Week 6/Biotechnology & Two Cultures/Joseph Racca

Biotechnology, at first glance during lecture, I was a little unfamiliar with the concept of it all.  But it seems that it has become popular in both its use in medicine as well as in agriculture.  Like many many concepts we’ve went over in class, biotechnology is a science and as we’ve went over in class an art as well.

Regular Ear of Corn

Biotech "Ear of Corn"

If we look at it from a scientific standpoint, scientists use biotechnology in research in applications such as agriculture, cloning, and such.  ”Two of the nation’s biggest crops, soybeans and corn, are subject to frequent genetic tinkering, often intended to help them fend off insects.”  Looking at the two photos above, we see a regular ear of corn, and in the second we see a genetically modified biotech “ear of corn.”  Metaphorically speaking, the biotech “ear of corn” isn’t an ear of corn at all, instead it is some mutated form of what once was a regular ear of corn.  Biotechnology is the art of making imperfect things, such as crops, into perfect crops.  Supporters of biotechnology support that modified crops taste better, look better, and are better for consumers.  But the question to ask is, how far can they go before they go to far?

In this YouTube video, biotech cotton in India is described, the benefits of biotechnology:

Transgenic Seed Technology

Genetically Modified Cotton Acreage has increased three-fold since 2002.  Biotechnology has provided “farmers the tools to save India’s most important export,” which is cotton.  In a caption on one of the pages it states “Biotechnology: Knowledge Serving Life”

Although some bioengineering may be ‘useful’ to some, this isn’t the case for everyone.  Many find biotechnology controversial.  And for some, artists in particular, they have taken advantage not only of biotechnology as a form of art but also as a means to gear their art toward the sole purpose of ridiculing biotech.

In these pictures is a gag product called Genpets.  ”Genpets (2005-06) presents a fake biotech company, Bio-Genica, which purports to sell genetically engineered pets in convenient clamshell packaging.”  In a way

Genpets Advertisement

Biotechnological Pets-in-a-Box

Biotechnology is certainly an avenue of research for both artists and scientists.  it relates back to what we covered in the beginning of the quarter about two cultures.  The two cultures, art an science, artists and scientists are finding ways to make biotechnology beneficial to their respective fields.  And for some, it’s both, and although this might be cliche, those who incorporate science and art are getting the best of both worlds.

From the reading (Leonardo’s choice: the ethics of artists working with genetic technologies by Carol Gigliotti):

“As artists take up the tools and materials of genetic and genomic research, their experimental reflections are changing our notions of artistic practice. Many artists function as researchers, engaged in non- hypothesis-driven, open-ended investigations. Their studios are laboratories for this experience-based inquiry.”

This poses the question, are artists capable of researching/doing research in the sciences to further their knowledge and techniques in the arts?  And obviously, it does allow artists to find new ways of creating “art” and the way they do so is through science.

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