, Anne, 2005. “Blurred Disciplines: Expressive Software” in “aRt&D: Research and Development in Art.” V2_Institute for the Unstable Media, Edited by Joke Brouwer, Arjen Mulder and Anne Nigten, 2005.

Shedding light

My research aims at spotting opportunities and strategies bringing art and design

into this hybrid context between art and science, specially biology and biotechnology.

Which are the strategies of artists and designers to approach the influence of latest biotechnological developments in contemporary societies? Which problems do they

face when working in a transdisciplinary project? How do they influence the understanding of the complexity of our environment? Which are the restrictions, difficulties or security issues that arise from these practices? While working with scientists,

artists and engineers in the same project, what is the final contribution from one to another?

In the case of transdisciplinary projects between engineers and artists, “aRt&D:

Research and Development in Art” provides an insight in the art practice where artists write about their personal experiences. In the essay named “Blurred Disciplines:

Expressive Software”, Anne Nitgen sheds light into some issues and consequences

of bringing people from different disciplines (mainly engineering and art) together. While working together some artist are not interest in obtaining technology skills so, they depend on technicians. Often the artists that get involved in this projects

are functional in two disciplines, thus, they are “multitask”. Commonly they have an engineering background or self-taught. Likewise, I witnessed similarities with artists working with scientists, who are often trained as biologists or have a background in life sciences7.

One of the main differences between those two mind-sets is that the artist is a prob-

lem - creator as the engineer is problem – solvers8. Their problem - solving approach

led them to have difficulties to understand the art concept because of its vagueness

and unpredictability. So, artists have to re-formulate it into a problem (need). Linguistic obstacles may also happen in interdisciplinary collaboration due to, for example,

terminological confusion or problems expressing each other’s ideas. One of the pos-

sible causes is that the writing style differs: the narrow, literal language of science avoids misinterpretation while the artistic method is more holistic, open and can be

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taken in a broader sense9. Another obstacle regarding communication is the terminology technological lev-

el (programming): they express differences between visual culture (more related to

artist) and worlds of programming (more related to engineers). For instance, a con-

venient consequence of artists and scientist working together is the more visual and comprehensible tools like Max Msp, Pure Data (PD) and Processing, which are often

open source (PD and Processing) allowing artist to gain control on their artwork,

making possible art to become something understandable instead of a black box. This half - technological and transdisciplinarity promotes a “bricolage� approach10.

However, even though hybridizations between art, design and science might face

similar situations in terms of mutual understanding, we may enter a wider problematic as fundamental concepts of life are often questioned; especially in biotechnology.

Accordingly, to spell out these inquiries, I first investigate the origins of knowledge

and how we shaped the world with it. I also analyse the dissemination of disciplines since Modernism and how, in the past decades, a will of transdisciplinarity aroused throughout the US and Europe preparing the ground for the pioneering of bioart with artists like Joe Davis. Also in an in-between chapter named Radical, Critical, Biological, I briefly mark the common thread from radical design, critical art and specula-

tive design with bioart and biotechnological art spotting some similarities between them. Besides in Manufacturing life, I pick up the thread of the bioart pioneering to analyse how designers and artists approached biotechnology from a critical or speculative angles. The meaning of research in art and design is evaluated in the chapter Unnecessary research?.

The emergence of a hacker philosophy in biology attracted multiple disciplines and

academic institutions like MIT or Harvard. Moreover, in the chapter Open Science

and Biohacking different controversial projects are reviewed in terms of applicability,

security and access. Furthermore, in Conversation Pieces, I interviewed profession-

als in the field of art, life sciences and design with experience in transdisciplinarity.

Along the way, I also visited exhibitions and workshops at the crossroads of art and

science like Ars Electronica in Linz, Grounded Visions at ETH Zurich or The Hydra Project organized by Hackteria. Finally, I organized an international virtual (online)

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round table at the Hackuarium bio hackerspace in Renens (Switzerland) with the international biohacker, bioartist and scientific community:

Hackuarium Hackteria

Taiwan Bioart Community La Paillasse Sa么ne

All the transcriptions of the virtual round table, the notes and interviews are at-

tached in the Annex. Moreover, the synthesis of the different interviews is included

along the document to help justify my approach to analyse hybridizations or to endorse the information given.

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Li6

Life Matters: The origins of knowledge.

«To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught

us that our earth isn’t the centre of the universe but merely one of billions of heav-

enly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along millions of other species.»11 – The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. Jared Diamond. Page.1.

After millions of years of evolution, curiosity and the will to survive, we have ac-

quired intellectual skills that have allowed us to make the most thrilling discoveries

in the history of mankind. Despite this scientific progress, these discoveries have been intrinsically related to technology,

However, technology is not neutral and should be watched closely. In his book

“The question concerning technology,” Heidegger reclaims that we are delivered over

to it when we assume that it is something neutral. The more we master technology, the more technology threatens to slip from human control12. So, we should question technology in order to have a free relationship with it.

In the broadest sense, technology extends our capacities to change the world: to

cut, shape, or assemble materials. Matter or material13 is a cause of technology and

humanity has a vast tradition to adopt as well as adapt new ones to create, experiment

and build things: from metal to plastic polymer in the 20th Century, from steel alloys in the Industrial Revolution to semi-conductors and chips developed in the age of Information Technologies. Furthermore, with the development of biosciences there is a very different and more diverse palette available to play with: living matter . 14

The merging of NBIC (Nano, Bio, Info, Cognitive) technologies has contributed to

this by promising the perfection of the human body at different levels and developing

techniques to reproduce parts of it. In addition, our contemporary society is absorb-

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11 DIAMOND, Jared, 1987. "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race"Discovery Magazine, May 1987. (Online) Availble at: http://discovermagazine.com/1987/may/02-the-worst-mistake-in-the-history-of-the-human-race 12 Ibid 13 HEIDEGGER, Martin, 1977. “The Question concerning Technology”, in “The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays”, trans. William Lovitt, New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1977, pp 3-35. 14 ELFICK, Alistair and ENDY, Drew, 2012. “Synthetic Biology, What is it and why it matters”, in “Synthetic Aesthetics”, MIT Press, 2012, page 9.


ing traditional trans-humanist representations of the human body as informational, obsolete and perfectible15 and has become more permeable to such things as chirurgical operations for aesthetic purposes, organ transplantations, genetic modifications

and self – quantification16 (gene as code, sensors, etc).Furthermore, just as today’s

engineers design integrated circuits based on the known physical properties of ma-

terials and use them to create electronic devices, the revolution of synthetic biology

has conceived a variety of raw materials and components for electronic devices that « could lead to improved human health, a safer food supply, and a cleaner, more abundant supply of energy. »17. All this helps introducing living matter as an acceptable material to create with.

By manipulating living matter, scientists question the fundamental concept of life.

Production of living and semi living entities radically forces us to revise the way we conceptualize biological matter and by extension, some ideologies such as the body concept as a Universal neutral object formed in the Enlightenment18.

Moreover, this process, often imperceptible, takes place in a hermetic atmosphere

inside the laboratory; And thus, « there is certain measure of mistrust and even fear of science and technology (S&T). Some is based on public experience, but much is the

consequence of a significant communications gap between scientists and society. »19

Therefore, it is not surprising that problems of accepting and understanding emerge, although other serious aspects should be considered.

16 ROBITAILLE, Michelle, 2008. “Culture du corps et technosciences: vers une «miseàniveau» technique del humain?”, Université de Montréal, Département de sociologie Faculté des arts et des sciences, (Consulted October 2015) Available at: https://papyrus.bib.umontreal.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1866/2824/Michele_Robitaille.pdf 17 “Programming Life: The Revolutionary Potential of Synthetic Biology” Stanley Hall Auditorium, University of California at Berkeley. Berkeley, CA. Discover Magazine, March 25, 2013. (Consulted January 2016) Available at: http://discovermagazine.com/events/programming-life 18 DAUBNER, Ernestine, 1997. “Quelques cultures de bioart sous le microscope” in “Bioart: Transformations du vivant” Ernestin Daubner and Louise Poissant. Collection Esthetique, Presse de l’Université du Quebec, 1997. 19 “The Role of Science and Technology in Society and Governance”in “Toward a New Contract between Science and Society” Kananaskis Village, Alberta (Canada), 1-3 November, 1998. Report of the North American Meeting held in advance of the World Conference on Science. (Consulted September 2015) Available at: http://www.unesco.org/ science/wcs/meetings/eur_alberta_98_e.htm

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Fi3 Filling the gap

In 1959 for one of his most influential lectures called “The Two Cultures and the

Scientific Revolution,” the physicist and novelist C.P. Snow stated that Science and Humanities could not manage to find a way to communicate. His argument was that the breakdown of communication between the sciences and humanities and lack of interdisciplinarity are the main difficulties when solving global issues20.

This gap between science and arts was something that the founders of Experiments

in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) Billy Klüver, Fred Waldhauer, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman21 tried to fill in 1966. They realized that the emerging hardware

technologies used in communications led to a new generation of software that was of great interest to artists and that they could contribute significantly to the evolution of

technology. By doing this, the E.A.T. extended the artists’ activities into new areas of society. They seek to create awareness and a sense of responsibility in a climate for the recognition of the new technology and the arts22.

“Maintain a constructive climate for the recognition of the new technology and the

arts by a civilized collaboration between groups unrealistically developing isolation.

Eliminate the separation of the individual from technological change and expand and

enrich technology to give the individual variety, pleasure and avenues for exploration and involvement in contemporary life. Encourage industrial initiative in generating original forethought , instead of a compromise in aftermath, and precipitate a mutual

agreement in order to avoid the waste of a cultural revolution”23. Manifesto by Robert Rauschenberg & Billy Klüver for E.A.T. in 1967. z

In the 20th of July, 1969, NASA put the first human on the Moon and the world

watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing like rock stars thanks to the APOLLO TV. At the same time in the US, mixed emotions arose about technology

as the war machine was accelerating. Artists wanted to contribute to redirect the development of technology and transdisciplinary practices between art and science began to have negative connotations during the intensification of the Vietnam War24.

Moreover, the cost of technological tools at that time was high and their access

restricted. David Hockney using a Quantel paintbox for a BBC special in 1989 and

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20 SNOW, C.P., 1998. “The two cultures and scientific revolution”, The REDE Lecture 1959, CambridgeUniversity Press, New York, 1961. (Online) (Consulted September 2015) Available at: http:// sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/students/envs_5110/ snow_1959.pdf 21 KLUVER, Billy, 2000. E.A.T. Archive of published documents, 2000. FDL for Art, Science, and Technology. (Online) (Consulted Novermber 2015) Availble at: http://www.fondation-langlois.org/ html/e/page.php?NumPage=306 22 Ibid 23 Manifesto by RAUSCHENBERG, Robert and KLUVER, Billy, for E.A.T., 1967. (Online) (Consulted November 2015) Available at: http://www.vasulka. org/archive/Writings/EAT.pdf 24 COLLINS, Anne, 2015. “Hybrid Practices Keynote: Anne Collins Goodyear” - YouTube, Online, 11 May, 2015. (Consulted December 2015) Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVxIi8aMDQs


Image3. Carl Sagan, holding engraved plaquesfor extra-terrestrial communication, 1974. Source: www.gizmodo.com

Image4. Poetica Vaginal, Joe Davis 1986 2000.Image Source: Unknown.

Image1. Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1997. A good example of what we could name as a <<hack art>>.

Image5. Joe Davis, »Microvenus«, 1986 Fotography : Joe Davis. Source : http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/werke/microvenus/

Image2. Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments, Part 2 of The Invisible Photograph. Source: Carnegie Museum of Art,

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Andy Warhol painting Deborah Harry with a Commodore Amiga in 1985 were rare enough occurrences to justify media coverage25.Despite the difficulties, the phenome-

non of transdisciplinary has echoed to some extent what we call New Digital Art and “Art Hacking” because it also helped to make digital tools accessible and customiza-

ble by artists and creators26 By doing so, the artist becomes an actor and observer of

the space between the production and consumption of technology27.

Almost at the same time as E.A.T. started in the 1967, the MIT inaugurated the

Centre for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) in which Joe Davis developed part of his career as a bioartist. Davis, who is a good example to introduce the merge of science,

technology and art, had been working on extra-terrestrial communication with such projects as Vaginal Contractions in 1986. Davis was concerned with Carl Sagan and

Frank Drake’s omission of female genitalia from the images included in the famous Arecibo message (a signal beamed toward the Great Cluster in 1974, and the Pioneer and Voyager plaques)28.

In return, he organized the artistic project Poetica Vaginal to transmit vaginal con-

tractions into space to communicate with extra-terrestrial intelligence. He involved artists, mechanical and electrical engineers, biologists, astronomers, professional

dancers, architects, linguists and philosophers to translate data collected from female volunteers with a “vaginal detector”: a water-filled polyallomer centrifuge tube

mounted on a hard nylon base that contained a very sensitive pressure transducer29.

Later on, he translated data into music patterns with the help of music software. When emitting extra-terrestrial messages in this form, he was emitting a message to the whole humanity too: he created awareness on how permeable the technology was, to the cultural values, beliefs and taboos at that time.

25 DEBATTY Régine, EVANS Claire L., GARCIA Pablo, GROVER Andrea, 2012, “Programme or be programmed” at “New Art/Science Affinitties”, Published by Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University + CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, 2012. 26 Ibid

Later on, he decided to create Microvenus, a model bacterial carrier of human

intellectual information in the shape of female genitalia. The message was translated

into a code in the form of two-dimensional numerical array with the aid of molecular geneticist Dana Boyd. Then it was sequenced and introduced into bacteria, by Shun-

gaung Zhang and Lockshin at Alexander Rich’s Laboratory at MIT, becoming the first experiment that used genes to code and transmit a cultural message30.

After Joe Davis’ work there was a whole generation of artists that worked in the

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27 Manifesto by CRITICAL ENGINEERING (Online) (Consulted November 2015) Available at: https://criticalengineering.org/en 28 DAVIS, Joe, 2010, “Monsters, maps, signals and codes” (Consulted September 2015) Available at: http://biomediale.ncca-kaliningrad. ru/?author=davis 29

Ibid

30 KAC, Edouardo, 2007. “Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond.” Cambridge: MIT Press/Leonardo Books.


brand new field called Bioart. Bio artists started to highlight the impact that many ethical, ecological, socio-political and cultural issues might have in the future on

society, also exhibiting mutations in binary thought patterns in the realm of genetics and cell cultures31.

In 2001, Kac posed a question with The Eigth Day that would mix up cybernet-

ics with biobots (biological robots): what would it be like if genetically modified

organisms would in fact coexist with biological robots? For that purpose, he built an aquarium that hosted a colony of fluorescent creatures developed in isolation in

laboratories. He also introduced a biobot containing a brain controlled with transgenic amoebas. When amoebas divide the biobot exhibits dynamic behavior inside

the enclosed environment. The biobot would, thus, cohabitate with the other species.

More, it would function as the avatar of Web participants who were controlling its audiovisual system with a pan-tilt actuator32.

In 2011, Joe Davis invented Bacterial Radio, a safe and pollution-free communica-

tion alternative to environmentally threatening practices. Based on a sort of Crystal

Radio, circuits were substituted with transgenic bacteria, cloned with variants of gene from marine sponges (Tethya aurantia) to chelate electronic circuits on growth media. Bacterial Radio signifies the artistic use of these materials to render music, voice

and intellectual content off the air while applying biological principals to electronic 31 DAUBNER, Ernestine, 1997. “Quelques cultures de bioart sous le microscope” in “Bioart: Transformations du vivant” Ernestin Daubner and Louise Poissant. Collection Esthetique, Presse de l’Université du Quebec, 1997. 32

Ibid

33 DAVIS, Joe, “Bacterial Radio” in “Synth-ethic: Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition”, Biofaction, Vienna, Austria. (Online) Available at: http://www.biofaction.com/synth-ethic/?p=44

engineering, instead of vice versa33.

Despite this pioneer achievement at the crossroads of biotechnology and art, artists

were often regarded as amateur scientist34 instead of artists researching new expres-

sive medium for his artistic practice. However, even the most technological artwork

has its roots in Art History. All art that uses biotechnological processes highlights the authenticity of the subject, process or system. Thus it quickly unveils an underlying mediatisation and technological constructivism that is cryptically revealed.

33 Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition”, Biofaction, Vienna, Austria. (Online) Available at: http://www.biofaction.com/synth-ethic/?p=44 34 ANKER, Suzanne, 2014. “ The beginnings and the ends of Bio Art”» Artlink » vol 34 no 3, 2014. (Consulted on January 2016) Disponilble a la adresse: http://www.suzanneanker.com/wp-content/uploads/2014-The-beginnings-and-the-endsof-Bio-Art-Bio-Art-Life-in-the-Anthropocene-Artlink-Magazine.pdf

Bioart does not intend that the art to become the organism but to integrate com-

pletely the biological medium as an esthetical language. The advantage of using biomedia is the degree of the non-fictious believability, hyperrealism and truthfulness

of their status as real biological entities. Furthermore, they use two well-established mechanisms: illusionism, that simulates an authentic presence and indexical signs,

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were cultural products obey sign modalities i.e.: smoke indexical sign of fire35.

The use of biotechnologies as media can overlap or link to other media. They are

often unstable, unlike monomedias radio or video, and they resemble digital media.

Biomedia goes beyond the digital age’s dominant understanding of media function of “transmit, store and process information” and includes biological functions like “self repair, evolve, adapt and add36.”

35 HAUSER, Jens, 2009. “Remediating Still Life, Pencils of Nature, and Fingerprints: Transhistorical Perspectives on Biotechnological Art” 36 Ibid

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Ra4

Radical, critical and biological

Whereas bioart does not look towards industry or economic models, bio design is

intricately connected to product development. However, bioart would include work

that addresses the social and ethical considerations of the biological sciences and has many crossovers with fields such as critical design.

Design as critique has existed before under several guises. Italian Radical Design

of the 1970s by Alchimia and Memphis was highly critical of prevailing social values

and design ideologies; critical design builds on this attitude and extends it into today’s world37.

Dutch conceptual design followed in 1990 and British Critical Design introduces

us on the contemporary scene38 with design concepts such as Faraday Chair (Dunne

& Raby, 1999), a chair one can retreat to, to protect oneself from emissions, in a

similar way as the Faraday cage protected the aforementioned pioneer from electrical fields. They started a reflexive speculative design at the intersection of science, technology, art and design that does not provide solutions but wants to challenge

quick assumptions about the role of products in everyday life. A design that is not affirmative but critical to the requirements of the systems of power39 37 DAUTREY, Jehanne and Quinz, Emanuele, 2014. “Strange Design: du design des objets au design des comportements”. It :éditions, 2014. 38 DUNNE, Anthony and RABY, Fiona, 2013. “Speculative Everything, Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming”. The MIT Press, December 2013.

Today the technologies that artists and designers have access to are much more ad-

vanced and accessible than those in the 1960’s. The do-it-yourself (DIY) movement

started a that time, the hype of transdisciplinary projects, the hacker philosophy and the late emergence of Open Source hardware and software like Arduino40, Processing41 or OpenFrameworks42 in the 2000’s, have helped shifting from a sealed techno-

39 Ibid 40

Arduino https://www.arduino.cc/

41

Processing https://processing.org/

42 OpenFrameworks http://openframeworks.cc/

logical industry to an emancipation from unidirectional technological consumption.

Machines and technological gadgets are part of an endless production and con-

sumption loop determined by its niche markets and legal, moral and political restric-

tions. Moreover, they are increasingly advanced, complex, invasive and enclosed. The

17


Image 6. Faraday Chair (1999), Dunne & Raby. Example of Critical Design.

Image 7. Do Hit Chair (2000) by Droog.

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current extent of capitalism and “dot.com” subsumes its aesthetic and utility under

the brand and in the same way as the perversion of this loop have infiltrated objects,

their lack of transparency and lack of creation freedom are transferred to the users (consumers) by extension. Furthermore, machines that use technologies determined by private corporations transfer those technologies to the users causing controlled behaviours 43.

Besides, those machines are nowadays widely interconnected in the cyberspace

where the information is networked with greater opacity and thus control44. This re-

lates to the art activists like Critical Engineering. Even though they work in the realm of engineering rather than design, away from the speculative design of Dunne and

Raby, they also use open tools to build objects in a context of contemporary (mainly western) societal impositions of mass surveillance and lack of transparency. They

consider “any technology depended upon to be both a challenge and a threat. The greater the dependence on a technology the greater the need to study and expose its inner workings, regardless of ownership or legal provision” 45.

For that purpose, they developed Transparency Grenade (2014), equipped with a

tiny computer, microphone and powerful wireless antenna, which captures network

traffic and audio at the site and securely and anonymously streams it to a dedicated server where it is mined for information. All instructions to build and code the object/ Image 8. Transparency Grenade, an Open source tool for hacking networks, by Julian Oliver. Photo by Khuong Bismuth, 2014

machine are published under Creative Commons license so whether trusted employee, civil servant or concerned citizen, greater openness is at a hand46.

43 FOSTER, Hal, 2002. “Design and Crime (And Other Diatribes)”, Verso, 2002. 44 Manifesto by CRITICAL ENGINEERING (Online) (Consulted November 2015) Available at: https://criticalengineering.org/en 45 Ibid

The same anxieties surrounding cybernetics are now in the field of biotechnology,

On the one hand, the rapid rate at which technological progress is being reported,

makes it nearly impossible to digest the implications of biotechnology on life, society

and culture in order to provide assistance when it comes to questions regarding the free will or the ontological status of man, nature and life47.

46 “Tranparency Granade”, CRITICAL ENGINEERING, http://transparencygrenade.com/ 47 “Dialogues on Bioart, a conversation with Jens Hauser”, Digicult, 17th August 2015. (Online) (Consulted September 2015) Available at: http://www.digicult .it/news/dialogues-on-bioart-1-a-conversation-with-jens-hauser/

“Now that we can begin re-engineering ourselves, we mistakenly think of the new

technological manipulation as a creative act, when in reality it is merely a set of choices created in a laboratory and purchased in the marketplace. The biotech revolution is the ultimate consumer playground…the new genetic technologies grant us

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a godlike power to select the biological futures of the many beings who come after

us .” - Jeremy Rifkin, 14 January 2003 “Dazzled by the science”, The Guardian 48

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2003/jan/14/highereducation.uk

This brings critical design to a new broader field and, as I explain in the next chap-

ter, a new generation of scientists, artist and designers are breaking open the study of

biology with the same countercultural convictions that led those ones to hack the first

computers. Some of these agents are organizing to create public awareness of how genomic information, produced by bioinformatics, gets used.

.

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48 “Dazzled by the science”, RIFKIN, Jeremy, 14 January 2003, The Guardian. Online (Consulted December 2015). Available at: http://www. theguardian.com/education/2003/jan/14/highereducation.uk


Ma4

Manufacturing life

In 1895, as H. G. Wells wrote in his essay “Limits of Individual Plasticity”, that the

body could be regarded in near future societies as a malleable entity to work with:

« We overlook only too often the fact that a living being may also be re-

garded as a raw material,

as something plastic, something that may be shaped

and altered » – H.G. Wells “The Limits of 49

Individual Plasticity”

Reasonably, there is an urge for the society to envisage and reflect on life as the

new frontier of exploitation, from human enhancement, through “in vitro” flesh, to mass bio manufacturing 50.

In the book Synthetic Aesthetics Oron Catts argues that refusing to enter the field

of biotechnology in order to return into a romantic past in which we all lived in har49 Wells, Herbert George (1975). H.G. Wells: Early Writings in Science and Science Fiction. California: University of California Press. p. 249. 50 CATTS, Oron, 2012. “Synthetic Biology, What is it and why it matters”, in “Synthetic Aesthetics”, page 27. MIT Press, 2012. 51 Ibid 52 “Tissue Culture & Art Project” http:// tcaproject.org 53 Ibid 54 KARAFYLLIS, Nicole C., “Endogenous Design of Biofacts: Tissues and Networks in Bio Art and Life Science,” in sk-interfaces: Exploding Borders—Creating Membranes in Art, Technology and Society, ed. Jens Hauser (Liverpool: FACT/Liverpool University Press, 2008). 55 “Synth-ethic: Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition”, Biofaction Exhibition, Vienna, Austria. Online, available at: http://www.biofaction. com/synth-ethic/?p=37

mony with nature is an ineffective strategy. At the same time, entering the hype of the field to serve, even against one’s will, as propaganda is also questionable51.

The Tissue Culture & Art Project was initiated in 1996 by duo Oran Catts and Ion-

at Zurr to explore the use of tissue technologies as a medium for artistic expression.

They investigated their relationships with the different gradients of life through the construction/growth of a new class of object/being – that of the Semi-Living52.

They developed a series of pseudo - utilitarian works that competed the first in-lab

meat for consumption. Victimless Leather: a prototype of a Stich-less Jacket Grown

in a Technoscientific “Body” (2004) was one of the works included in Tissue Culture & Art Project53. The “Stich-less Jacket” was biotechnologically mediated matter

made out of biodegradable polymer and bone cells. It was placed strategically into custom-built techno-scientific glassware body, which allowed them to continue growing during the exhibition. The whole work Victimless Leather is an artistic ex

21


22


ample of biofact, a term coined by the philosopher Nicole Karafyllis that describes

a neologism that fuses the artifact and bios. A biofact requires the “trick, applied 54 KARAFYLLIS, Nicole C., “Endogenous Design of Biofacts: Tissues and Networks in Bio Art and Life Science,” in sk-interfaces: Exploding Borders—Creating Membranes in Art, Technology and Society, ed. Jens Hauser (Liverpool: FACT/Liverpool University Press, 2008).

55 “Synth-ethic: Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition”, Biofaction Exhibition, Vienna, Austria. Online, available at: http://www.biofaction. com/synth-ethic/?p=37

56 SHELLEY, Mary Wollstonecraft, “Frankenstein” or,” the Modern Prometheus”, 1818. The Online Literature http://literature.org/authors/shelley-mary/frankenstein/

57 “PIG 050409” MEINDERTSMA, Christian, http://www.christienmeindertsma.com/index.php?/books/pig-05049/

across the fields of science, of allowing living material to grow as natural material, although it is considered technology and is cultivated for specific purposes.” 54

Another of the projects they decided to develop was called Semi-Living Worry

Dolls, tissue-engineered sculptures inspired by the Guatemalan worry dolls that are

given to children to speak up their problems. This artwork illustrates the anxieties brought about by corporate biotechnology and eugenics55.

Throughout the exhibition, the living cells grow to create doll-like fleshy struc-

tures. A curious situation happens at the end of the exhibition. As they cannot take

them back, visitors are asked whether they should be buried or not, activating a debate about whether the same moral values should be applied to a semi living being.

Also, culturally related myths and narratives such as Frankenstein by Mary Shel-

ley, 1818 echoes this project. It acts as a warning against the human will to become Image9. (left)Victimless leather, 2004. Source: http://www.tca.uwa.edu.au/vl/images.html

omnipotent. The text (which is considered the first science fiction genre text) explores topics such as scientific morality, the creation and destruction of life and courage of

humanity in their relationship with God. Hence, the subtitle of the work: the pro-

tagonist tries to compete in power with God, as a sort of modern Prometheus who snatches the sacred fire of life to divinity56.

Some of those fantasies are now a reality when it comes to food. Frankenstein was

made out of parts of other human beings, which seemed an horrific representation of what humans actually do with animals.

In PIG 05049 Christien Meindertsma has tracked for 3 years all the products made

from a single pig. After it’s death, Pig number 05049 was shipped in parts throughout the world. he intentionally “cuts and pastes” images of the animal to introduce us to

a list of products made out of it. Some products remain close to their original form Image10 Front page of Classic Comincs. Source Wikicommons: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Frankenstein_o_el_moderno_Prometeo#/media/ File:CC_No_26_Frankenstein_2.JPG

and function while others diverge dramatically: Ammunition, medicine, photo paper,

heart valves, brakes, chewing gum, porcelain, cosmetics, cigarettes, conditioner and even bio diesel57. Literally, he turned it into an animal factory.

23


Animals as objects is the focus of the project of Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen,

who decided to work on three projects about genetic engineering, traditions and local

economy that questions the ethics of animal products58. In Sterile, following a long collaboration, Professor Yamaha produced an edition of 45 goldfish for the artists in

his laboratory in Hokkaido, Japan. The fish were not conceived as animals but made as objects, unable to partake in the biological cycle. In Sensei ichi-gō59, they built a

machine that is capable of producing sterile goldfish in an automated re-enactment of Yamaha-Sensei’s movements and actions.

This mechanisation allows the standardisation of both sequence and animal blur-

ring the limit between a gadget and a living being. Finally, Kingyo kingdom60 is short

documentary video depicts stages through which Japanese goldfish become objects:

the tools, criteria, trade, ceremonials, economy and culture. Through this medium (film), they contextualise the problematic and guide the observer through the taxonomy of a particular kind of species, (the animal product) while illustrating the unique existence of this species and, thus, preparing us for a possible acceptance.

58. “Sterile”, COHEN & VAN BALEN, http://www.cohenvanbalen.com/work 59. Ibid

Designers are involved in food and material production since decades but general

public might not be aware. To create consciousness, the Center for PostNatural Histo-

ry in Pittsburgh, UK, carries along an important study of the origins and evolution of organisms that have been intentionally altered by humans recording of the influence

of human culture on evolution61. For that purpose, along the exhibition, they juxtapose historical references about selective breeding with genetically modified organ-

60. Ibid 61.

Museum

of

Postnatural

History.

http://www.postnatural.org 62.

Jens Hauser, “Dialogues on Bioart, a

conversation with Jens Hauser”, Digicult

isms. For example, BioSteel™ Goats, that have been genetically modified to produce silk for Biosteel production.

At this point, we can recognize DNA as a revolution, not only in the field of biology

but for the entire humanity. From healthcare to criminology and food, it has altered the way we look at nature and into ourselves.

“Given the possibilities of genetic engineering, nanotechnology, xenotransplanta-

tion, and organ

printing, we have to rethink and put to the test our sacrosanct idea

of what we understand by “human” and “humanity”, as well as our understanding of the nature of the relationship between humans, animals/plants, and machines.”62

24

Image 11. (rigth) Sensei ichi-gō, A machine to produce steriale fish. Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen, 2013. Source: http://www.cohenvanbalen. com/work Image12. (rigth, bottom left) BioSteel™ goat. Image from: http://www.postnatural.org/Biosteel-Goat Image13. (rigth, bottom rigth) Sterile, Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen, 2013. Source: http://www.cohenvanbalen.com/work


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26


First described in 1912 by Stéphane, Leduc63 and sequenced in 1960s64, DNA was

63. TIRARD, Stéphane, 2000. “Stephane Leduc (1853-1939), from medicine to synthetic biology”, Histoire des sciences médicales 43, No. 1 2009, pp. 67-72. 64. “The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962: Francis Crick, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins” The official site of the Nobel Prize, Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 5 Feb 2016. Available at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1962/ 65. “Researchers start up cell with synthetic genome”,Alla Katsnelson, Nature, 2010. Available at: http://www.nature.com/ news/2010/100520/full/news.2010.253.html 66. “Authentication of Forensic DNA Samples,” Dan Frumkin et al., Forensic Science International: Genetics 4, no. 2, February 2010. Pages. 95–103. 67. HAUSER, Jens, 2011, “Fingerprints? Paul Vanouse”. In GERMANY, Berlin, Schering Stiftung Berlin, in collaboration with Transmediale, Berlin, 2011. 68. Ibid 69. DEWEY-HAGBORG, Heather, “Stranger Visions: A Provocation”, Nov.-Dec. 2013, IEEE Security & Privacy, vol.11, no. 6, pp. 69-70. 70. “Be invisible”, DEWEY-HAGBORG, Heather http://biogenfutur.es/

first synthetized in 2010 by biochemist J. Craig. He revealed the world’s first self-replicating synthetic genome that we now can program, code, and design65. At that time,

a group of scientists demonstrated that anyone with access to a basic lab could reproduce synthesized DNA with any genetic profile66.

In Transmediale 2011, US-American biomedia artist Paul Vanouse presented

the Suspect Inversion Center, an operational laboratory in which he creates identical “genetic fingerprints” of criminals and celebrities from his own DNA. He also

illustrates a molecular race reflecting on biologically legitimized racism, in Latent

Figure Protocol , as well as the Relative Velocity Inscription Device, in which bits of DNA, instead of bodies, compete by testing their “genetic fitness”67. By the use of

electrophoresis and photography as an artistic medium, he challenges the knowledge production and questions the methods used in scientific findings. The question is how permeable these techniques are to clichés and prejudices68.

In 2013, Heather Dewey-Hagborg called attention to the developing technology of

forensic DNA phenotyping and the potential for a culture of biological surveillance.

She collected hair, cigarettes and chewing gum from the streets of New York. Helped

by forensic software, she then made realistic 3D portraits of the strangers by analys-

ing the DNA the samples contained69. In her documentation, she alerts how surprisingly easy it could be to reproduce or alter a crime scene. Moreover, the features of

the face she gets are very common to many people, putting in evidence the flaws of Image 14. (left, top left) Stranger Visions. Heath-

the technique.

er Dewey-Hagborg, 2013 Image 15. (left, bottom left) Invisible, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, 2015. Source: http://biogenfutur. es/ Image 16. (left, bottom rigth) Paul Vanouse Suspect Latent Figure Protocol.

Later on, in 2015, she and her team presented “Be Invisible” at Transmediale, a

speculative project about an open source service to erase any trace (99,5%) of your personal genomic data and replace the remaining 5% with a foreign one70. In this

case, a film shoot explains how, with a couple of steps, you could erase your genomic information simply spraying it over the place.

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Nowadays, a whole new field of synthetic biology is recruiting students from all

disciplines and the public in the already popular competition called iGEM71 compe-

tition, happening every summer. This event is organised by the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to education and competition, the advancement of synthetic biology, and the development of an open community and collaboration.

In the one celebrated in 2009, the project E. Chromi72, developed by Cambridge

University undergraduates, won the prize. They synthetized standardised sequences of DNA, known as BioBricks and inserted them into E. coli bacteria to produce a colour to indicate, for example, whether drinking water is safe by turning red if they sense a toxin.

Designers Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and James King collaborated developing

their version of E. Chromi, documenting a hypothetical scenario in which bacteria

within our gut could be programmed to secrete colours indicating everything from contaminated drinking water to disease; poop of different hues could function as a diagnostic tool73.

Later on, in 2015, Dr John Paul, Dr James Price and Kevin Cole (from the UKCRC

Modernising Medical Microbiology Project) and Dr Simon Park (University of Surrey) advised Anna Dimitriu to step into the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Hypersymbiont Enhancement Salonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.

Then, using a genuine psychobiotic bacteria genetically engineered by Paloma Porte-

la Torres and her colleagues of the UCL iGEM 2015, Anna Dimitriu developed new cosmetic organisms like a modified E. coli that expresses a gene, which increases Serotonin production and could help fight the rising issue of mental health disorders

in the modern world74. Bacterial flora could be enhanced to create human super organisms through our active colonisation with hypersymbionts; bacteria that not only happily co-exist on and inside our bodies, but which also actively improve us75.

Although both projects, E.Chromi and Hypersymbiont Enhancement Salon have

ironic connotations, one can perceived how the designers and the artist have managed to get this desirable outfit to wrap a fictionary world that otherwise might not be that easily accepted.

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Image 17. E. Chromi, by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and James King (2009). www.echromi.com

Image 18.. Igem team. Echromi. Source: ttp://igem.org/ Main_Page

Image 19. Lipstick containing freeze-dried psychobiotic bacteria. Source: http://unnecessaryresearch.tumblr.com/

71.

iGEM Competition http://igem.org/Main_Page

72. Cambridge Team iGEM http://2009.igem.org/Team:Cambridge

2009

“eChromi”

73. “eChromi” DAISY GINSBERG,Alexandra & KING, James, http://www.echromi.com/

74. UCL iGEM 2015 Team, “Mind the Gut” http://2015. igem.org/Team:UCL/

75. “Hypersymbiotic Salon”, DIMITRIU, Anna, http:// annadumitriu.tumblr.com/HypersymbiontSalon

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Image 20. (top) “Edible growth”, 2014, RUTZERVELD, Chloé Source: http://www.chloerutzerveld.com/edible-growth-2014/ Image 21. (bottom) Between reality and the impossible, New urban foragers, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, 2010. Source: http://www.dunneandraby.co.uk/content/projects/510/0 Image 22. (central) Between reality and the impossible, New urban foragers, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, 2010. Source: “Desing for Overpopulated Planet, No1. Foragers”, 2010, Speculative Everything, The MIT Press, page 151.

76. DUNNE, Anthony and RABY, Fiona, Between reality and the impossible , “Desing for Overpopulated Planet, No1. Foragers”, 2010, Speculative Everything, The MIT Press, page 151. 77. “Edible growth”, RUTZERVELD, Chloé, http://www.chloerutzerveld.com/edible-growth-2014/

78. “Circumventive Organs”, HAINES, Agi, 2014, http://www.agihaines.com/#!circumventive-organs/c1t44

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To imagine design applications in the near future, one has to draw a context based

on emergent issues. In terms of food crisis and according to the UN, we will need to

produce 70% more of food in the next 40 years. With this concern, Dunne & Raby proposed a scenario where people, aware of the inaction of the authorities to face this problem, take their fate into their own hands and start building DIY devices76. They

use synthetic biology to create “microbial stomach bacteria”, along with electronic

and mechanical devices, to maximise the nutritional value of the urban environment, making-up for any shortcomings in the commercially available but increasingly limited diet.

Also, Chloé Rutzerveld came up with an edible solution that could be printed to

create a miniaturized environment of natural growth wherein combination of seeds; spores and yeasts lead to the production of “on-demand” food within these 3D printed balls. 3D printing makes the production very sterile. Also, it helps shaping desira-

ble structures that would make us “forget” the fact that we are eating insects, GMOs or in-vitro flesh77.

Creating fictions to influence collective consciousness is also the strategy and work

methodology of artists like Agatha Haines, a designer that explores the aesthetics

and possibilities of bringing synthetic biology into the field of body modification and

enhancement. She claims that along the history we can find examples of human body modifications. Sometimes for beauty standards or cultural traditions but also for love, as a mother wants her child to be loved and accepted by others and provide him the

best conditions to adapt to the environment78. She brings this to possible scenarios:

new organs to perform accordingly to the “user’s” need that otherwise would take millions of years to achieve. Electrostabilis Cardium, for example, is a defibrillating

organ using parts from an electric eel that can discharge to release an electric current to the heart when it recognizes it going into fibrillation (heart attack).

Circumventive organs: Electrostabilis Cardium, Agata Haines (2014) A defibril-

lating organ using parts from an electric eel that can discharge to release an electric current to the heart when it recognizes that it is going into fibrillation (heart attack).

Circumventive organs: Tremomucosa Expulsum, Agata Haines (2014). An organ

that uses rattlesnake muscles to release mucus from the respiratory system of a person

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who suffers from cystic fibrosis and dispel it through the stomach.

In October 2014, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), hosted “Synthetic Aes-

thetics: New Frontiers in Contemporary Design,”79 a discussion about the field of synthetic biology. Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the show, articulated a clear

breakdown of the areas of most relevance for synthetic biology: medical use, envi-

ronmental solutions, food, and bio-warfare, as well as an increased understanding of the building blocks of biology (Biobricks). Biobricks are DNA parts, genetic circuits or short programmes that we can stich together to design a new life form or genetic machine. Standardization allowed designers or students to understand and participate in competitions like iGEM80.

Antonelli also discussed the ethical tension between imagining a utopian or dysto-

pian future and the reality that increasing knowledge of DNA sequencing could lead

to the ability to create these fates. A call for responsibility that falls not just on scien-

tists and engineers but also on artists whose work incorporates imagined biology. The variety among corresponding orientations from different professional backgrounds was itself indicative of the tensions within the field81.

79. “Synthetic Aesthetics: New Frontiers in Contemporary Design”Exhibition at MOMA, New York, http://www.moma.org 80. DAISY GINGNSBERG, Alexandra, “Synthetic Aesthetics”, the MIT Press, page 13. 81. “Synthetic Aesthetics: New Frontiers in Contemporary Design”Exhibition at MOMA, New York, http://www.moma.org

Image 23. (top) Congolese Mangbetu woman with her child. Source: Wikimedia Image 24. (rigth) Circumventive organs: Electrostabilis Cardium, Agata Haines (2014) A defibrillating organ using parts from an electric eel that can discharge to release an electric current to the heart when it recognizes that it is going into fibrillation (heart attack). Source: http://www.agihaines.com/ Image 25. (bottom rigth ) Circumventive organs: Cerebrothrombal Dilutus. Agata Haines (2014). An organ which uses the salivary gland from a leech to thin the blood and prevent a stroke. Source: http:// www.agihaines.com/

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33


Un7

(Un) necessary research? From metadisciplines to science fiction.

“To be part of something one doesn’t in the least understand is, I think, one of the

most intriguing things about life.”82 Agatha Christie, An Autobiography.

Agatha Christie believed that we can only know a tiny part of what is going on

around us, and that helps have a more exciting life. Our will to grasp what is happening around us keeps our understanding of media and matter in a constant flux. Through research and the use of metaphors, artists can synthetize and expand this understanding by grabbing the public’s attention.

In a recent exhibition of the works developed during the Z-node program*,

Grounded Visions in Zurich83, Dr. Jill Scott (media artist, vice-president of Z-node and professor at the ZHDK, Zurich) summarized a long collaboration between artists

and scientists in the program Artists in Labs. In her book Artist-in-Labs: Processes of Inquiry84, Scott addressed knowledge transfer between specialists in science

82. CHRISTIE, Agatha, 2011, “An Autobiography”, 2011, Harper Collins.

sion and creativity. Scientists are trained in finding everyday metaphors in order to

83. “Grounded visions” Exhibition of Z-Node research programme at ETH Zurich, http://www.z-node.net/cms/index.html

and how they often require professionals with skills in relation to language, immerexplain their research while artists are trained in finding poetic metaphors, which they believe have more public impact. In reference to The Contemporary Theory

of Metaphor of Lakoff85, she makes an interesting relation between semiotics (onto-

logical metaphors), gender sensitive metaphors and the ethics of labelling different disciplines as either ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. These label physics, computer science and math-

ematics as ‘hard’ sciences, and psychology, sociology and the arts as ‘soft’ or human sciences86. She urges to find a language so both disciplines could refer to each other

in a more respectful way.

One of the goals of the exhibition was to reach new audiences and encourage sci-

84. SCOTT, Jills, 2006. “Artists in Labs: Processes Of Inquiry”, SpringerWienNewYork, NY, USA, 2006. 85. LAKOFF, C., 1993. “The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor”. 86. SCOTT, Jills, 2006. “Artists in Labs: Processes Of Inquiry”, SpringerWienNewYork, NY, USA, 2006. 87. “Unconference”, Parenthesis at HEAD Genève in collaboration with Sarn, November 2014. Online (Consulted January 2015) Available at: http://blog. sarn.ch/?s=parenthesis

entists to collaborate with artists.. The projects were diverse and very well detailed; although it might not have been easy to gain space to more personal, artistic interpre-

tations in each project. This might highlight the anxiety concerning artistic research in Switzerland because of the lack of autonomous space and possibilities for the Arts to develop their 3rd cycle87 (the PhD candidates of Z-node graduated in University of Plymouth, UK),

34

Image 26. Reliquaries, Ballengée, 2001 - Ongoing. Source: http://brandonballengee.com/


35


Image 27. Auralroots, 2015, Jill Scott. Interactive installation. Source: http://hatcenter.amu.edu.pl/ wp-content/uploads/2014/10/DSC04463.jpg Image 28. Hope Graden 2085, Juanita Schläpfer-Miller. Photo: Vanessa Lorenzo at “Graounded Visions“ Exhibition. Image 29. Hope Garden 2085, uanita Schläpfer-Miller. Source: http://blog.zhdk.ch/climatehopegarden/

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One of the most known artwork was the one from Ballengée, a scientist and an

artist that documented, through visually attractive photographs, the potential causes

of deformities among amphibian populations for more than a decade. Chemically “clearing and staining” frogs found in nature make these reliquaries. This process

obscures direct representation “as I do not want to exhibit large images of “monsters”, which would be frightening and be exploitative to the organisms” 88.

In my opinion, Climate Hope Garden 2085 by Juanita Schläpfer-Miller is another

remarkable example. She strategically places plant images in representation of the

hypothetical real ones in 2085. Formed by the exposure of photosensitive paper to

UV light, taken during the Climate Hope Garden installation in the research climate chambers at the ETH in 2011. With this work, the artist intends to incentivise the public to engage with climate scenarios on a personal level, while offering a personal, artistic interpretation and site specific performance of this important scientific debate89.

Auralroots (2015) is an interactive sculpture and media project based on research

into sound and tactile perception by Jill Scott. This audiovisual installation,based on the stereocilia (tiny hair cells located in the inner ear), allows the viewers to interact

with sculptural models of these cells and to combine sounds from a database of 54

tracks revealing research on three stages of female growth, as a child in the womb,

as a relationship between mother and daughter and as an adult observer who is an art and science investigator90.

Among these tracks, she mixes stories based on recordings of interviews and con-

versations with elders of the Australian Aboriginal community whose indigenous 88. “Malamp Reliquaries”, Ballengee, BRANDOM, on going project, http://brandonballengee. com/projects/reliquaries/ 89. “The Climate Hope Garden (2085)”, SCHLAEPFER-MILLER, Juanita, 2015, http://www.z-node.net/cms/pages/juanita_schlaepfer-miller. html 90. “Auralroots”, SCOTT, Jills, 2015, Exhibition: Grounded Visions, https://www.usys.ethz. ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/usys/department/documents/news/events/grounded-visions-press-release.pdf 91. MAGRINI, Boris. Interview 27/11/2015. See interview transcript, Annex.

knowledge about the collecting of wild plants and roots for survival and medical use are passed on from mother to daughter.

At the end of the exhibition, I could introduce myself to Boris Magrini, Swiss art

historian and curator of this exhibition, so I could ask him later on about some more specific questions about the contribution of arts in solving the gap between science and arts. He disagreed on the statement: “I don’t believe that artists and designers should solve this conflict; they should rather pursue their own goals and question scientific research and the politic and economic framework behind the regulation of

modern technologies.”91. Regarding artists involved in scientific practices, he believes

37


that “knowledge sharing is essential. A person who intends to do harm finds a way

regardless of the information shared with the multiplicity of citizen science initiatives

Image 30. Communicating bacteria, Anna Dimitriu, 2009. Source: http://unnecessaryresearch. tumblr.com/

worldwide. Citizen science initiatives rather allow for a better understanding of new technologies and scientific progress and should not be hindered by unjustified fears of hypothetical harmful misuses of knowledge.” 92

In 2011, I attended a conference at Sabino Arana Fundazioa (Spain) in which the

artist Anna Dimitriu explained how she developed The Communicating Bacteria

Project, together with microbiologists Dr Simon Park and Dr John Paul and video artist Alex May. Her research on bacterial communication and quorum sensing mechanisms combines Bioart, with the understanding of this potentially new form of infection control93.

Displayed on a dress that includes textile and organic decorations, the bacteri Jan-

thinobacterium Lividum evolves and produces pigments depending on this commu-

nication between different colonies while colouring the textile. She subtly transposes her work to the time of the enlightenment, when the perversely difficult practice of

whitework embroidery was considered to be one of the highest levels of achievement

for a woman, while their male counterparts started to become ‘gentleman scientists’ beginning to rigorously study the world around them ‘scientifically’94.

Besides, she is also the director of the Institute of Unnecessary Research, a re-

search lab for artistic practices in the diverse field of sciences: from microbiology to robotics. She argues that art contribution doesn’t have to be justified, “art is art

and affects people in many different ways: it can inspire and it can fascinate. It’s a metadiscipline”95. She claims that artists engage the public with scientific research

through transdisciplinary projects; these artworks bring together art, science and philosophy to create participatory performances and questioning the means of knowledge production in the 21st Century. In addition, the artist empathises with Paul Feyerabend who stated that scientific methodologies should be reviewed.

92. Ibid 93. “Communicating bacteria”, DIMITRIU, Anna, 2009. http://annadumitriu.tumblr.com/CommunicatingBacteria 94. Ibid

Epistemological anarchism (…) holds that there are no useful and exception-free

methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge.

It holds that the idea that science can or should operate according to universal and fixed rules is unrealistic, pernicious, and detrimental to science itself96.

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95. “4Humanities” by THOMAS, Lindsay, 18th January 2103,blog, http://4humanities. org/2013/01/dumitriu-interview/#sthash.abBM6vEc.dpuf 96. FEYERABEND, Paul, 1993. “Against Method” London: Verso. ISBN 978-0-86091-646-8.


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Poetic scientific research is the art of mixing fact, imagination, storytelling and

myth. In Moon Goose project, Agnes Brandis - Meyer develops a narrative based

on the science fiction book «The Man on the Moon » in which the space traveller Domingo Gonsales flies to the moon in a chariot towed by eleven geese. The artist

followed a scientific method for training her Moon Goose Colony in Pollinaria, Italy, by imprinting them on herself as goose-mother, training them to fly, taking them on expeditions and acclimatizing them to the Moon in an analogue habitat. She built a

control room for the gooses with a narrative that explores the observer’s understanding of the fictitious, the factual and the believably absurd or improbable possible97.

Miles away from Italy, in the South Pole, some scientist observed that their tea-

cups didn’t give off steam because of lack of aerosols in the air. Based on this fact, Meyer - Brandis started to investigate the micro clouds that formed above the tea in

collaboration with the Institute for Art and subjective Science. Later on the project evolved into cybernetic and nomadic sculptures that literally boiled the water with

the massive collected data; first placed at the SMEAR forest research station (Station

for Measuring Ecosystem Atmosphere Relations) in Hyytiälä Finland then in cities along Europe. During my visit to Ars Electronica at Linz, I could know more about

this installation or sculpture that merges cybernetics, Big Data and environmental science with a possibility to log into the local Teacup Tool Wifi and have a look at realtime data written by dancing teacups or listen to Data Tango98.

Image 31. (top left) “The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility (MGA)”, BRANDIS-MEYER, Agnes, 2012, http://www.blubblubb. net/mga/ Image 32. (Top right) Ibid Image 33. (Middle rigth) Ibid Image 34. (Bottom left) Plantas Autofosinteticas, Gilberto Esparza. 2015. Source: Photo archive, Ars Electronica 2015. Image 35. (Bottom rigth) “Tea cup tools, global tea cup network”, BRANDIS-MEYER, Agnes, 2013, http://www.blubblubb.net/mga/

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In the same exhibition, Gilberto Esparza exhibited his last awarded artwork with

the Golden Nica “Plantas Autofotosinteticas”. At his ceremony speech he explained a committed research at the crossroads of robotics, environmental sciences and the

impact of pollution in local communities, all along his career with nomadic plants (Plantas nomadas). The self - regulated symbiotic system seeks to preserve light

in an ecosystem far from sunlight. The core, digestive system and the nervous network conforms the ecosystem that produces its own electricity from the processing

of wastewater. The core, full of microalgae, aquatic plants and microorganisms such

99. ESPARZA, Gilberto, “Plantas Nomadas” and “Plantas Autofotosinteticas”, from “Gilberto Esparza C1D Banda Ancha” - Youtube, Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1hUEjUO6oQ) 100. “Desing and the elastic Mind,” Exhibition, MOMA, New York, 2008. http://www.moma.org/ interactives/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/assets/ pdf/Design_and_the_Elastic_Mind.pdf 101. Ibid

as bloodworms or daphnia, depends on the balance and light produced by the micro-

bial cells that forms the digestive system. These microbes are bacterium that process wastewater and release electrons within all along their lifecycles, similarly to the

small amounts of energy that are stored in capacitors and produce flashes of light

simulating sunlight for the core. The nervous system tracks all life cycles in and out the core to control the balance of energy through the whole ecosystem. Each micro-

bial cell contains contaminated water from each part of the city of Lima in Peru. By tracking the whole, an electronic brain translated the biological activity into sound and light. This work puts the ecological crisis in context by mapping each source

of wastewater with photographs and maps. Furthermore, he designed a system that reinforces the idea of cohabitation with the problem of our polluted cities. Additionally, this would help their inhabitants dealing with changing environments that could consider wastewater as a source of energy99.

One of design’s most fundamental tasks is to stand between revolutions and life,

Image 36. “Smell +” (2009) designer, James Auger.

and to help people deal with change.100 The reciprocal relationship between science and design in the contemporary world explored in 2008 in Design and the Elastic

Mind. The exhibition hosted in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), brought together design objects and concepts that marry the most advanced scientific research with attentive consideration of human limitations, habits, and aspirations101.

Regarding biometrics, health and genetic compatibility, James Auger proposed to

apply contemporary scientific research by utilising the medium of design to develop new consumer experiences and services. He presented a device that allowed people

to smell each other’s bodily scents before they met, detect diseases like cancer and check genetic compatibilities.

“Scientists create amazing possibilities of what it means to be human. But they

42

Image 37. Bees, by Susana Soares (2007 - 2009)


don’t necessarily understand what to be human is. That’s where design can play a

very important role.”102 James Auger “Where Science and Design Collide, a Few

Weird Sights to Behold”, By Jjohn Schwarz, Feb. 26, 2008.

In this statement, Auger argues that science and design have different methodolo-

gies to approach the question of what does it mean to be a human, even though neither

is close to understand it completely, suggesting that science could be more inclusive

with design disciplines to answer questions that affects the whole humanity. However, it is not a general thought, as the outcome of this kind of collaboration in design and science is often not meaningful for scientists.

When art museums take on science, the results are often pretty but superficial,

with blown-up images from under a microscope or through a telescope and artificial

colours. This out-of-context aestheticization was not just “kitschy,” but could also kill the depth and context that made science interesting103. Peter L. Galison, Harvard pro-

fessor of the history of science and of physics.”Where Science and Design Collide, a Few Weird Sights to Behold”, New York Times, by John Schwarz, Feb. 26, 2008,

In the same show, Susana Soares proposed “Bees” a blown handmade glass that

enables a symbiotic cohabitation between bees and humans for detecting diseases. Scientific research demonstrated that bees could diagnose accurately at an early stage

a vast variety of diseases, such as: tuberculosis, lung and skin cancer, and diabetes. 102. AUGER, James, 2008, in “Where Science and Design Collide, a Few Weird Sights to Behold”, New York Times, by Jjohn Schwarz, Feb. 26, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/science/26elas.html

103. GALISON, Peter L., Harvard professor of the history of science and of physics, 2008, in “Where Science and Design Collide, a Few Weird Sights to Behold”, New York Times, by Jjohn Schwarz, Feb. 26, 2008, http://www.nytimes. com/2008/02/26/science/26elas.html?pagewanted=1&fta=y&_r=0

104. “Bees”, 2009, SOARES, Susana, http:// www.susanasoares.com/index.php?id=56

105. “The Opera of Prehistoric Creatures”, HUMEAU, Marguerite, http://margueritehumeau. com/act_3/

The glass objects have two enclosures: a smaller chamber that serves as the diagno-

sis space and a bigger chamber where previously trained bees are kept for the short period of time necessary for them to detect general health. People exhale into the smaller chamber and the bees rush into it if they detect on the breath the odour that they where trained to target104.

Artistic research could also shed light into the mysteries of extinction. The artist

Margarite Humeau made an archaeological research to create a fictional representation of living creatures from the past. Working with extinct animals can be challenging due to the lack of information. She worked together with scientists and researchers across the globe to give shape and voice to a mysterious mammoth, an enormous

walking whale and a giant killer pig. These three creatures perform with their syn-

thetic vibrating vocal cords the Opera of Prehistoric Creatures105. Her methodology

43


mixes research and science fiction, like “blending myth and truth”. She uses fiction, as a scientist makes hypothesis, to fill the gaps in knowledge:

“I was researching real things then I had to add gentle amounts of fiction because

there were gaps in knowledge. It is interesting to embrace the possibility of creating a myth. I’m generally interested in topics that are hidden or difficult to research – it’s

about speculation and creating a new story. Myth has always been used to understand the nature of humanity.106 - Marguerite Humeau, “Enter A Room Full Of Black Mam-

ba Venom With Marguerite Humeau” May 4th, 2015, Sleek Magazine.

Although she was well documented during the process, she created a semi fictional

world, a re-written story which disturbs, hypnotizes and inspires at the same time while bringing the visitor back in time to the prehistoric age.

Also framed in the past, Oldest things in the world by Rachel Sussman captures

and documents living organisms 2,000 years old and older107. Part art and part sci-

ence, her artwork is underscored by an existential incursion into Deep Time, the « «year zero » of the millennia old organisms, playing with vast timescales in tension with the hurry of the photography.

« What does it mean to capture a multi-millennial lifespan in 1/60th of a second?

Or for that matter, to be an organism in my 30s bearing witness to organisms that

precede human history and will hopefully survive us well into future generations?

»108 - Rachel Sussman - The Oldest Living Things in the World - Rachel Sussman’s Website.

She travelled with scientists all over the world to spot and track the survival of

these odd species. Her intention is “step outside our quotidian experience of time and start to consider a deeper timescale”109.

44

106. “Enter A Room Full Of Black Mamba Venom With Marguerite Humeau” May 4th, 2015, Sleek Magazine, http://www.sleek-mag.com/showroom/2015/05/marguerite-humeau-duve-berlin/ 107. “The oldest things in the world”, SUSSMAN, Rachel, http://www.rachelsussman.com/portfolio/#/oltw/ 108. Ibid 109. Ibid


Image 38. (Top) The Opera of Prehistoric Creatures, Margarite Humeau, 2012. Image Credit: Dirk van den Heuve, 2013.

Image 39. (On the top of this text) The Opera of Prehistoric Creatures, Margarite Humeau, 2012. Image Credit: Dirk van den Heuve, 2013.

Image 40. vThe oldest things in the worldâ&#x20AC;?, SUSSMAN, Rachel, Source: http://www.rachelsussman. com/portfolio/#/oltw/

Image 41. The oldest things in the worldâ&#x20AC;?, SUSSMAN, Rachel, Source: http://www.rachelsussman. com/portfolio/#/oltw/

45


A hybridization between art design and botanic led her next project to make an

interesting shift from human centered design to plant centered design. The result is

a “service” named Plant Sex Consultancy, which employs design methodologies to resolve plants problems. The focus was to create a sort of prosthesis or augmenta-

tions for its vegetal clients, which supplement and enhance their natural reproductive strategies.

Plant Statement: “Usually I’m not considered as a growing plant but cut flower or a

spice. I sleep from November to May every year in the form of a rhizome bulb where all my belongings are stored.”

The Problem: “I come to you because I literally have NO SEX LIFE. I’m infer-

tile… My offspring are just clones, and I hate looking at younger versions of myself, blossoming in my vicinity.”

The solution: The rhizome is dug out when the plant goes into dormancy. A weath-

er balloon is then tied to the rhizome, carrying it to the edge of the Earth’s atmos-

phere, where the rhizome receives a huge amount of radiation and thus mutates the genome. As the balloon rises closer to the space, the temperature and pressure burst the balloon and the rhizome is dropped back to Earth far from where it originated, planting a mutant different from its clonal lineage.

http://psx-consultancy.com

110

- “Plant Sex Consultancy”

The objects would appeal to the viewers’ imagination, but leave them confused

about what the objects are and what purpose they serve111. The lack of first-person

110. “Plant Sex psx-consultancy.com

Consultancy”

http://

experience and limited knowledge on plant cognition appears as an opportunity to

111. “Plant Sex Consultancy”, References, http://psx-consultancy.com/#references

entity and propose design solutions which have inherent the absurdity or humour,

112. JOHNSON, Brian David, “Science Fiction Prototyping: Designing the Future with Science Fiction”, Morgans & Claypool, 2011.

apply similar methodologies to science fiction prototyping112 to approach the plant even more accentuated from the western world view (not only people with different backgrounds but origins participated in the project).

“To approach the plant entity and propohe imagination. If you are interested in sci-

ence or fascinated with the future then science fiction is where you explore new ideas

and let your dreams and nightmares duke it out on the safety of the page or screen.

46

113.

Ibid

114. “Human Centered Design”, IDEO, http://www.designkit.org/human-centered-design

115. “Plant Sex psx-consultancy.com

Consultancy”

http://


But what if we could use science fiction to do more than that? What if we could use science fiction based on science fact to not only imagine our future but develop new

technologies and products? What if we could use stories, movies and comics as a kind of tool to explore the real world implications and uses of future technologies today?”113 - Brian David Johnson, “Science Fiction Prototyping: Designing the Future with Science Fiction”, Morgans & Claypool, 2011

Moreover, the team applied the Human Centered Design methodology114 to plants,

shifting the focus away from the human. “It encourages the possibility of a respectful awareness of the Other, be it vegetal, alien or female.115”

Image 42. (Top) Turmeric On the Move . Plant Sex Consultancy” http://psx-consultancy.com

Image 43. (rigth) The Pitcher Plant’s Food and Sex Fest. Plant Sex Consultancy” http://psx-consultancy.com

Image 44. Turmeric On the Move . Plant Sex Consultancy” http://psx-consultancy.com

Image 44. The Pitcher Plant’s Food and Sex Fest. Plant Sex Consultancy” http://psx-consultancy.com

47


Op8 Open science and bio hacking

“The most common, and naive narrative about open science tells us that once

upon a time, ethics in science was a good thing: sharing, equality, disinter-

est and the common good drove the everyday work of scientists. Then evil corporations entered science and changed the rules of the game, patenting

life,

enclosing the commons, and eventually destroying the willingness to share data,

information and knowledge.” 116 Delfanti, Hacking genomes. The ethics of open and

rebel biology.

Over the past quarter of a century, Information and Communication Technology

(ICT) and Biotechnology have changed the course of our everyday life in two significant ways. The first one is by far more recognized as essential for people in developed

countries and its impact is immediate and ubiquitous. The second one is less present

as it normally happens within hermetic laboratories even though it is meant to have even greater effects on us than the ICT revolution117. This is shifting the attention of

design and art towards new interesting and challenging fields including synthetic biology.

Accordingly, the design and art community is engaging biotechnological revolu-

tion by entering research laboratories and research centres to influence these developments. As it happened in the 1960’s with cybernetics, the aim is to influence direction of biotechnology and shape the effects it might have on society.

However, for biotechnology one has to have a formal training in order to practice

it. Nevertheless, this is about to change if not already. The socio-cultural context and

democratization of technology through low-cost open source developed equipment now offers the possibility to become a “citizen scientist”, DIY Biologist or Bio hacker in different citizen laboratories like Waag Society (Amsterdam), London Bio Hacker Space (London), LaPaillasse (Paris), Hackuarium (Renens), Hackteria (World wide network based in Zurich) or Genspace (New York).

48

116. DELFANTI, “Hacking Genomes. The ethics of open and rebel biology.”, International Review of Information Ethics Vol. 15 (09/2011), Online, Available at: http://www.i-r-i-e.net/inhalt/015/015-Delfanti.pdf

117. “Biotechnology in the public interest”. MDC magazine, #68: The open future


The DIYBio (or Biohacking) is a combination between the Maker movement, new

digital fabrication tools, low-cost sensors, and an Open Source ethos. It opened the doors for the creation of scientific tools at fractions of the cost of their commercial

counterparts. Their main work axes are to demystify science, up-cycle laboratory equipment and hack and make with life matter118. Thus, it is not surprising that those

spaces have begun to fill with many professionals and students coming from different

branches of art and design amongst others, willing to experiment from neurosciences to microbiology or synthetic biology.

Furthermore, the important academic institutions are exploring these collaborative

and open source ways of experimentation and knowledge production into education.

One example is the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In a short Youtube tutorial, Drs. Eric Green

and Carla Easter demonstrate how to extract DNA from strawberries using everyday household items119.

Another meaningful example is the HTGAA program, a part of a growing Acad-

emy of (almost) Anything (http://academany.org/), or the academany. HTGAA is a Synthetic Biology Program directed by George Church, professor of Genetics at Har-

vard medical school120. Academany, a distributed, internet-based, educational expe-

rience, hosts the programme. They invited fablabs from all over the world to join for this first prototype edition of a new class. HTGAA is open to everyone that wants to

join although the diplomas are given at a cost. The topics go from hard-core synthetic biology to engineering the human microbiome, as well as tissue engineering and how

to make biotic games, wetpong style (a sort of “wet electronic” game that interfaces living organisms with electronic devices). 118. Hackuarium, strikingly.com/#mission

http://hackuarium.

119. “How to extract DNA from strawberries” - YouTube https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=hOpu4iN5Bh4

120. ny.org/

HTGAA Academy http://bio.academa-

121. DUNNE, Anthony and RABY, Fiona, 2013. “United Microkingdoms: A thougth experiment” in “Speculative Everything”, The MIT Press, 2013, page 173.

This new revolutionary openness in education recalls a project developed by Fiona

Raby and Anthony Dunne, The United Micro Kingdoms (UmK), 2012/2013. Helped by their students, they speculate about a deregulated laboratory for competing social,

ideological, technological and economic models in the near future according to the current emerging trends121.

The UmK is divided into four super-shires inhabited by Digitarians, Bioliberals,

Anarcho-evolutionists and Communo-nuclearists. Each county is an experimental

49


zone, free to develop its own form of governance, economy and lifestyle. These include neoliberalism and digital technology, social democracy and biotechnology, anarchy and self-experimentation and communism and nuclear energy.

According to Umk, Bioliberals are social democrats who embrace biotechnology

and live in a world where the hype of synthetic biology has delivered on a society in symbiosis with the natural world where biology is at the centre and nature is

enhanced to meet growing human needs by farming not only plants and food but materials and products too.

The Anarcho-evolutionists abandon most technological developments to concen-

trate on using science to maximise their own physical capabilities through biohack-

ing and self-experimentation to exist within the limits of the planet. There are a high number of post-humanists and citizens can do as they please as long as it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t harm anyone else.

These speculations made by Dunne, Raby and their students might be not that far

from reality. In 2012, Labitat Hackerspace in Copenhagen, Denmark, in collabora-

tion with the University of Freiburg in Germany, supervised the project of RĂźdiger Trojok, a young designer and biohacker who hacked the technology of a gene gun.

A gene gun is used for injecting cells with genetic information, it is also known as

biolistic particle delivery system. Gene guns can be used effectively on most cells but

are mainly used on plant cells and are a useful tool in synthetic biology procedures. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_gun) After a successful test with the hacked

gene gun, he published the instructions, materials and code for the right function so another biohackers could make further replicas of the prototype122.

We live in a world full of microbial biodiversity with a cultural obsession for an-

tisepsis but living clean of bacteria is impossible and dangerous because they help human body to survive123. However, we have declared the war on bacterium, even those that are beneficial for our human ecosystem. For that reason, Tereza Valentova

and Alice Vandeleur-Boorer mixed performance, art and culinary tradition to work on their Vaghurt: yoghurt made out of beneficial microorganisms found inside vagina canals124.

50


“Body-Fermentations” is the name of the whole research project that seeks to in-

vestigate the body, reproduction and the self. By fermenting milk with wild lactobacillus samples found in our vaginas we have been creating milk fermentations to

variable degrees of edibility, toxicity and flavour. During the project they experience

some health problems during urinary sampling from public toilets. Despite these issues and the controversial spirit of the project, they managed to generate a local production of products.

“Food prices are going to rise in the future due to lack of production capacity,

which decreases inversely with the global population growth.”125 - Hu.M.C.C.- Maya Youghurt www.mayayoghurt.net/

In the realm of contemporary food industries, Hu.M.C.C.- Maya Youghurt by Maya

Smekar (2014) is exploring new possibilities and alternative capacities for future food

production within the fields of synthetic biology and biotechnology. It addresses the

so-called ‘Soylent Green’ paradigm, where the fear of ecological cataclysm turns

into a subtle critique of corporate cannibalism. This paradigm shows the potential of a future, where we could start using our own bodies’ molecular capacity as means of (food) production. Smekar produces a yeast, (MaSm Saccharomyces cerevisiae)

that contains her enzyme, which produces lactic acid (the most used additives in Image 45. “DIY Gene Gun” TROJOK, Rüdiger, http://diyhpl.us/~bryan/papers2/diybio/r%C3%BCdiger-trojok-gene-gun.pdf

122. ”DIY Gene Gun” TROJOK, Rüdiger, http://diyhpl.us/~bryan/papers2/diybio/r%C3%BCdiger-trojok-gene-gun.pdf

123. DAISY GINSBERG, Alexandra, 2014, “Synthetic Aesthetics”, the MIT Press, 2014, page 274.

124. “Vaghurt Recipe”, Tereza Valentova and Alice Vandeleur-Boorer http://www.alicevandeleur-boorer.co.uk/vaghurt-recipe.html

125. “Hu.M.C.C.- Maya Youghurt “, Maja Smekar, 2014, http://www.mayayoghurt.net/

the contemporary food industry) during its primal survival metabolic function, the fermentation process.

This project is a hybrid artwork: a readymade object exhibited in a gallery, a re-

search process in the field of biotechnology supervised by Biotechnical Faculty of the University in Ljubljana and a series of workshops open to the public, where the ones

who choose to consume the final product, at the same time take the responsibility for

their own body. The Hu.M.C.C is curated by Boris Magrini as part of Hackteria126

The Hydra Project: an initiative, which aims to foster artistic and literary ventures in addition to the association’s main mission of promoting knowledge sharing and citizen’s science. The project stands as a social Darwinism experience set paraphrased within the realm of industrial food chain process.

51


In the field of neuroscience, in 2013, Backyard Brains launched a Kickstarter127

campaign to support RoboRoach128; its aim to bring remote-controlled cockroaches to the public. In a perfectly understandable language, hey guide you through a beta

procedure to practice a chirurgical operation in order to implant a microcontroller into the brain of a cockroach129.

Normally, the cockroach uses its antenna to avoid obstructions, changing the

course every time it bumps into an object or wall. After practising a safe operation, according to their ethical statements130, those antennae are snipped off and stuffed

with electrodes connected up with the nerves that can be paired by Bluetooth to a iPhone.

Image 46. (Top) Darpa’s Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical System programme aimed to install systems that could control an insects’ movements, turning them into tiny spies. (Copyright: Darpa) http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130311-ten-military-mind-experiments

Image 47. (Top right) Corrupted C#n#m# (Entomograph) http://www.angelovermeulen. net/?portfolio=corrupted-cnm-entomograph

Image 48. (Bottom right) Ibid

Furthermore, this project has trascended to the military scene. The Pentagon’s ex-

panding work in neuroscience in recent years has focused heavily on medical applications, and DARPA131 have adopted Roboroch as a potential tool for warfare that

get’s rid of such problems as energy supply in harsh environments132.

Following the trail of this project, I found Angelo Vermeulen, who developed

Corrupted C#n#m# (Corrupted Cinema) , an artistic inquiry into the physicality of 133

digital media that explores the boundaries of experimental cinema and its potential to be altered by biological processes. In a later iteration (Entomograph), Vermeulen uses a hacked cockroach, known as Madagascar, capable of disrupting video data.

Although not much information is given, he mixes media experimentation with a

living interface in a disturbing but interesting way that could lead to new film, visual documentation and extreme communication applications. Angelo Vermeulen is a

space systems researcher, biologist, artist and community architect. His endeavour is to reshape the future through critical reflection and hands-on experimentation. To

achieve this, SEAD, the Space for Ecologies in Art and Design that he founded, de-

velops paradigm-shifting projects in which ecology, technology and community are integrated in synergistic ways134.

Some projects also consider new possible business models based on biohacking

ideas. XXLab135 is a female collective focusing on art, science and free technology

from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. They seek ways to reuse and reduce the waste from soya industries. They actually turn soya liquid waste in to edible cellulose, biofuel and bio

52

127. Kickstarter Campaign Backyardbrains, “Roboroach”, https://www.kickstarter. com/projects/backyardbrains/the-roboroach-control-a-living-insect-from-your-sm

128. “Roboroach”, https://backyardbrains.com/products/roboroach

129. “RoboRoach, (beta) Surgery Instructions” - Youtube https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=5Rp4V3Sj5jE

130. Ethical Statement, Backyardbrains http://wiki.backyardbrains.com/Ethical_Issues_ Regarding_Using_Invertebrates_in_Education DARPA http://www.darpa.mil/

131. “Ten extraordinary Pentagon projects” By Sharon Weinberger, 18 November 2014, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130311-ten-military-mind-experiments

132. MYERS, William, 2015, “Bioart, altered realities”, Thames and Hudson, 2015, page 214.

133. “Corrupted C#n#m#”, VERMEULEN, Angelo, http://www.angelovermeulen.net/?portfolio=corrupted-cnm-entomograph

134. “Glowing Plant”, http://www.glowingplant.com/


53


leather that they later on use in their open source creations and accessories. Their

artistic acticity, eventually became an alternative for a sustainable and economical

way to increase or generate an income for women who can learn this technique in low-income areas, thus producing new textile or accessories. Their idea won the ARS Electronica “the next idea”, price in 2015.

The most controversial example of a business-oriented project involving synthetic

biology might have been The Glowing Plant136 project. This project was started by the Sunnyvale-based hackerspace Biocurious137 as part of the DIYbio philosophy to

generate a plant that could be used as public lighting. On the 23th of April 2013, they

started the first crowd funding campaign for a synthetic biology application. It generated media attention as it had the potential to be the first, uncontrolled, environmental

release of a (genetically) modified organism to the world138. Although the current state of the project was not clear, they managed to raise $484,000 on June 8, 2013, significantly exceeding the initial target of $65,000139.

136 “XXLab”, honfablab.org/

This issue led me to research about Adam Zaretsky140.He creates apocalyptic or

fictional worlds with a comic approach and also teaches Vivoarts141, an emerging

and politically charged field that brings together art and biology, at the University of Leiden (NL). He provokes the public’s reaction to new biotechnological materials and

methods with a keen reflection on the legal, ethical and social implications. He also

endorses DIY as a tool to demystify; “About half of my labs are 100% DIY. (…)”. It is about showing that the technology, in this case biotechnology, is comprehensible and actuate-able with home brew strategies and some kitchen sterile technique.” 142

Zaretsky, in a documentary produced by DISECT143 argues that it is far more dif-

ficult to work on biotechnology from an artistic perspective because there are these

“rubber stamp committees” that are inquisitive with ideas that are not directly linked to the “future of the humankind” but to develop an artistic technique or to pursue

a critical approach to a subject “for frivol circus reasons”. But, he adds, “If it’s for curing all diseases it’s OK, but who promises what and which is the circus”. He might

refer to the fact that, while the system over-rewards certain controversial projects like Glowing Plant, we witness a sort of restrictive atmosphere concerning art in the field of biotechnology.

This restrictions and fear of bioterrorism dazzled the US society right after the

9/11 attacks. This affected the artist Steve Kurz, member of Critical Art Ensemble,

54

Honfablab,

http://xxlab.

137-. Biocurious Bio hackerspace http:// biocurious.org/

138. Interview with Jim Thomas, program director of the ETC Group, in “FearOfTheUnknown” Episode3 by DYSECT, 2015, Available at: https:// vimeo.com/117594088

139. Kickstarter Campaign “Glowing Plants” https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ a n t o n y e v a n s/g l o w i n g-p l a n t s- n a t u r a l- l i g h ting-with-no-electricit?lang=es

140. Adam Zaretsky, “Emutagen” http:// www.emutagen.com/

141. Adam Zaretsky, “Vivoarts” http:// emutagen.com/vivoartgl.html

142. “Dangerous Liaisons and other stories of transgenic pheasant embryology”, We Make Money not Art, by Regine, January 7, 2009, (Online) Available at: We make money not art http://wemake-money-not-art.com/_yes_its_true_im/

143. Interview with Adam Zaretsky, artist and biohacker, in “FearOfTheUnknown” Episode3 by DYSECT, 2015, Available at: https://vimeo. com/117594088


in a significant way. Kurz was working with bacterial cultures when his wife died of a heart attack in the middle of the night. He was arrested and investigated for being

a potential bioterrorist even after the results of his wife’s autopsy confirmed natural causes. Prior to this situation, Kurz had been involved together with Critical Art

Ensemble to produce artworks in the realm of political activism and biotechnology

like “Genterra” and “molecular invasions”144 which apparently made Kurz a suspect

of the FBI.

The case revealed a sort of misunderstanding from the society that may not sympa-

thized with the fact that an artist or someone who is not a biologist might want to do experiments outside the laboratory of even at home145.

In their manifesto146, Critical Art Ensemble explains that garage biology is often

related with eccentric genius but actually almost every great discover was developed at home. Before the Reagan Era began to undermine it, even the government encour144. “Critical Art Ensemble” http://www. critical-art.net/Biotech.html

145. Interview with Steve Kurz, artist and biohacker, in “Bioterror Bioerror” by DISECT, 2015, availble at: http://www.diysect.com/bioterrorbioerror/

146. Manifesto by Critical Art Ensemble for “Interactivos09” at Media Lab Prado http:// medialab-prado.es/article/taller-seminario_interactivos09_ciencia_de_garaje

the neoliberal dismantling of public education and the elimination of amateur science had reached the point at which the public depends entirely on the experts. Moreover, anyone doing science outside the institutions of the experts must be doing it for some nefarious reason147.

This may change now that more than 1200 active hackerspaces were registered all

uarium149 in Lausanne, I decided to integrate this space as part of my field research

148. List of Hackerspaces https://wiki. hackerspaces.org/List_of_Hacker_Spaces

150.

to be capable of participating intelligently in debates about science. After 30 years,

over the world in 2006148. Furthermore, as a member of one of those, called Hack-

147. Ibid

149. Hackuarium strikingly.com/

aged citizen science in the US. The result was aware citizenship and informed enough

http://hackuarium.

and as a basecamp for some of my interviews, discussions and consultations (full documentation in the Annexe). Likewise, regarding open citizen science, I found in-

teresting information and different approaches like the one from the artist, journalist and citizen scientist Kat Austen, from Iilab150.

Iilab https://iilab.org/

151. AUSTEN, Kat, “Designing for embodied understanding of complexity in citizen science “, Katausten Wordpress, Blog https://katausten. wordpress.com/2015/11/30/designing-for-embodied-understanding-of-complexit y-in-citizen-science/

152. PARSIVI and CHAFE, 2015, “Brain Stethoscope sonified EEG patterns as a more effective way to detect epileptic fits Epilepsy and Behaviour”, May 2015, Volume 46, Pages 53–54.

Kat Austen describes citizen science as a “pretty wonderful phenomenon that is

changing the dynamics of knowledge generation in the same way that open access

is changing the dynamics of knowledge ownership.151 However, some design aspects

should be added to create bridges between people and understanding the world’s complexity: interaction design and human-centred design. Datasheets can be misleading and we should find new ways to interact with them because different modes of interaction with the data can produce different insights and behaviours152.

55


Image 49. Aurelia 1+Hz is a recreation of a world that seeks a more intimate interaction with eternal jellyfishes in order to achieve a longer life. Source: http://robertina.net/aurelia-1hz/

Image 50. Artificial system controlled by the jelly fish ecosystem. Aurelia 1+Hz is a recreation of a world that seeks a more intimate interaction with eternal jellyfishes in order to achieve a longer life. Source: http://robertina.net/aurelia-1hz/

56


153.

Piksel Festival 2015 http://15.piksel.

no

Therefore, the strategy she proposes is interdisciplinary human-centred and holis-

tic together with embodied experiences like field research and workshops. One exam-

154. Kat Austen, “Designing for embodied understanding of complexity in citizen science “, Katausten Wordpress, Blog https://katausten. wordpress.com/2015/11/30/designing-for-embodied-understanding-of-complexit y-in-citizen-science/

multidisciplinary team (including artists) used embodied cognition to create stronger relationships between citizens and the meaning of the data they produce154. The main

topic of the research has been underwater sound pollution and micro plastic pollution. During a five-day workshop, they developed interdisciplinary research where four

main mentors and collaborators did open the process of the exploration of the context

155. Ibid

156. na.net/”

ple is Under water Interception of the Nordic Sea during Piksel Festival153, where a

“ŠEBJANIČ, Robertina, http://roberti-

of DIY biology, DIY chemistry and sound. During the field research on the boat, hy-

drophones were attached to a helmet allowing the user to hear pollution in real time to check for human-made sound pollution in the fjord. After the field research, they

157. ŠEBJANIČ, Robertina, Interview Online, transcription from Skype interview 02/12/2015. See interview transcript, Annex.

used the data collected to analyse them in order to create their own interpretations via sonifications.

The challenges that may arise with this kind of practices are that citizen scientists

can be viewed as unpaid data collectors or gamified engagement could be perceived not serious enough. Moreover, the innovation could be missed out due to the possible lack of engagement from the citizen scientist155.

One of the team members of Under water Interception of the Nordic Sea project

Image 51. Hydrophones. 153. Festival 2015 http://15.piksel.no

Piksel

is Robertina Sebjanič, a new media artist and transdisciplinary researcher, member

of the bio hacking network Hackteria. She focuses on the research between an organisms and its environment via data sonifications and art installations to simulate speculative futures156.

In 2010, she initiated Futuro – autopoiesis interactive simulation of the possible

future ecologic development of the Bay of Trieste. The ecosystem is based on a schematic representation of the food chain leading from diatoms to their predators, copepod crabs and moon jellyfishes. Despite some communication problems due to

previous expectations about what to get from each other, she accomplished the project successfully. Even though, every minute she expended with each team member

was precious, however, scientists did not have much time and the relationship was not always mutually beneficial157.

Image 52. 153. Sound test. Piksel Festival 2015 http://15.piksel.no

The outcome of this collaboration was an interactive experience. The resulting

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platform enabled a playful manipulation of environmental conditions though a phys-

ical interface. The visitor enters into an ecological projections as a critical agent and reflects on his own influence on ecosystems and their balances.

158. Robertina Šebjanič, Aurelia 1+Hz. http://www.kapelica.org/index_en.html#event=975

159. ŠEBJANIČ, Robertina, Interview Online, transcription from Skype interview 02/12/2015. See interview transcript, Annex.

Since then, she developed Aurelia 1+Hz as a result of a field research and sound

data analysis in the Izmir Bay in Turkey. For over 650 million years, jellyfishes had

survived without being endangered of extinction. Symbolically they represent the

human thoughts about eternity. Longevity is one of the promises of contemporary biotechnological developments, but what is the limit? This possibility requires the

redefinition of human values. This project shows a metaphorical coexistence between

animal and machine or robot that depends on them. The Jellyfish within the technological tube, controls the vitality of the AI.

“Improved living conditions in a technologically advanced world enables us to lead

a significantly longer life than in the past. But how long is long enough? The answer

to this question appears to be in the hands of the cosmetic and pharmaceutical indus-

tries, which use the powers of biopolitics and capital to divide our society into those who are able to prolong their life, and into those who are merely trying to survive. (…).”158 - Robertina Šebjanič, Aurelia 1+Hz. http://www.kapelica.org/index_en.htm-

l#event=975

She often takes science fiction as a method of predicting the future and influence

technological growth. These results are sought also in speculative design;. This is

a way to reshape the future while bringing consciousness to the public about their environment159.

Dr. Špela Petrič is an artist and scientist from Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is currently

doing her residency in Amsterdam, as part of the 3-package by Mediamatic, Waag Society and the Vrije Universiteit, supported by AFK. She is member of Hackteria.

The collaborative artwork of Humalga is a proposal on behalf environmental,

social, and economic instabilities affecting the modern human, without necessarily continuing the same framework of values that we have. It is contextualized according

to the western philosophical tradition, still influenced by the body/mind, man/wom-

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Image 53. Spela Petric, “Humalga” Source: http://www.spelapetric.org/portfolio/humalga/


160. Spela Petric, “Humalga” http://www. spelapetric.org/portfolio/humalga/

161. PETRIČ, Špela . Interview Online, transcription from Skype interview 8/12/2015. See interview transcript, Annex.

162. Ibid

an, and reductionist/holistic approach to knowledge160. It proposes a biotechnologi-

cally engineered life form, which could facilitate the long-term survival of humans and its evolving culture by spending our lifetime in different life forms, like an algae.

Many organisms spend part of their life as one life form and a part as another i.e.: butterflies and larvae, jellyfishes and polyps, etc. Sometimes very resilient life forms

can be formed during these cycles. They are basically a cell with some DNA packed

inside that can stand extreme conditions like for example irradiation, drought, etc. Humalga would be this emergency pack for biological survival.

Humalga is meant to draw a future with a different value system rather than trans–

humanist: “We haven’t changed biologically much in the past 250.000 years but culturally we have”161. Humalga proposes to keep the original human form in order to

have a cultural continuity but, just in case the environmental conditions become too harsh, we would have this mechanism that would allow us to spend part of our life as

an alga. It is also as an application of a novel discourse, terRabiology (an ontological view of the evolution and terraformative process on Earth).

Humalga was presented in the context of COP21 in Paris as a critic to the “solu-

tionists, who believe that climate change can still be prevented because humans are smart enough and have the technology to deal with it”

162

. Humalga steps out from

the “solutionist” mindset and looks into the natural biological toolkit from where evolution has given solutions to adapt species to toxic, harsh environments. Complex

lifecycles are one of these solutions as it opens up sort of very interesting questions, like the relation between my DNA and my identity.

As an art project, Humalga loosely mimics the scientific research process whilst

engaging the public in every step including proof-of-concept. Besides, a provocative manifestation was organized in the faculty of Art and Science in Bangalore in India.

The transdisciplinary teamwork made a very routine experiment in the laboratory to inject isolated chloroplasts from plants into Zebra Fishes embryos knowing in advance that this would be controversial because most of them would be killed. It

was a proof-of-concept of the Humalga complex lifecycle and a way to show it to the art students.

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Dr. Špela Petrič is part of collaborative open bio-hacker community. When I asked

her about biosafety and untrained people in biology she argued that “it is a little bit naïve to believe that anyone can jump into the field and develop a meaningful pro-

ject without previously having a proper training, we are almost all trained scientist and it takes a long time to get there”163. About the democratization of scientific research, she thinks that is beneficial up to a certain point. Regarding the importance

of keeping standard politics out of the influence area to guarantee its independency.

Otherwise “we may risk loosing long-term pure research in the benefit of short-term applied and lucrative research.” The whole project has a science fiction approach, a

163. Ibid

164. Ibid

165. PAPANEK, Victor, 2005, “Design For The Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change”, Chicago publishers, Revised Edition, 2005.

166. Spoken Conversation with Dr. Sachiko Hirosue 22/12/2015 at Hackuarium, Renens, Switzerland.

reflection of the reality we are experiencing now and an embodiment of our future hopes and fears as seen through today. “This is beneficial for science as well. It creates a whole scenario, where every single detail in this fictional world has been play out and is supposed to be tested based on these facts that we know in the present”164.

As well as questioning the limits of current scientific knowledge, the project urges

us to consider the contemporary views of the body and to rethink the impact of such speculative proposals on art and society.

BIO-DESIGN for the REAL WORLD is a transdisciplinary and collaborative re-

search project to define, build, and field-test prototypes that require the integration

of wetware, hardware, and software. It addresses real world water problems to make people reflect on issues related to water within three nodes: (Art)ScienceBLR at the

Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology (Bangalore, India), the Lifepatch citizen initiative in art, science and technology (Yogyakarta, Indonesia), and students

at the School of Life Sciences at EPFL (Lausanne, Switzerland, and housed in Hackuarium)165.

“Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be

revolutionary and radical.”166 - Victor Papanek, Design For The Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, Chicago publishers.

Taking Papanek’s “Design for the Real World” as a reference, they ask students of

art and design to approach biotechnological developments to seek alternative solu-

tions for solving real problems, specifically, other ways to detect arsenic or faecal

contamination through data gathering, alternative data visualization or mapping, and

60

Image 54. Biodesign, GFP detection. Source: http://biodesign.cc/2013/02/08/gfp-detection/


167. Biodesign, GFP detection, http://biodesign.cc/2013/02/08/gfp-detection/

168. Ibid

169. “Public views on GMOs: deconstructing the myths. Stakeholders in the GMO debate often describe public opinion as irrational. But do they really understand the public?”, Claire Marrie, EMBO Rep. 2001 Jul 7; 2(7): 545–548. (Consulted November 2015) Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/pmc/articles/PMC1083956/

170. Interview with Jim Thomas, program director of the ETC Group, in “FearOfTheUnknown” Episode3 by DYSECT, 2015, Available at: https:// vimeo.com/117594088

tool prototyping.

As Dr. Hirosue explains when working in interdisciplinary teams “artist and de-

signers often come with radically different solutions that may not always include

technology in a “traditional” way, for example observing the lack of libellees in a pond is a sign of water contamination without the use of technological devices”167.

This might be a point of disagreement in terms of the outcome that might be expected, for example an application for mobile devices.

Besides, in collaboration with Professor Jan Roelof van der Meer, they are using

a green fluorescent protein (GFP) to detect arsenic concentration in water168 where significant levels are still causing health problems.

Transgenic organisms have existed since the 1970’s and humans, through breeding,

have been manipulating the genetic makeup of crops and farm animals for 10 000 years169. However, they have some issues in terms of public acceptance. For 30 years

now, entities like ETC Group have been tracking how big biotechnological compa-

nies like Monsanto have been trying to take over the food supply and how farmers and biodiversity are affected in the process170. An artistic and design perspective,

could not only lead to innovative proposals but also promote a public debate about their use in certain environments.

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Co9 Conclusion

Throughout all the master thesis we have seen examples of how artists and design-

ers work using different approaches; artists like Maya Smekar (Maya Yoghurt) or

Oron Catts (Victimless leather) use biomedia to create powerful provocations using it as an aesthetical language benefiting from strategies related to illusionism or hyper-

realism; designers like Anthony Dune and Fiona Raby or Heather Dewey-Hagborg in her “Stranger Visions” would include the use of biomedia (in a practical or narrative way) to address social and ethical values connected with the use of biotechnology

and the industrial production. They all have a critical approach to the technology and demonstrate that the uses of biotechnologies, as we know it today, have flaws and should be approached from alternative perspectives.

However, in the case of Joe Davis (Bacterial Radio or Poetical Vagina), he rather

focuses on the potentialities of the use of biological media in combination with electronic media, also addressing the capacity of the first one to unveil socio-cultural

issues. Meanwhile, Angelo Vermeulen (Corrupted C#n#m#) also uses biological pro-

cesses with digital media, instead he focuses on the physicality of the medium and its degradation.

These examples have also shown that the very fact of categorizing the various play-

ers as artists, designers or scientists was already conflicting, because the majority of

projects reviewed in this document were created by multidisciplinary professionals,

with academic background in at least two domains. A common point is the media they use in their creative process, either in a practical or in a figurative way.

The main answers to the research questions are that hybridizations are a causality

of a world with limited resources where biotechnological developments and synthetic

biology are shaping the way we see living matter. Simultaneously in the humanities, the idea of the “post-human” has become a central topic regarding the general dis-

course of technology, forcing us to question nature and what is meant to be human. These keeps our understanding of materials and media in a constant flux that keeps artists and designers exploring for new potentialities.

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These artistic and scientific entanglements aim at constructing new languages and

tools for mutual understanding (i.e.: Arduino, Processing or Pure Data related to digital media and BioBricks, OpenPCR171 or DIY Microscope related to biological

media) and help biotechnological methods spread into DIY communities and the field of bio hacking. Besides, these communities are revolutionizing the way knowledge

is produced, transmitted and how we bestow information with authority. They open the doors for the creation of scientific tools at a reduced cost, they offer a playground to hack and make with life matter and they offer qualified training that enables cross disciplinary collaboration and research.

However, as previously argumented in chapter â&#x20AC;&#x153;Open Scienceâ&#x20AC;?, some portion of

the society fears a possible bad use of technology in these environments in untrained

hands. The main argument is that people that are not trained might not have the same ethical considerations or enough knowledge to judge the integrity of a project. But,

knowledge sharing is essential and the possible benefits overcome the risks (internet, open source tools, low cost lab equipment, etc). Furthermore, these initiatives allow

for a better understanding of new technologies and scientific progress. Thus, it should not be obstructed by fears of hypothetical harmful misuses of knowledge.

Generally, art and design projects involving biological media require an under-

standing of systems, similar to product design but on a larger scale. These practices imply to acquire scientific knowledge, in addition to skills for the construction of the

artwork or the object, in order to have a deeper understanding of how nature works. It pushes forward some techniques or applications by questioning the limits of the hu-

man body and explores the implications of altering nature. This implies an accurate

research and a suspension of grand complex narratives that enters us in sort of surrealism that arises public debate and awareness about scientific progress. Therefore, the 171. Open PCR, controlling reactions for DNA detection, Â openpcr.org

question whether these creations contribute in a significant way to science and whether the artistic process itself should be considered scientific research remains open.

63


Ac10

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the great many people who have contributed to this theoreti-

cal master thesis production. My deepest gratitude is to my tutor Dr. Nicolas Nova for

all the advices, dedication and support. I also would like to thank Daniel Sciboz for helping me defining a further artistic research direction.

Dr. Sachiko Hirosue, has been always there to listen and for introducing me to the

majority of artists and professionals in the field of biohacking. Likewise, I would like to thank the whole Hackuarium team for giving me the space and tools to articulate

the initiative of Darty Monkeys and Virtual Hangouts to exchange information with

artists and scientists (and other hybrids). Many thanks to the wonderful Hackuarium members: Luc Henry for connecting me to artists interested in open bioart and bio-

hacking; to Gianpaolo Rando for his encouragement and knowledge exchange; also

to Sam Sulaimanov for his motivating speech about open science and its possible applications also in art and design.

I also wanted to thank the Hackteria network Marc Dusseiller and Urs Gaudenz

their for knowledge sharing and lesson to upgrade all kind of equipement that could

be found in a flee market during the workshop “The art of Biohacking“ at HEAD Genève.

A big thank you to La Paillasse Saone and to all the team of Taiwan Bioart, to

Pei-Yi Ling, Hàohsīn Baisien Chāng and Carol for their time and knowledge sharing during the “Virtual Hangouts”. Also, I’m deeply grateful to the artist and scientists

Kat Austen, Robertina Sebjanic, Spela Petri and to the art historian and curator Boris Magrini for a great information exchange about bioart and citizen science.

A special thank you to my beloved Michael Pereira and Anthony Pereira for read-

ing my thesis and for the corrections and suggestions and to my parents, for supporting me despite the distance and listen my conclusions with attention.

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Bi11

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Blog AUSTEN, Kate, 2015. “Designing for embodied understanding of complexity in citizen science” at Katausten, Wordpress, 30/11/2015. (Consulted on December 2015) https://katausten. wordpress.com/2015/11/30/designing-for-embodied-understanding-of-complexity-in-citizen-science/ AUSTEN, Kat, “Designing for embodied understanding of complexity in citizen science “, Katausten Wordpress, Blog https://katausten.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/designing-for-embod ied-understanding-of-complexity-in-citizen-science/

Video COLLINS, Anne, 2015. “Hybrid Practices Keynote: Anne Collins Goodyear” - YouTube, Online, 11 May, 2015. (Consulted December 2015) Available at: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=EVxIi8aMDQs DIYSECT Episode #2 Bioterror & Bioerror, 2015, https://vimeo.com/113634576 DIYSECT Episode #3 Fear Of The Unknown, 2015, https://vimeo.com/117594088 DIYSECT Episode #5 Hybrid Practices https://vimeo.com/139401358 SASOWSKY Peter, Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis, 2014 https://vimeo.com/ondemand/hejd “How to extract DNA from strawberries” - YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOpu4iN5Bh4 “RoboRoach, (beta) Surgery Instructions” - Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rp4V3Sj5jE

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Websites KLUVER, Billy, 2000. E.A.T. Archive of published documents, 2000. FDL for Art, Science, and Technology. (Online) (Consulted Novermber 2015) Availble at: http://www.fondation-lan glois.org/html/e/page.php?NumPage=306 Manifesto by RAUSCHENBERG, Robert and KLUVER, Billy, for E.A.T., 1967. (Online) (Consulted November 2015) Available at: http://www.vasulka.org/archive/Writings/EAT.pdf Manifesto by CRITICAL ENGINEERING (Online) (Consulted November 2015) Available at: https://criticalengineering.org/en Arduino https://www.arduino.cc/ Processing https://processing.org/ Openframeworks http://openframeworks.cc/ Manifesto by CRITICAL ENGINEERING (Online) (Consulted November 2015) Available at: https://criticalengineering.org/en “Tranparency Granade”, CRITICAL ENGINEERING, http://transparencygrenade.com/ “Tissue Culture & Art Project” http://tcaproject.org “Synth-ethic: Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition”, Biofaction Exhibition, Vienna, Austria. Online, available at: http://www.biofaction.com/synth-ethic/?p=37 “PIG 050409” MEINDERTSMA, Christian, http://www.christienmeindertsma.com/index.php?/books/pig-05049/$ “Sterile”, COHEN & VAN BALEN, http://www.cohenvanbalen.com/work “The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962: Francis Crick, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins” The official site of the Nobel Prize, Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 5 Feb 2016. Available at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1962/ “Be invisible”, DEWEY-HAGBORG, Heather http://biogenfutur.es/ iGEM Competition http://igem.org/Main_Page Cambridge Team iGEM 2009 “eChromi” http://2009.igem.org/Team:Cambridge “eChromi” DAISY GINSBERG,Alexandra & KING, James, http://www.echromi.com/ UCL iGEM 2015 Team, “Mind the Gut” http://2015.igem.org/Team:UCL/ “Hypersymbiotic Salon”, DIMITRIU, Anna, http://annadumitriu.tumblr.com/HypersymbiontSalon “Edible growth”, RUTZERVELD, Chloé, http://www.chloerutzerveld.com/edible-growth-2014/ “Circumventive Organs”, HAINES, Agi, 2014, http://www.agihaines.com/#!circumventive-organs/c1t44 “Synthetic Aesthetics: New Frontiers in Contemporary Design”Exhibition at MOMA, New York, http://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2014/12/17/designing-life-synthetic-biolo gy-and-design “Malamp Reliquaries”, Ballengee, BRANDOM, on going project, http://brandonballengee.com/projects/reliquaries/ “The Climate Hope Garden (2085)”, SCHLAEPFER-MILLER, Juanita, 2015, http://www.z-node.net/cms/pages/juanita_schlaepfer-miller.html “Auralroots”, SCOTT, Jills, 2015, Exhibition: Grounded Visions, https://www.usys.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/usys/department/documents/news/events/grounded-vi sions-press-release.pdf “Communicating bacteria”, DIMITRIU, Anna, 2009. http://annadumitriu.tumblr.com/CommunicatingBacteria “ The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility (MGA)”, BRANDIS-MEYER, Agnes, 2012, http://www.blubblubb.net/mga/ “Tea cup tools, global tea cup network”, BRANDIS-MEYER, Agnes, 2013, http://www.blubblubb.net/mga/ ESPARZA, Gilberto, “Plantas Nomadas” and “Plantas Autofotosinteticas”, from “Gilberto Esparza C1D Banda Ancha” - Youtube, Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1hUE jUO6oQ) “Bees”, 2009, SOARES, Susana, http://www.susanasoares.com/index.php?id=56 “The Opera of Prehistoric Creatures”, HUMEAU, Marguerite, http://margueritehumeau.com/act_3/ “The oldest things in the world”, SUSSMAN, Rachel, http://www.rachelsussman.com/portfolio/#/oltw/ “Plant Sex Consultancy” http://psx-consultancy.com Hackuarium, http://hackuarium.strikingly.com/#mission HTGAA Academy http://bio.academany.org/ “DIY Gene Gun” TROJOK, Rüdiger, http://diyhpl.us/~bryan/papers2/diybio/r%C3%BCdiger-trojok-gene-gun.pdf “Vaghurt Recipe”, Tereza Valentova and Alice Vandeleur-Boorer http://www.alicevandeleur-boorer.co.uk/vaghurt-recipe.html “Hu.M.C.C.- Maya Youghurt “, Maja Smekar, 2014, http://www.mayayoghurt.net/ Hackteria http://hackteria.org/ Kickstarter Campaign Backyardbrains, “Roboroach”, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/backyardbrains/the-roboroach-control-a-living-insect-from-your-sm “Roboroach”, https://backyardbrains.com/products/roboroach DARPA http://www.darpa.mil/

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“Corrupted C#n#m#”, VERMEULEN, Angelo, http://www.angelovermeulen.net/?portfolio=corrupted-cnm-entomograph “Glowing Plant”, http://www.glowingplant.com/ “XXLab”, Honfablab, http://xxlab.honfablab.org/ Biocurious Bio hackerspace http://biocurious.org/ Kickstarter Campaign “Glowing Plants” https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/antonyevans/glowing-plants-natural-lighting-with-no-electricit?lang=es Adam Zaretsky, “Emutagen” http://www.emutagen.com/ Adam Zaretsky, “Vivoarts” http://emutagen.com/vivoartgl.html “Critical Art Ensemble” http://www.critical-art.net/Biotech.html Manifesto by Critical Art Ensemble for “Interactivos09” at Media Lab Prado http://medialab-prado.es/article/taller-seminario_interactivos09_ciencia_de_garaje List of Hackerspaces https://wiki.hackerspaces.org/List_of_Hacker_Spaces Hackuarium http://hackuarium.strikingly.com/ Iilab https://iilab.org/ Piksel Festival 2015 http://15.piksel.no ŠEBJANIČ, Robertina, http://robertina.net/ Robertina Šebjanič, Aurelia 1+Hz. http://www.kapelica.org/index_en.html#event=975 Spela Petric, “Humalga” http://www.spelapetric.org/portfolio/humalga/ Biodesign, http://biodesign.cc/ Open PCR, controlling reactions for DNA detection, openpcr.or

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An12 Annex: Conversation pieces

During this research, I had the opportunity to interview professionals in the field of science, art, design and engineering who are

developing projects in art or design in the context of citizen science: Kat Austen, Robertina Sebjanic, Spela Petri, Sachiko Hirosue,

Pei-Yi Ling, Boris Magrini, Sam Sulaimanov and Gianpaolo Rando. Moreover, I organized a worldwide 12-hour virtual hangout (http://wiki.hackuarium.ch/w/Darty_Monkeys#Virtual_roundtable_09.2F10.01.16) at Hackuarium biohackerspace to meet bio-

artists and reseachers from La Paillasse Saone (France), TWbioart in Taiwan and a three-side discussion between the current artists in a month residency at CERN, the dancer Wenchi Su, the bioartist Pei-Yi Ling and the scientist Dr. Sachiko Hirosue.

Interview Online:

P1: Could you briefly introduce yourself? Boris Magrini : Boris Magrini, Swiss art historian and curator, focuses on contemporary artistic practices at the intersection

between of arts, technology, science and society. He was curator at Duplex in Geneva, I Sotterranei dell’Arte in Monte Carasso and

assistant curator at Kunsthalle Fribourg and Kunsthalle Zurich. Curated shows include Mutamenti (Bellinzona, 2007), Anathema (Fri-Art, Fribourg, 2007-8), Modifier (Dienstgebäude, Zurich, 2010) and Leise Rehe-Wilde Beeren (Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 2011-

12). He organises talk series: Reality Check at Kunsthalle Zürich (2014) and Hackteria Swiss Curriculum, Corner College with Hackteria (2014-15). He edits the Italian pages of Kunstbulletin (Switzerland) and he regularly publishes on contemporary and media

art in magazines, books and exhibition catalogues. Some of his recent publications include: «Hackteria: An Example of Neomodern Activism» (Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Vol. 20 Issue 1, 2014) and «Beyond Mere Tools», in Political Interventions, Edition Digital Culture 1, (Christoph Merian Verlag and Migros-Kulturprozent, 2014).

Kat Austen: Hi, I’m Kat. I’m a person. Here’s a link to my crowd-sourced bio https://pads.ccc.de/Oj7sdPgcOG

Yu Li : I’m a designer, main focus on interaction and speculative design. I’m also an interdisciplinary researcher. I’m interested

in innovation-oriented projects through the method of speculative design. I work with scientists, engineers and various researchers

from different areas through scientific diplomacy, technology monitoring and forecasting, design engineering. I’m also an active participant in citizen science and in the maker movement.

Gianpaolo Rando : Gianpaolo, you know me :-) Terminal postdoc in molecular biology. Robertina Šebjanič (transcription): I’m Robertina, new media artist and transdisciplinary researcher.

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P2: Are you developing any activity related to transdisciplinary research? If YES,

which?

BM : I write essays about contemporary artistic practices in the intersection of arts,

technology, science and society and I curate exhibitions with artists working with

unconventional and modern technologies as well as with artists approaching topics associated with scientific research and technology. Recent exhibitions include: The

Hydra Project – Maja Smrekar (25 – 30.08.2015 Exhibition and workshop with artist

Maja Smrekar. Public talk with the participation of Maja Smrekar, Sven Panke and Jens Hauser. Corner College, Zurich) and Grounded Visions: Artistic Research into Environmental Issues (Co-curated by Boris Magrini and Jill Scott Scientific advisor:

Angelika Hilbeck Brandon Ballengée, Tiffany Holmes, Andrea Polli, Aviva Rahmani, Juanita Schläpfer-Miller, Jill Scott, Eugenio Tisselli).

KA : Everything I do is transdisciplinary. I’m currently developing a project that

looks at embodiment as a way to engage with complex systems - in this case global financial systems (http://worldflows.net). I also do transdisciplinary research into environmental issues - for instance this collaborative workshop Underwater Interception in the Nordic Sea at Piksel Festival this year https://piksel.no/

I’m embarking on a project as part of my work with iilab that will bring codesign

principles to infrastructure engineering, and I advise on interdisciplinarity and art and science globally. I just gave a talk on the next steps of bringing interdisciplinarity together with citizen science for the millenial generation at Countdown 2030

https://katausten.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/designing-for-embodied-understanding-of-complexity-in-citizen-science/ A book chapter I wrote on truth-seeking and

computational modelling is coming out soon and brings together perspectives from chemistry, computer modelling and philosophy. You might also be interested in the transcript of my seminar at Cambridge on citizen science, philosophy and the prob-

lem space of bestowing knowledge with authority - ie: what to trust https://katausten. wordpress.com/2015/01/24/exploration-into-the-evolution-of-bestowing-knowledge-with-authority/

iilab with whom I collaborate are entirely transdisciplinary. https://iilab.org UCL

have a BASc programme and are building this into a MASc programme. You should talk to Carl Gombrich. The university promotes interdisciplinarity widely.

YL : Design projects that require interdisciplinary research. Industrial design pro-

ject that require scientists, engineers involved.

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GR : I want to digitise food together with citizen. Have normal people to master

hard-core biochemistry to decode the taste, texture, nutritional value and ecological footprint of any food and sharing this information with others. I’m starting with beer.

RS : In 2010, I initiated Futuro – autopoiesis with the Marine Institute of Slove-

nia supported by the UNESCO Foundation. The project Futuro Autopoiesis touches various ecologic issues and focuses on the research of the structural contact between

an organism as a closed system and its environment. It establishes a futurotopic au-

to-poetic environment, through which we can step into an interactive simulation of the possible future ecologic development and critically reflect upon our influence on the stability/instability of the ecosystem.

After that I developed other works, like Deep Blue or Aurelia 1+Hz, a proto viva

sonification that explores the phenomena of interspecies communication, sonifica-

tions of the environment and the acoustic of the space that surrounds living creatures. P3: “Today, there are signs of mistrust and fear of science and technology because

of the communications gap between scientists and society”. How could art / design solve this? How could an artist or designer contribute to shape the direction of technology and science?

BM : I don’t completely agree with the statement that the mistrust is the result

of the communication gap between scientists and the society. Other more serious reasons have to be considered. I also don’t believe that artists and designers should

solve this conflict, they should rather pursue their own goals and question scientific research and the politic and economic framework behind the regulation of modern technologies.

KA : That’s an enormous leap in your immediate assumptions there, tbh. You

should look at the work done as part of the STARTS EU programme - they just put out a report that somewhat addresses this wrt digital tech.

YL : I don’t think this mistrust and fear is commonly exist. If that’s largely exist,

that is a very passive sign that our society need to evolve. Science technology is

everywhere in our society, from the electronic devices, transport, machines to making prototypes, medical devices until small to nano scale, such as some clothes that

we were, some medical instrument that been installs inside our body in order to save a patient. Science and technology is everywhere, if general people fear about that,

they must also fear about their life as well. The implantation of science and technol-

ogy into our society is inevitable. Communication gap between scientist and society

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is part of the reason of this fear, but not the main reason. The gap between scientist and society is obvious but this could solved by more education and communication,

and also a system that could deploy scientific knowledge largely to the society, let the people benefit from it. The reason have this gap could describe in few key words

in my opinion: 1, lack of direct knowledge transfer from scientist to the society. 2, Education system need more promotion of scientific knowledge. 3, Scientist need be

more communicative and try to engage public to join the research. 4, Social structure need to be more flexible and modified in order to widely spread the knowledge. About

art/design, artists and designer can’t solve this direction, but they could make some changes in light way, since art/design is more closer than the scientist compare with the general public, art and design could be the middle way, an interface to introduce

science to the public, open the dialogues. Make the public more involved in the sci-

ence. Artist and designer can’t shape science, they could only inspire. The scientific knowledge is largely hosted by these researches who spend years for their specific research, they dig deep in the area and they could be the master of their own area. But since the way of of working makes them far from the society and general public.

Their research area is too sharp that maybe unable to jump from one domain to an-

other. In such a context, they need some external resource and stimulation to make they think differently, art and design could be an inspiration for them, but only inspi-

ration. Coz the real accurate science and technology will still science and technology, if replaced by art and design, it will fall to pseudo-science.

GR : Any researcher is - by definition - at the frontier. It’s easier to get isolated/

lost. Art/design should empathize with the scientist and help her to connect back with the society.

RS : I’m a big fan of science fiction. I think is a way of predicting the future. In

performative arts, we seek the same result, to interpret the present and suggest what it is going to bring to the future. This is a way to reshape the future.

P4: Are you working in a transdisciplinary project with scientist or artists? If YES,

which is their/your role?

BM : My role is to organise exhibitions, this involves a lot of management, but also

some critical and creative thinking and discussion with the artists and the researchers involved. Their role is to produce works that is meaningful to their own research. Both the artistic and the scientific research can contribute to bring society forward.

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KA : I’m not sure what this question is getting at - I’m both and I work with both. YL : Yes, I working with them as a designer, depends on what project. If it’s in-

dustrial design project, I’m a designer. If its a speculative design project, I’m an artist but who learn from scientist, and trying to shape my idea with accurate scientific knowledge.

GR : I do not know, they are crazy monkeys. RS: With both, scientist and artist with different backgrounds. In Futuro Autopoie-

sis, which was my first experience in Art_Sci, I’ve worked with a group of scientist and in the beginning we both had different expectations about how the project was

going to be developed. We expect different things form each other; we exchanged

some references before we brainstormed the ideas that finally led us to direct our

work. It was a long process. Maybe it would have been more condensed if we had in-

teracted more frequently. Some scientists were highly devoted to my project and they

spent with me one month. That was very precious to me. Otherwise, in Deep Blue even though I‘ve worked with scientists, it was a different configuration as I was more a kind of nexus between them and the nine other artists that took part. In many other

projects, I was the coauthor of the work and the relation was more horizontal. The dynamic of work is very important and may become a problem when the scientist takes a dominant position; it turns very difficult to collaborate from a “lower” position.

P5: Are you member or a citizen laboratory or hacker space? If YES, Which one?

Which activities do you develop there?

BM : I collaborate with Hacketeria, an international association and a platform for

knowledge sharing on open source Biological Art projects.

KA : Yes, I work at the fablab Berlin, and was a member of the London Hackspace

until I relocated

YL : Yes, Biohacker space La Paillasse and also Hackuarium. I working on scien-

tific diplomacy, citizen science and design projects. GR : Hackuarium (BeerDeCoded).

RS: Yes. I’ve collaborated with Hackteria network in Bangalore and Bergen. We

made a transdisciplinary research about microplastics and water quality. It was very

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interesting because we did field work, together with scientists. This is a very interesting process because when you go out with scientists to work directly in the field, we

both observe the same things that later on are going to be interpreted with different techniques.

P6: Democratizing science and technology has become a matter of concern spe-

cially when talking about giving an “untrained” person access to certain equipment and techniques. What’s your opinion about this?

BM : I strongly believe that knowledge sharing is essential. A person who intends

to do harm finds a way regardless of the information shared with the multiplicity of

citizen science initiatives worldwide. Citizen science initiatives rather allow for a better understanding of new technologies and scientific progress and should not be hindered by unjustified fears of hypothetical harmful misuses of knowledge.

KA : Most people are responsible and if they’re getting into science they care to do

it right. People with no training need training - the same is true of undergraduates at a university but I don’t see anyone saying we should shut down their labs. As someone

recently said in a talk at Piksel, I’m more comfrotable having an artist in a lab than a venture capitalist...

YL : I highly suggest that in order to use the equipment safely, “untrained” person

need to be trained in order to use the equipment. Also need to respect the scientific

rules. The basic rule is general public could play with biology and any kinds of sci-

ence under the already settles rules. But this shouldn’t be misunderstood as any body could replace scientists to do their works. Scientist still above general public who

hold the specific knowledge, I suggest general public don’t reverse the rule and mess

up with serious science. But the communication and learning need to largely spread in to the society.

GR: My opinion is that the risk is wildly inferior to the opportunity that we are

missing in blocking this access to untrained persons. How to manage the thing? 1) By building and operating open labs that are more attractive than working in my own garage. 2) Giving a minimum of supervision to the people working in the openlab, so

that people can receive the basic training required. 3. Working in full transparency/ openess so that potential dangers can be recognized in advance. 4) Accepting that open labs will make mistakes, any organisation does.

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Hybridizations  

Artists and designers get often involved in collaborative processes with scientists, anthropologists, computer software specialists, etc. Th...

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