Biotechnology and Art

It was a pleasure having Mick Lorusso come give a guest lecture! Much of his work overlaps with my own BioArt interests including using biotechnology in conjunction with art to 1) develop new approaches to help the environment, and 2) to develop resourceful pieces that have practical, meaningful, and relevant applications in society.  

One of the pieces that he talked about that I found especially intriguing was the “Plantas Nomadas” or “Nomadic Plants.” First of all, I thought it was a very resourceful design given the use of a microbial fuel cell to generate energy for the device. Moreover, I was fascinated by the self-sustaining aspect of the device and it’s ability to roam and survive on its own. Perhaps my favorite part of the robot is its ability to purify contaminated water and clean up pollution while using the dirty water to power itself. Of all the ways I’ve learned to decontaminate water sources, this is one of the most ingenious and practical approaches, especially since the device itself is self-sustaining! I also thought it was beautiful commentary on our own species and our ability to push for survival in a contaminated environment.

Source: https://vida.fundaciontelefonica.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/plantas-nomadas.jpg

Along the same art-environmental lines, Mick mentioned working with an inspirational artist, Buster Simpson. Upon looking up more of his work, I was pleased to see how his environmental pieces are both aesthetically pleasing and beneficial to the environment. One piece in particular that I liked was his “Whole Flow” project, which receives grey water that’s produced from within the Whole Foods Store and aerates the water via cascading bowls before distributing the water to the landscape. Not only is it a beautiful fountain with additionally auditory aesthetics, but also it’s a functional piece that aids water recycling as a part of a larger, practical purpose. This is just one of his many environmental projects, which all have larger meanings and environmental implications behind them and I’m glad that Mick was able to introduce me to BioArtist who is making such a profound impact on the environment through his artwork. 

Source: http://www.bustersimpson.net/wholeflow/index_files/0-buster%20simpson.%20whole%20flow.jpg

Another piece that Mick talked about that I particularly like was “Biorealize,” which outlines a microbial design studio as a new method to streamline the process for genetic manipulation. I’m heavily involved in conducting scientific research, particularly in the basic sciences, so this piece is very relevant to the work I do in lab! Much of my time in lab is spent pipetting, preparing cell cultures, incubating cells, lysing cells, and purifying them for quantitative analysis. Unfortunately, I perform all these steps manually and individually, so executing rather simple procedures end up taking quite a while. After reading more about this project, I found that the design is actually quite ingenious. Not only does it streamline the process, but also it allows for multiple experiments to be conducted at the same time, all while monitoring the experiments and parameters via a computer. This would be such a valuable piece of equipment in the lab and I hope these become more widely used in laboratory settings to consolidate experimental procedures! Additionally, I thought it was a clever aesthetic design because the device looks almost like a DJ set and the scientists are essentially in charge of the playlist via the genetic manipulations.  It provides an interesting commentary on the overlap between the arts and science and accentuates the inherent artistry that is present in many scientific endeavors, such as the art of genetic manipulation as a form of creating novel combinations and the freedom of expression in the laboratory to explore new ways of thinking about bodily, natural, and scientific concepts. 

Source: http://www.popsci.com/sites/popsci.com/files/styles/large_1x_/public/biorealize_overall.jpg?itok=QMu-LV4W

References:

  1. "Plantas Nómadas." Plantas Nómadas. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
  2. "Biorealize." RSS. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
  3. "Whole Flow." Buster Simpson. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
  4. "Mick Lorusso." Mick Lorusso. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
  5. "Art & Ecology: Ecological Art Perspectives and Issues: Social Restoration: Buster Simpson." Green Museum. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.