Biotech vs. Bioart

       I enrolled in this class as a third year biochemistry student. Before I had minimal experience with modern art, not to mention bioart. Thus, I am glad to learn more about this specific type of art in this class as it is more closely related to my field of study than any other genre. As a biochemistry student, I focus more on molecules and biochemical pathways that occur inside a living organism, and the first thing coming into my mind when reading the word "bioart" is crystallyzed proteins, enzyme linked fluorescence assay (colorful!) and immunoblot membranes.  At first glance, I could hardly understand how people could view them as art.

A Picture of SDS-PAGE. Source: Own Image


A Picture of Immunoblot Membrane. Source: Own Image

    However, after watching the lecture videos, I started to understand how bioartist view their works. Though the artists and scientists/engineers share the same techniques, their emphasis are completely different. For instance, during my intern at Biotus Co. last summer,  I worked in a laboratory with genetically modified E. Coli to overexpress FECH gene and produce the enzyme Ferrochelatase. The enzyme catalyzes the last step in biosynthesis of heme in human body and thus is significant to the treatment of erythropoetic protoporphyria (EPP). Honestly, work in a biochemistry lab can be tedious and messy, especially in a commercial one that involves relatively large quantities of E. Coli. cells as they are smelly and nearly always fail to yield the target protein. Because my emphasis of work is to yield more protein, I negelected the process of how the cells grow, which would be the focal point for the bioartists. To them, it is the ever changing state of life that matters, not purified protein or any specific technique. 


Source: D. Lancerof, 2000

   Moreover, as stated in Hauser's essay that social context and media is very important to to the artists, as they focus more on ideas they want to convey to the general public, while more tech-oriented people like me ususally stick to the problem nature put in front of us.


Hauser, Jens. “Observations on an Art of Growing Interest.” Toward a Phenomenological Approach to Art Involving Biotechnology, 2008, pp. 83–98., doi:10.7551/mitpress/9780262042499.003.0006.

Lancerof, D. "Structural and mechanistic basis of porphyrin metallation by ferrochelatase." Jornal of Molecular Biology, Vol. 297, Issue 1,  2000, pp. 221-232