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Bioart and —Wetware: Art, Agency, Animation, an Exhibition as Case Study

    Author: Charissa N. Terranova1
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    Affiliations: 1: Aesthetic Studies, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75080
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 02 December 2016
    • ©2016 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • 1The exhibition was curated by Eben Kirksey, Lissette Olivares, Ellie Irons, Grace Glovier, Cody Kohn, Kayli Marshall, Greg Umali, Alexandra Palocz, Jeffrey Bussolini, and Cheto Castellano, took place April 30–May 21, 2016, and showed the work of Maria Aiolova, Patricia Alvarez, Marcela Anabalón, Krisanne Baker, Steve Barrett, Tarsh Bates, Peter Bauer, Vaughn Bell, Karin Bolender, Rogan Brown, Chloe Byrne, Natalia Cabezas + Montserrat Negrete, Corinne Cappelletti, Cheto Castellano, Alonso Cedillo, Sophia Chao, Atom Cianfarani, Tatiana Czekalska + Leszek Golec, J. D. Doria, Krista Dragomer, Ellen Driscoll, Anna Dumitriu, Grayson Earle, Melanie Fessel, Ivan Fuentealba, Regina José Galindo, Mikhail Gervits, Grace Glovier, Yucel Guven, Andrea Haenggi, Christian Hamrick, Shandor Hassan, Elena Tejada Herrera, Kathy High, Jeff Hoelle, Susan Hoenig, Henry Horn, Ellie Irons, Antonia Isaacson, Maca Jimenez, Mitchell Joachim, Sharon Kallis, Anja Kanngieser, Christopher Kennedy, David Khang, Katie King, Eben Kirksey, Kitch, Michael Klingler, Cody Kohn, Miguel Lantigua-Inoa, Lian Lian, Lenore Malen, Matsya, Jane Marsching, Mary Martin, Alex May, Laura McLauchlan, Felipe Molina, Lucia Monge, Sung Moon, Leila Nadir, Eli Neira, NEOZOON, Juan Olivares, Lissette Olivares, Terreform ONE, Alexandra Palocz, Cary Peppermint, Anne Percoco, Eva Perrotta, Angela Petsis, Praba Pilar, Deanna Pindell, Prima and other suspects from the Center for Feline Studies, Danny Reveco Appelger, Peter Richards, Coco Rico, Shark Roth, Christy Rupp, Robyn Shapiro, Sin Kabeza Production, Karolina Sobecka, Anna-Sophie Springer + Etienne Turpin, Annie Sprinkle + Beth Stephens, Polly Stanton, Andi Sutton, Matthew Tarpley, The Natural History Museum (Not an Alternative), Vandra Thorburn, Anaïs Tondeur + Marine Legrand, Marlene Tseng Yu, Greg Umali, Anuj Vaidya, Kamila Varela, Vesper, Artemisia vulgaris, Ruth Wallen, Maria Whiteman, JiaChen Xu, Amanda Yates, and Adam Zaretsky.
      2This exhibition marked the culmination of a virtual residency, September 2015–February 2016, conducted through the SciArt Center New York between the author and David Wessner, Professor of Biology at Davidson College. The exhibition includes artwork by artists Anna Dumitriu, Kathy High, Rachel Mayeri, Ken Rindaldo, Meredith Tromble, and Adam Zaretsky and by scientists Mehmet Candas and François-Joseph Lapointe.
    • Corresponding author. Mailing address: Aesthetic Studies, Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, School of Arts & Humanities, The University of Texas at Dallas, 800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, TX 75080-3021. Phone: 972-883-4394. Fax: 972-883-2989. E-mail: terranova@utdallas.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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    Abstract:

    Recent events in the field of biology have further unfixed the definition of life. The negotiability of “life” is at the center of the exhibition “Wetware: Art, Agency, Animation” at the Beall Center for Art + Technology at the University of California, Irvine. The exhibition includes art by nine international artists working in the avant-garde area of contemporary art called “bioart.” This article is devoted to the unique educational space opened through the practice of bioart, focusing on how the exhibition brings the scientific question “What is life?” to a public audience. , a term that translates as education but encompasses exploration and growth, is based on the holistic unity of science and art and is used here to show that neither science nor art sacrifices legitimacy or distinction within bioart. Art can suggest design and be useful; science can point to abstraction and be poetic. Bioart inspires a chain of curiosity about the form, materials, media that artists use to probe, shape, direct, and display scientific processes and concepts.

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References & Citations

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3. Bray D2009Wetware: a computer in every living cellYale University PressNew Haven, CT
4. Callaway E2016Race to design life heats upNature News53155755810.1038/531557a http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/531557a
5. Hauser J2016It’s time for a wetware updateWETWARE: Art, Agency, Animationforthcoming catalog essay, to be published in conjunction with the closing of the exhibition18
6. Helmreich S2016Sounding the limits of life118Princeton University PressPrinceton, NJ10.1515/9781400873869-003 http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9781400873869-003
7. Keller EF1985Reflections on gender and scienceYale University PressNew Haven, CT
8. Keller EF1997Developmental biology as a feminist cause?Osiris12162810.1086/64926411619777 http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/649264
9. Keller EF2002Making sense of life: explaining biological development with models, metaphors, and machinesHarvard University PressCambridge, MA
10. Kirskey E2016The CRISPR hack: better, faster, strongerAnthropol Now81113
11. Kirskey E2016Emergent Ecologies Exhibition Press Release
12. Ledford H2016CRISPR: gene editing is just beginningNature News531759315615910.1038/531156a http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/531156a
13. Lippard L, Chandler J1968The dematerialization of artArt Internat1223136
14. Margulis L1998Symbiotic planet: a new look at evolutionBasic BooksNew York, NY.
15. Margulis L, Sagan D1995What is life?University of California PressBerkeley, CA
16. Medical Museionn.dMind the gut[Online.] http://www.museion.ku.dk/mindthegut/Accessed 05/09/2016
17. Prange K2004Bildung: a paradigm regainedEur Educ Res J350150910.2304/eerj.2004.3.2.5 http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/eerj.2004.3.2.5
18. Richardson SS, Stevens H2015Postgenomics: perspectives on biology after the genomeDuke University PressDurham, NC10.1215/9780822375449 http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/9780822375449
19. Riskin J2003Eighteenth-century wetwareRepresentations839712510.1525/rep.2003.83.1.97 http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/rep.2003.83.1.97
20. Schrödinger E1933What is life? The physical aspect of the living cellCambridge University PressCambridge, UK
21. SciArt Centern.dGut instinct: art, design and the microbiome[Online.] http://www.sciartcenter.org/gut-instinct.htmlAccessed 05/09/2016
22. Shanken E2009Art and electronic mediaPhaidonNew York, NY
23. Sonnenburg J, Sonnenburg E2015The good gut: taking control of your weight, your mood, and your long-term healthPenguin BooksNew York, NY
24. Treviranus GR1802Biologie, oder, Philosophieder lebenen Natur für Naturforscher und AerzteUniversity of Michigan LibraryAnn Arbor, MI
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2016-12-02
2017-11-18

Abstract:

Recent events in the field of biology have further unfixed the definition of life. The negotiability of “life” is at the center of the exhibition “Wetware: Art, Agency, Animation” at the Beall Center for Art + Technology at the University of California, Irvine. The exhibition includes art by nine international artists working in the avant-garde area of contemporary art called “bioart.” This article is devoted to the unique educational space opened through the practice of bioart, focusing on how the exhibition brings the scientific question “What is life?” to a public audience. , a term that translates as education but encompasses exploration and growth, is based on the holistic unity of science and art and is used here to show that neither science nor art sacrifices legitimacy or distinction within bioart. Art can suggest design and be useful; science can point to abstraction and be poetic. Bioart inspires a chain of curiosity about the form, materials, media that artists use to probe, shape, direct, and display scientific processes and concepts.

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FIGURE 1

Gilberto Esparza, 2010–2014. a) and b) Pepenadores (Gleaners); c) Moscas (Flies).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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FIGURE 2

Gilberto Esparza, “BioSoNot,” 2015.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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FIGURE 3

Adam Brown, “The Great Work of the Metal Lover,” 2012. a) View of alchemical installation. b) View of images with gold made using a scanning electron microscope.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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FIGURE 4

Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand, “Luminiferous Drift,” 2016.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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FIGURE 5a

Anna Dumitriu, “Engineered Antibody,” 2015–2016. “Engineered Antibody” looks like an actual necklace made up of 452 handmade beads containing the actual 21 amino acids of an antibody purified from the blood of an HIV-positive patient.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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FIGURE 5b

Anna Dumitriu, “Necklace,” 2015–2016. “Necklace,” by contrast, symbolically references a necklace using the circular arrangement of agar plates. Bacterial colonies grew, turning blue or white depending on the compatibility of the fragment insertion into the lacZ selection marker. “Necklace” was made in collaboration with Felix Grun, Center for Complex Biological Systems at UCI.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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FIGURE 5c

Anna Dumitriu, “Faster Mutation,” 2015–2016. Here, Dumitriu made embroidered works on velvet impregnated with yeasts that contain an enzyme derived from a bacteriophage that is undergoing increased mutation. Such velvet is used in scientific labs and traditional sewing. In the lab, scientists use velvet squares as part of ‘replica plating,’ a process which allows them to produce an exact copy from one agar plate to another. The bacteria-created embroideries recall ecclesiastic embroideries and metaphorically hint at public suspicion that scientists are “playing God.”

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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FIGURE 6

Thomas Feuerstein, “PANCREAS,” 2012. Thomas Feuerstein’s work supersedes mind-body dualism with organismic holism. Feuerstein’s “PANCREAS” rethinks putative mind and the classical humanist text in terms of the biological processes extending across the body. While organismic integration is its theme, the work of art looks foremost like a disembodied brain. The entire text of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich is ground up, soaked in water, and pressed into an artificial intestine, in which modified bacteria break down the cellulose into glucose. The glucose is filtered, purified, and fed to the cells growing in the brain in the vat. Here, thinking and consciousness are rooted in the pancreas as much as the brain.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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FIGURE 7

Orkan Telhan, “Biorealize: Microbial Design Studio,” 2015. Orkan Telhan’s “Biorealize” is a prototype: a piece of custom liquid handling and incubation hardware that serves as an automated biolab that designs, cultures, and tests genetically modified organisms. While it looks remarkably like a DJ’s turntable, it functions in real time at “Wetware” to manufacture the smell of bananas.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 409-416. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1172
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