My Introduction to BioArt

 

I have been fascinated by the intersection of biotechnology and art since before I attended UCLA. I am an avid science fiction fan, and this was the first arena I was exposed to the merging of art with life technology. Although this exposure was in a very abstract medium, built with words and ideas, I believe that my love of Science Fiction is what inspired me to major in BioPhysics. I wanted to differentiate the pipe dreams from the possibilities that were presented to me by my favorite authors. This is actually the same reason I am taking this class. Artists are often on the front lines of technological paradigm shifts. One of these shifts has been in the realm of functional biomaterials. A few years ago, my interest shifted from the abstract to the concrete with the Ted Talk by Neri Oxman titled Design at the Intersection of Technology and Biology. (I could not get the embed to work)

In this talk, Oxman shows how she created a sculpture out of 3D - Printed Chitin, an organic material.

Chitin-Modulor.jpg

          (Photo Credit: http://neri.media.mit.edu/news/article/mits-biodegradable-hydrogel-composites-will-make-3-d-printing-more-environm)

This intersection of aesthetic, function and craft is an interesting spin on the remediation of bioart discussed by Jens Hauser.

The summer after my senior year of High School, I apprenticed a Blacksmith in Petersburg, Virginia because I was fascinated with the idea of forging something beautiful and functional from raw materials. I found it incredibly rewarding to build something, to forge something even as simple as a wedge from iron.

Seeing Professor Oxman crafting with biological components on a macroscopic scale was astonishing and incredibly inspiring. It validated all of my fantasies about a biologically integrated world, where we live in harmony between natural beauty and technological advancement. 

This class is an opportunity for me to explore the cutting edge of creative biotechnology, so I can gain a clear picture of the field I am entering. 

Although I found the reading material needlessly verbose, much of Jens Hauser's discourse was incredibly interesting to me, specifically in how the themes related to my life. I am involved with a Neurophysics Lab, a Lab researching the mechanisms of Iron in our body, and an organization called Bruin Home Solutions, all three of which include very different "media" of expression in the realm of biotechnology and the intersection of art. 

In the Neurophysics research I am participating in, we simulate a virtual reality world for a rat and examine the neurons of the rat in real time to see how the brain is actually perceiving the environment and encoding details of the environment. 
                                    NeurophysicsRat.jpg

This research explores how a different method of perception of reality affects our biological processes, whereas Hauser's discussion observes that bioart is an exploration of using biological processes to influence our perception of life. In Hauser's discussion of Eduardo Kac's The Eighth Day he writes "the filters through which one looks to see the glowing [environment] with the naked eye emphasize more general issues with the phenomenology of perception."

                                gfpmice.jpg 

(Photo Credit: http://www.ekac.org/8thday.html)

In our research, we found that roughly half of the neurons fired when the rats were looking at a virtual environment versus when they were in a real environment, so this quote talking about the phenomenon of perception and the preceding discussion on the irreproducibility of the effect of the artwork into a digital media is a fascinating parallel to my research.

The lecture Videos were extremely interesting to me, as I have been in a synthetic biology Lab and am an avid feminist. Joe Davis making a statement with his MicroVenus was absolutely intriguing, along with the idea of not only encoding digital information into DNA but also encoding art. 

I look forward to exploring even more ideas regarding the intersection of biology and art throughout this quarter and I am excited for our class on Thursday!

References:

http://geneticsandculture.com/genetics_culture/pages_genetics_culture/gc_w03/davis_microvenus.htm

http://neri.media.mit.edu/

http://www.ekac.org/8thday.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867415016396

Jason J. Moore, Pascal M. Ravassard, David Ho, Lavanya Acharya, Ashley L. Kees, Cliff Vuong, Mayank R. Mehta, Dynamics of cortical dendritic membrane potential and spikes in freely behaving rats. Science Vol. 355, Issue 6331, 1281 (2017), 24 March 2017. |