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This course studies how bioart blurs distinctions between science and art through the combination of artistic and scientific processes, creating wide public debate. It explores the history of biotechnology as well as social implications of this science.
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Please contact Prof. Victoria Vesna if you are interested in joining this class.


BLOGS

Weeks 1-4: Full Circle

The main topics that we have discussed this quarter so far have been the idea of pencils and graphite, the quantum world, yeast and bread, and mycelium. Every single one of these concepts has a very unique intricate connection to art and personally I have never take a class that actually explores these connections. My drawing is meant to depict the simultaneous presence of each of these concepts. The world we live in is intensely connected and often times it difficult to illustrate these connections in a way that accurately shows how life progresses.

Connection of Week 1-4 Lectures

In the first week, we learned about pencil and graphite drawing. We were asked to turn off all the electronic devices and composed an art with simply pencil and paper. We learned about the composition of pencil and how the lead part is actually composed of graphite, which are layers of carbon sheets. Then I think about different carbon allotropes like diamond and amorphous carbon.

A visual mind "map"

I summarize this class, not by a mind map of words, but visually by starting with a tree. We started by discussing pencils which are formed from wood, which comes from trees. As I descend down the tree, I find a lump of charcoal in the earth, which will one day be processed into graphite for the pencil. This connection of the elements of a pencil is how I have always imagined the two critical components.

Weeks 1-5 Midterm Recap

We have now reached the middle of the quarter and have discussed many aspects of the intersection between art and biotechnology. Science and art are intimately linked in more ways than we could ever cover in this class but diving into a couple of these intersections has been very interesting. We began our quarter talking about the intricacies of the pencil. This first lecture set a theme that has been relevant to the rest of the course and that is looking deeper than the surface.

Art, Science, and Examining the Mundane

I took out a piece of blank paper and a pencil and began to write. I wanted to create a few main ideas that much of the course material would connect to, so naturally I chose art and science. As I was making connections and writing down ideas, I noticed that many of the activities that we have done over the quarter involve looking deeper into the mundane. We have taken many ordinary objects (bread, pencils, mushrooms) and revealed that there is much more to each of them than we thought before.

Porous Bodies

First and foremost, I would like to thank our guest lecturers for preparing such an amazing presentation and for inspiring us to become mushroom hunters through their storytelling soundwalk. However, I don’t know if I would like to call myself a mushroom ‘hunter’; instead, I would prefer the term mushroom ‘explorer’. The essay by Ursula K.

Mycological Musings

Over the weekend I was on Catalina island, fixing bikes in my bike shop at Emerald Bay. I planned to keep an eye out for fungi - particularly along this one trail where I remember they're usually being little stalks here and there. 

One afternoon I took a break from my work and headed over to hike up this hill and look around, but where I remember there always being fungal blooms there were none - though there were funnel spider webs which I never remembered seeing.

Rooted Amongst Others

The first thing I planned on doing, after having opened the recorded dialogue of course, was stamp my feet in my backyard, and inhale the spring breeze. I wanted to absorb the information my surrounding provided me, and react to its stimuli. It was a sunny afternoon, the birds were unironically chirping, and I could feel the sun on my face.  After having absorbed the vastness that is my background, I decided to explore the unknown, and ventured off. My background is quite sizable, and I often neglect both flora and fauna that inhabit it.

Seed to a Plant

My journey started looking for fungi as I was navigating the beautiful hills of Hill Country Texas. I soon came to realize recently we have been having nights that dropped below 70ºC, which around such temperatures the mushroom spores go into hibernation mode and don't grow. As I was listening to the "Sound Walk Audio", this flowered captured my gaze and interest.

Observation Walk

I went on my walk with my friend who is visiting me from Seattle. We listened to the recording and took pictures of the things we noticed. We tried to pay close attention to the items that reminded us of Fungi. When the recording started to play I found it annoying. There was a buzzing sound in the background and I did not like how it was telling me what to do. It just kept repeating “walk just walk” like it was trying to hypnotize me.

Mycelium Exploration

Over the weekend, I decided to go on a walk to a nearby hill and explore wild mushrooms. Unfortunately, the weather was dry and sunny, which is unsuitable for fungi to thrive. Therefore I decided to go to the supermarket for the mushroom hunt while listening to the “Sound Walk Audio.”

Fungal Entanglement in the Cycle of Life

As I was listening to Kaitlin and Saša talk about the mycelium network during the meditation, I was reminded of the giant Banyan Grove tree that connects all beings in the Swamp episode of the Avatar: the Last Airbender cartoon series. As it turns out, there is actually a real life Banyan tree that’s considered sacred in several South-East Asian cultures, housing spirits and gods according to mythologies and folklore tales (Lopez). I reflected on how art imitates life and vice versa, and started my fungi hunting exploration with this thought in mind.

 

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