The Emotion and Practicality Behind BioArt

This week we all had the pleasure of hearing Mick Lorusso speak about his own experiences within the world of biotechnology and art. Having reflected on my own experiences with BioArt last week, I entered the classroom eager to learn more about the motivation behind each piece as well as the greater purpose intended by its artist. I left the classroom with a greater understanding of the aforementioned aspects of biotechnology and art, along with the inspiration to one day create my own piece of BioArt.

I instantly gained interest in the first work of art discussed, which was created by Mr. Lorusso himself. In this unique piece, bacterial organisms capable of producing electricity were collected and used to harness sufficient energy to light up a lamp. My initial interest was sparked by the biochemical processes involved in the production of this source of power. The scientist within me was intrigued by how such a simple reduction-oxidation (redox) reaction, which converted the basic element of water to acid, could account for this product. I wondered if such a method could be used for practical means to provide low-cost energy for developing cities. Sure enough, examples of this concept do in fact exist! For instance, symbiotic bacteria were recently used to light up an entire German village, not only providing an effective solution to the area’s power shortage, but also creating a stunning piece of art along the way.


A similar artistic display involved bacteria which produced an electrical pattern on screen directly facing them; in other words, the bacteria are essentially both the artists and viewers of the BioArt. Once I had a chance to truly internalize this piece, I was instantly reminded of the term mise en abyme, which roughly translates to “places into an abyss” in French. This concept is typically used in the film industry to describe the recursive effect of a picture appearing within itself, or a scene within a scene, similar to that which is produce by a mirror. For instance, an example often used in the world of cinema involves the actor being recorded on camera as part of the film’s plot, while the entire scene itself is being filmed on the big screen. In my opinion, this realization added one more dimension of complexity to the piece as a whole, which includes both the light-producing bacteria and the painting created. 


As a researcher and a hopeful future physician, I was also fascinated by Mr. Lorusso and Dean Ho’s contributions to the Museum of Endoluminosity  Ho’s research focuses on the use of nano-diamonds as efficient drug delivery systems in cancer treatments, while Lorusso utilizes the resulting picture as a manifestation of art. In particular, Lorusso displayed an old scan taken of his father’s brain, in which the nano-diamonds light up the surrounding tumor. With this piece in mind, I was reminded of two artists mentioned in last week’s assigned videos, who created BioArt out of her own biofeedback treatments and his mind-interfaced robotic arm to compensate for the loss of his own. Like Lorusso, they both drew from significant experiences in  their lives to create their pieces. I find this to be a very powerful concept behind the field of biotechnology and art as it allows artists to completely dedicate themselves to their pieces for a reason greater than fame or fortune. 

Finally, two pieces of BioArt that intrigued me to an indescribable level were the Plantas Nomadas and Biorealize. The former was astonishing to me as a researcher as this piece of machinery allows for the consolidation of multiple time consuming and expensive experimental methods! The typical tasks of culturing, transforming, incubating, and centrifuging bacterial cells can be done rather efficiently by the touch of a button from your computer screen. Additionally, running multiple experiments at once is considered a godsend by the standards of any researcher!  Speaking for myself, I would not be disappointed if the lab I worked in acquired such a device. From an aesthetic point of view, I thought it was interesting that the piece was created to model a DJ’s equipment. Its particular form can be said to mimic the work of a DJ who chooses a particular part of a song to play around with. So to a scientists using this machine is essentially a DJ that can choose to use either one, two or all functions of preparing bacteria. The Latter piece, Plantas Nomadas, involves a microbial fuel cell energy system attached to a plant-like water purification system, displaying an intersection of astrobiology and microbiology. I thought it was particularly interesting that the entire machine was self-sustainable and pretty organically made unlike most mechanical devices. Moreover, the typical purification system will often dispose of the impurities it collects without giving it a second glance. Plantas Nomadas, on the other hand, uses this byproduct to sustain itself along the way. Overall, I am curious to learn more about success pieces of BioArt as they provide a glimpse into what our future holds for us. 






"Biorealize: Microbial Design Studio." Vimeo. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

Larusso, Mick. "Museum of Endoluminosity." Museum of Endoluminosity. N.p., 2015. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.

“Mise En Abyme.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d Web. 9 Apr. 2016.

"Plantas Nomadas." Plantas Nomadas. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.

Telhan, Orkan. Biorealize: Microbial Design Studio. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.