Archive for the ‘week6_biotech’ Category

Week 6/ Gaia/ Patrick Morales

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

This week I was inspired by professor Vesna’s lectures on the interconnectivity of biotechnology with our modern world, in particular James Lovelocks Gaia hypothesis. I believe that the technological super goal of creating one seamless interconnected world is, if not directly then subconsciously, inspired by the interconnectivity of nature. James Lovelocks Gaia hypothesis is “…the theory that living organisms and inorganic material are part of a dynamic system that shape Earth’s biosphere, in Lynn Margulis’s words, a “super organismic system” The earth is a self-regulating environment; a single, unified, cooperating and living system - a super organism that regulates physical conditions to keep the environment hospitable for life Evolution therefore is the result of cooperative not competitive processes.” (http://www.kheper.net/topics/Gaia/Gaia_Hypothesis.htm).

The idea of a super organismic system is the central focus of various forms of art. From folklore, legends, statues depicting the gods in the legends and modern installations the Gaia hypothesis has transcended a purely ecological and scientific hypothesis to a major inspiration for artist around the globe. Just one example from the top of my head is the video game, Final Fantasy 7. Originally released on the Playstation Home Console, the fictional narrative of the games events were revolved around a source known as the Lifestream. The lore in the game was that every person contained within them a fragment of this Lifestream and when they died their personal energy returned to the Lifestream. Growing up in a Catholic/Christian household this idea reminds me of the idea represented in the famous lines “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” spoken at funerals. A return to a greater mysterious source.

In relation to biotechnology, the most fascinating fact that I like to ponder is that this time “we” are creating the technological “Lifestream” in place of some mysterious force. We as humans are creating the huge interconnected river of knowledge and technology. We are creating a Gaia based in technology with the internet, global interconnectivity and biotechnological research.

http://www.gamesarefun.com/anidis/advent-children-1200x700.jpg

This picture comes from the digital film created in the same world as the original Final Fantasy video game. It is interesting that the graphics depict the main antagonist and protagonist of the storyline dissolving in to similar “digital dust”, implying that we are all a part of a greater being/organism.

From a biological perspective, the Gaia hypothesis is excellently represented in physical form by the vegetative part of fungi, mycelium. This thread-like hyphae’s main purpose is to decompose organic compounds. The interesting thing about mycelium is that they are connected to other mycelium myceliums and they can span entire forests, constantly sensing stimuli to the “network”. It is a biological internet under our own feet.

Completely random fact: I love any art that imitates life so well that it scares the hell out of people.

week 6/biotech/akhil rangaraj

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

The topic of biotech doesn’t really bring to mind art in my mind, but with this week’s lecture on biotech was pretty intriguing. Biotechnology is one of the most rapidly advancing fields in science. Because of advances in other fields, we are able to advance rapidly. Things like genetic engineering and cloning were just pipe dreams 20 years ago. Biotechnology has advanced the quality of life for millions of people around the world through the use of GM (genetically modified) food crops. The video of the GM cotton used in India was particularly amazing in what the new strain did for the farmers. During the “Green Revolution” in the 1970s, new strains of rice and wheat allowed millions of subsistence farmers in India to break free of the shackles of poverty.

With these great advances, however, came great moral dilemmas. Cloning, genetically modifying creatures, and medical patents have all become major issues in the world today. Cloning essentially creates an identical copy of the organisms DNA. However, the cloned organism still needs to undergo the standard growth a normal creature would. Does that mean the copied organism is exactly the same as the original? Is it correct to clone organisms just to harvest their organs or meat Genetically altering food crops is another hotbed issue. Scientists [1] have raised concerns that these foods may cause allergic reactions and a host of other side effects due to slightly differing protein structures. Not only this, the alterations within the genome are copyrighted and patented by large agricultural businesses. This means that farmers need to buy seed from the company every year. If the company went bankrupt or decided to cease operations, these farmers would be left high and dry. The deeper issue, however, is if it is even ethical to patent a gene sequence. Pharmaceutical  companies have already done so, and this may impede vital research into diseases since research would be dependent on permission from said large companies. [2] Finally, the last realm of biotechnology is modifying humanity as a whole. Already we are seeing research into drugs that are targeted to a specific person’s genetic makeup and personal genetic screening. It remains to be seen if these technologies take us to our doom by genetically creating a super disease, or if they elevate us to a higher state of being.

Once again, I get to use Gattaca in my blog post. The world of Gattaca is painstakingly crafted to be the perfect world, the best of humanity by weeding out bad genes. Despite the shortcoming that Eugene faces because of his genetic makeup, he still retains the drive to succeed that ultimately drives him to the stars. The movie’s tagline is “There is no gene for the human spirit” and I believe that this is true, no matter how biotechnology changes us as humans.

[1]http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/scientists-to-warn-of-gm-food-dangers-for-babies-659360.html

[2]http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/13/opinion/edcrichton.php

week 6\biotechnology\amy chen

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

        These past few lectures seem to hone in on a quote Professor Vesna mentioned in the beginning describing that as science advances, it begins to approach art - while as art advances it approaches science.  Biotechnology is a subject I feel that lies in the middle of these two.  An example from lecture includes Eduardo Kac’s “GFP Bunny” in which he named Alba.  In lecture we learned that the Kac had created a fluorescent bunny, a chimera in a sense that it does not naturally exist in nature.  His creation, and calling it art, has sparked an intense discussion on ethics and if a fluorescent bunny could actually be called art.  Although Alba was supposed to go home with Kac, the lab in which it was conceived in rejected Kac later - who in response took his protest to the streets of Paris.  

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.04/bunny.html

        Kac went around the streets of Paris plastering posters of himself holding Alba, as he posted one near a wall covered in graffiti art, one man approached him and asked if he could graffiti the flyer.  He does so and graffitis 

“a rough scar across Kac’s forehead, a twisted smile on his face, and bolts protruding from his body. The reference to Frankenstein is unmistakable - but Kac doesn’t get it. Taking the spindly bolts for arrows, he concludes that Christophe “made me into Saint Sebastian,” the oft-painted saint who was skewered by the shafts of his enemies. ”

        The connection to Frankenstein is interesting, and an example of what many consider Kac to be.  As the article goes on it mentions other work Kac has done in which I thought were all questions about ethics.  Another work that he has done is implanting an ID chip into his ankle - the chip is meant to tag pets, livestock or rare animals but he instead has implanted in himself.  He even has registered himself online.

Animal Identification: Chip Number 026109532 
Call Name: Eduardo Kac 
Date of Birth: July 03, 1962 
Registered Name: Eduardo Kac 
Species: Other 
Breed: Human 
Sex: Male 
Spay/Neutered: NO 

http://www.ekac.org/broadc.html  - pictures from the broadcast on TV.

         He mentions that the location on his ankle is specific as it relates directly to the placement of tattoos for slaves.  A connection between his glowing rabbit and his tagging of “foreignness” seems to come from our own human interest in “otherness,” as the article also explains.  It is how we treat things foreign to us.  Kac mentions that his future projects include a GFP K9 which at first didn’t seem possible because he couldn’t find a lab to do it, but recently a lab in california has expressed interest in carrying his project out.  It’d be funny to see how many local news stations broadcast about this as this comes into actual creation.  Although a lot of people don’t see Kac’s work as any all relating to art, I still look at him as one.  In response to all these ethical questions regarding Alba the fluorescent bunny, Kac has mentioned that people have spent 50000 years or so domesticating the dog for their own uses, so why not for himself?  He describes the art is not the bunny, but the discussion around her.  But still many people feel Alba is a “trojan horse” for other genetically modified creations.  And then…what about us? Can humans be configured for better use?  It’s interesting to note that scientists are probably under much more regulations in developing whatever they like, but artists have this freedom of doing whatever.  Artists have already altered themselves in certain way how long will it be before they alter themselves genetically?  

         On a random side note, this reminds me of Chris Burden’s work “Deadman” is a piece in which the artist wraps himself in a black body back next to a car, flares around the “scene.”  Although he is alive under the bag, many people started to gather around before cops stepped in to see if anyone was hurt.  Upon realization that this whole scene was just an enactment, Chris Burden was arrested and later trialed in court.  During court he used his status as an Artist to successfully free himself of any charge.  I guess because he wasn’t actually hurting anyone around, it wasn’t that serious of a charge to begin with but it just lends itself to be questioned, how far can artists go for art?