Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator at MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design, writes: "What happens when biology—specifically, the core materials and processes that underpin the life cycle of all living beings—birth, existence, disease, and death—becomes synthetically replicable by humans and, consequently, a building block for design? In the wake of the recent MIT publication Synthetic Aesthetics, and just a few days prior to the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) Synthetic Biology 2014 Jamboree in early November 2014, we set out to discuss this complex, compelling question at MoMA by hosting a panel discussion, Synthetic Aesthetics: New Frontiers in Contemporary Design."
Led by Paola Antonelli, we were joined on the panel by architect and Synthetic Aesthetics resident, David Benjamin, Genspace co-founder Dan Gruskin, and DNA origami specialist, biochemist William Shih from Harvard's Wyss Institute. A lively question and answer session followed. Read Paola's post on the MoMA Inside Out blog, and a review of the event on Hyperallergic.
An expanded version of Designing for the Sixth Extinction is on display at the Second Istanbul Design Biennial until December 14 2014, curated by Zoe Ryan and Meredith Carruthers. Designing for the Sixth Extinction imagines a series of new machine that might repair toxic landscapes and forestall imminent ecological collapse. For the biennial, Ginsberg offers insights into the "ecology" of her own research for one of these machines, a "bio-remediating slug."
Last week I spoke at What Design Can Do, the design conference that explores new visions and roles for design. The Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker opened the conference calling for a new design persona: the ‘competent rebel.’ Bussemaker describes this designer as one who can change the way we look at things. As What Design Can Do writes, Bussemaker "wants to ensure the education of ‘competent rebels and specialists side by side. Our technical capabilities combined with our hopes and dreams.’"
I talked about merging of fictions and reality at the interface of design and synthetic biology. Here's my talk.
Our biological takeover of the V&A was a fantastic launch for the Synthetic Aesthetics book at last week’s Friday Late. Over the evening, more than 4000 visitors experienced over 20 workshops, installations, talks and chatted with Imperial College’s synthetic biologists working in the Live Lab right in the V&A Atrium. The programme is here, and see photos from the event here. David Willetts, the UK Minister for Science and Universities, introduced our authors' talk and panel, chaired by The Economist's Oliver Morton.
Some of the events:
Spotlight Space, Grand Entrance
A functioning synthetic biology lab in the grand entrance places this experimental field front and centre within the historic home of the V&A. Conducting experiments and answering questions from visitors, the lab will be run by synthetic biologists from Imperial College London’s EPSRC National Centre for Synthetic Biology & Innovation and SynbiCITE UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology.
What would it mean for our daily lives if we could grow our objects? Xylinum Cones presents an experimental production line that uses bacteria to grow geometric forms. Meet designers Jannis Huelsen and Stefan Schwabe and learn how they are developing a renewable cellulose composite for future industrial uses.
Poynter Room, Café
This film tells the story of how biologist Christina Agapakis and smell provocateur Sissel Tolaas produce human cheese. Using swabs from hands, feet, noses and armpits as starter cultures, they produce unique smelling fresh cheeses as unusual portraits of our biological lives.
THE OPERA OF PREHISTORIC CREATURES
‘Lucy’, the extinct hominid Autralopithecus Afarensis, performs an opera just for you. Marguerite Humeau recreates her vocal tract and cords to bring you the lost voice of this prehistoric creature.
ELECTRO MAGNETIC SIGNALS FROM BACTERIAL DNA
Can we imagine what it sounds like inside the molecular structure of a DNA helix? This composition is inspired by theoretical speculation on bacteria’s ability to transmit EMF signals, played amongst the V&A’s cast collection.
SYNTHETIC AESTHETICS ON FILM
The Lydia and Manfred Gorvey Lecture Theatre
DNA replication, Bjork, swallowable perfume… these eight films demonstrate a myriad of cultural crossovers; synthetic biology at its aesthetic finest.
Dunne & Raby – Future Foragers (2009)
Tobias Revell – New Mumbai (2012)
Lucy McRae – Swallowable Parfum (2013)
UCSD – Biopixels (2011)
Zeitguised – Comme des Organismes (2014)
Drew Berry for Bjork – Hollow (2011)
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and James King – E. chromi (2009)
Mediated Matter, MIT Media Lab – Silk Pavilion (2013)
Learning Centre: Art Studio
Extract your own DNA in the V&A’s popup Wetlab and chat with synthetic biologists from Imperial College London. Synthetic biology designs life at the scale of DNA, and tonight you can take the raw materials of life home with you. With thanks to Imperial College London’s EPSRC National Centre for Synthetic Biology & Innovation and SynbiCITE UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology.
April’s Friday Late at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum celebrates the launch of Synthetic Aesthetics as artists, designers and scientists explore our biological future. On April 25th, the V&A will be transformed for an evening into a space of biology and design, with films, talks, workshops and debates and hands-on lab experiments, from 6.30pm-10pm. The Synthetic Aesthetics Late is sponsored by Mastercard with support from the EPSRC, and is programmed by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg with the V&A. More information will be posted about the evening on the V&A Friday Late webpage.
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Installation view. Photograph: Sahir Ugur Eren
The V&A Atrium at the Friday Late: Synthetic Aesthetics. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.