For Knotty Objects, the first MIT Media Lab Design Summit, I was set a challenge by the conference curators, Paola Antonelli, Kevin Slavin and Neri Oxman to 'captain' a team to make a short provocation about in vitro meat. Along the way, we discovered that the steak incorporated all the hallmarks of a knotty object, a term coined for the summit. Working with New York based production comapny m ss ng p eces, who were commissioned to make four shorties in all (bitcoin, brick, steak and phone) and in vitro meat speculative designer, Koert Van Mensvoort, our provocation attempts to move away from the existing discussions around the palatibility of in vitro meat, and instead to delve into the complex discussion around sustainability, human desire and industrial capitalism that drives the meat industry. Many different agendas. In three minutes.
The shortie was a provocation for the panel New Dimensions in Organic Design (video) moderated by Alexandra Midal, where we discussed the design of life with scientist Kevin Esvelt from Harvard's Wyss Institute, and Isha Datar of New Harvest, a not-for-profit that supports in vitro meat as a future industry.
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.
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Photograph: Gert Jan van Rooij.
Photograph: Gert Jan van Rooij.
Installation view. Photograph: Sahir Ugur Eren