BioArt is a practice of artists working with live tissues, bacteria, living organisms, and life processes. They sometimes use scientific processes such as biotechnology like: genetic engineering, tissue culture, or cloning. The scope of BioArt is sometimes considered to be strictly limited to “living forms”, while some artists would include art that uses the imagery of contemporary medicine and biological research, or require that it address a controversy or blind spot posed by the very character of the life sciences.
Some of the most provocative artists today deal with biotechnology. Working with scientists and engineers, these artists transform living tissue and even their own bodies into works of art.
“Ear on Arm” by photographer N. Sellars
Brazilian-American “transgenic artist” Eduardo Kac uses biotechnology and genetics to explore and critique scientific techniques.
In his first work, “Genesis,” Kac took a bible verse, translated it into Morse code, and converted it into the base pairs of genetics. He implanted the resulting genes into an unspecified bacterium . The idea was to create a dichotomy between biblical injunctions against tampering with nature with doing exactly that.
But his most famous work is Alba, the creation of a green-fluorescent rabbit. Kac implanted a rabbit with a Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) found in jellyfish. Placing the rabbit under UV light makes it glow in a bright, eerie green.
Kac states that the nature of his new art is defined not only by the birth and growth of a new plant or animal but above all by the nature of the relationship among artist, public, and transgenic organism. Kac also has a microchip in his ankle, choosing that part of the body because slaves were often branded there.
A seminal figure in the transhumanist and extropian movements, Natasha Vita-More integrates her futurist visions and ethos into her conceptual art pieces. An advocate of human enhancement and morphological freedoms, her work explores such themes as biotechnology, robotics, information technology, nanotechnology, neuroscience and cognitive science, artificial general intelligence. Human nature, argues Vita-More, is predicated on the desire to solve problems through innovative methods and design.
Her best known work is Primo Posthuman, a project that proposes the possibilities of the future human — one that’s the product of intentional design rather than the forces of natural selection. The Primo Posthuman is a futuristic version of the human form that’s overcome disease, aging — and which features any number of new “features.”
“Unlike the cyborg, Primo’s unfolding nature is based on expanding choices,” she says, “Unlike the transcendent, Primo is driven by the rational rather than the mystical.”
Primo is engineered like a finely tuned machine and displayed visually like a biological body to mirror the human shape for cognitive association, visual recognition, and aesthetic appeal. Yet, the Primo body does not age, is easily upgraded, has meta-sensory components, 24-hour remote Net relay system, and multiple gender options. Its outer sheath is primed with smart skin which vanguards practical designs purposes for communication. The model structure is composed of assembled massive molecular cytes or cells connected together to form the outer fabric of the body. The smart skin is engineered to repair, remake, and replace itself. It contains nanobots throughout the epidermal and dermis to communicate with the brain to determine the texture and tone of its surface. It transmits enhanced sensory data to the brain on an ongoing basis. The smart skin learns how and when to renew itself, alerts the outside world of the disposition of the person; gives specific degrees of the body’s temperature from moment to moment; and reflects symbols, images, colors and textures across its contours. It is able to relate the percentages of toxins in the environment and the extract radiation effects of the sun.
Suzanne Anker is a pioneer in Bio Art working at the intersection of art and the biological sciences. She works in a variety of mediums ranging from digital sculpture and installation to large-scale photography to plants grown by LED lights.
Suzanne Anker: Vanitas (in a Petri dish) 42, 2016. Archival Inkjet Print, 20×20
Suzanne Anker: The Blue Egg, 2013. Archival inkjet print, 22×22
Bio Art Lab
School of Visual Arts, New York
The Bio Art Lab was founded in 2011 as part of the SVA’s BFA Fine Arts new facility consisting of 54,000 square feet in the heart of Chelsea, NYC. The Lab was founded and is directed by Suzanne Anker, Chair of the BFA Fine Arts Department. Conceived as a place where scientific tools and techniques become tools and techniques in art practice, the Lab is the result of many people’s expertise, research and sustained effort. Such deftness and collaborative efforts continue to remain crucial in developing this facility to its full potential. http://bioart.sva.edu
George Dvorsky,7 Bio-Artists Who Are Transforming the Fabric of Life Itself, 24 June 2013, http://io9.gizmodo.com/7-bio-artists-who-are-transforming-the-fabric-of-life-i-558156053
Suzanne Anker, School of Visual Arts BFA Fine Arts Department, New York, 2016 ,http://suzanneanker.com/biography/ , http://suzanneanker.com/blog/2016/09/28/blue-eggs-spam/ , http://suzanneanker.com/events/