Bacteria and genes in the service of Art!

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THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS POLYPTICH PAINTINGS BY JOE DAVIS OF HIS 28-MER MICROVENUS DNA MOLECULE (2006 EXHIBITION IN GREECE AT ATHENS SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS). CREDIT: JOE DAVIS

When it comes to art, most of us think about paintings, sculptures, theater and photography. Nowadays this scenario has changed. In the new era of technological and bioengineering revolution, art could not stay unaffected. Bioart, is an innovative form of contemporary art, which uses living systems as its building blocks.

Some typical examples of bioart are glowing animals and sculptures made of cells. It is an attractive new field where one can explore his/her creativity under a new perspective. A representative of this trend is Joe Davis, an artist who works with pastels but also with bacteria and genes. His most known piece, which paved the way into the bioart field, is the encoding of the femininity symbol of Venus into an E coli bacterium, in collaboration with geneticist Dan Boyd. That dates back in 1986.

Research affiliate at MIT Biology and “artist scientist” at the George Church Laboratory at Harvard University now, he effectively combines biology and art into his research; for example, he genetically engineers silk worms to produce metallic gold. Since 1986, bioart has grown to include various other types of modern art, like reclamation art and nanoart.

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Representative examples of bioart http://bit.ly/1lfnZdk

On the other hand, study author Ali K Yetisen from Harvard Medical School underlined that a lot of ethical and safety concerns regarding bioart have been raised, since it employs living organisms. He also admits that aspiring artists have misused it in the past.

On the positive side, bioart is a form of art that encourages ethical and philosophical discussions. It can also help in the transmission of bioengineering knowledge to the public.

Mr Yetisen is positive about the future of this emerging field: “In the era of genetic engineering, bioart will gain new meanings and annotations in social and scientific contexts,” he noted.

More information about bioart can be found in the review paper published in the Trends in Biotechnology journal.

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