September 2009 Archives

Laura Nelson, Composition 1: Decomposition

Composition 1: Decomposition 

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John Romens BioPortrait


John Romens 9/30

The Farm Fountain is a result of the collaboration between Amy Young and Ken Rinaldo. It utilizes a symbiotic relationship between plants, fish, and humans. The "farm" consists of a huge suspended tower of plants, with a large aquarium that forms the base of the structure. It uses the  idea of aquaponics to sustain both the fish and the plants. Using a normal pond pump, the fountain directs the nutrients found in fish waste through the roots of the plants, which in turn filters the water, creating a sustainable environment for the fish. besides being an aesthetically pleasing structure, edible plants can also be grown for human consumption. I thought that this was very interesting, and the process for creating your own is posted on the site as well. the materials aren't extremely expensive which makes this idea possible for anyone to do.

here's the link for the how-to.

'Self' (Charlene Bogonko)

My search this past week led me to a man who has a most unique way of recording his aging process. While most people tend to rely on pictures and maybe even videos for such a purpose, Marc Quinn had quite a different method of choice. His bio-portrait is a part of him, literally. Quinn's "Self" portrait is a sculpture of his face, which he embarks on making every five years to track his aging process, that is comprised solely of his blood in a frozen state. It takes him anywhere from eight to ten months to harvest enough blood to create his art piece. 
How in the world it occurred to Quinn to utilize his blood, i will never really understand, however it is extremely unique. It seems smart that he used his blood, seeing that he doesn't need any ethics committee to permit him to use it. The sculpture itself is pretty awesome to look at, and for me evokes add feelings. One feeling is that of nails across a chalkboard, and the other of amazement. 

Stomach Sculpture-Sammy Dunne

Stelarc, an Australian performance artist participated in a "site-specific" theme for one of this pieces. The particular piece Stomach Sculpture was done using his own body as the site. He wanted technology to become a part of his body, and function with the body as opposed to . prosthetically. For this project, he inserted a 40 centimeter sculpture into his stomach cavity, not for any other purpose than aesthetic adornment.

Elizabeth Edwards "Move 36"

I found another project of Eduardo Kac's to be interesting. Based on the 1997 chess game between a computer and chess world champion Gary Kasparov, Eduardo created a piece called, "Move 36." This piece consists of a chess board constructed out of alternating soil (dark spaces) and white sand (light spaces). In the location where the computer made his famous unexpected move, Eduardo placed a plant. this plant has been genetically engineered to display a gene that Eduardo created by translating Descartes's statement: "Cogito ergo sum" into genetic code. This "Cartesian gene," he calls it, shows itself through the curling of the plant's naturally flat leaves. The piece also includes two projected videos hanging on opposite sides of the chess board and plant display. These videos consist of colorful squares aranged in a chess-board like pattern, and play soundless patterns of movement created to represent and stimulate thoughts like those of two opponents playing chess.

This creation seems to include so many ironies. The amount of thought that went into this is unbelievable. It seems that Eduardo Kac likes to do that with his pieces, because they all provoke lots of thoughts, and they are certainly conversation starters.

Amanda Yeager - Bioportrait

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Becoming an Ent... Jess Kessler

     Well this is my Bio Portrait. It shows me as a part of nature. I thought it would be cool to turn my hand into wood because of the similarities. My hand has fingerprints and grooves/scars that tell stories of what I have been through. Trees are the same. The rings in a tree's bark supposedly can indicate what age it is. Nature and civilization both require each other for life. We both need air and water.
   I named this piece "Becoming an Ent" because I am a huge nerd, and part of me will never grow up. (If you get the reference, your a nerd too!)

A Blast to the Past?? Jess Kessler

     Although some people might not view an aquarium as art, I do. Thinking about it, my mind went back to the past (kinda like in Back to the Future, Christopher Lloyd style) and discovered one of my childhood favorites, Sea Monkeys! "Sea Monkeys" are actually a species of brine shrimp. The eggs that they hatch from have crystals in them, which allow the tiny shrimp to stay alive while dry for up to two years. The scientists who studied these shrimp created new chemicals and food in order to keep them alive in a common household. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Lauren Mackmiller

These are some statues on a Chilean island Easter Island. I chose this because I found a previous sight that thought some Scottish stonework was considered bioart and it reminded me of these statues. I don't know if it would be considered bioart but it uses materials from the land and was kept within its natural surroundings and was transported in from a different location. I like how the have been around for so long and seems like they are a part of the island, almost part of its personality.



Hylozoic Soil

Can you imagine yourself entering a space with artificial life? Hylozoic Soil is the work by artist Philip Beesley. It is the combination of organism, sculpture, and  architecture. I was drawn into the beautiful movement by the muscle wires in responding to the presence of visitors. "Its frond extremities arch uncannily towards those who venture into its midst, reaching out to stroke and be stroked like the feather or fur or hair of some mysterious animal." You walk in this artificial jungle, experiencing a mysterious but exotic feeling. How does our world connect to technology and what is the relationship between myself as an organism and the artificial life- other kind of organism? I wish I could be at the 2007 exhibition and have the live experience of this hybrid project. It also reminds me of the automatic door which is already common in our lives. (sensers, detectors) Then this would be a Bioart too! We invented something that's corresponding priorly to our motion.   

As Philip tries to get people think about "the boundaries between nature and artifice and examine their own organic condition as they interact with technology." It also made me think about what architecture will be like in the future? Green house? Solar house? More engagement of natural recourse? Organism House?

Lauren Mackmiller-portrait

my bioportrait

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Matthew Paul Schroeder: Vertical Gardens

Many people pride themselves on the beautiful ivy that grows on the walls of their house. But is that good for your house? In most cases the answer is no. The ivy that grows on the walls is typically detrimental for the structural integrity of your house. That's why Patrick Blanc has come up with something called a Virtical Garden. His systems are widely popular in france and not only look breathtaking but also work with your walls. This eliminates the problem of ivy ruining the structural integrity of your home. I've found this a very interesting and innovative project. vertical gardens

My BioPortrait

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Matthew Paul Schroeder's Bioportrait

For my bioportrait I used photoshop to splice my head with a leopard. Native American tribes and ancient shaman believe that each individual has a spirit or power animal to call upon for life's hardest tests. They believe that each person must find their own power animal and this animal will guide them, help them and protect them at all times. I took a few tests online and found that my power animal is the leopard. The leopard is known for its preparation, positioning and agility. I also used photoshop to create the 2 backgrounds of this photo. The leopard side of me has the background of the sahara and the Matthew Schroeder half of me has the background of TCF Bank Stadium. This shows the two spiritual sides of myself and how they live in harmony as one.

Orlan - Will Gobeli

This week, I looked at an artist called Orlan.  She has a variety of different art works, some relating to biology and others not so much.  Orlan had a series of 9 major facial reconstructive surgeries to change aspects of her face to match famous works of art such as the Mona Lisa and Boticelli's Venus.  Her most recent work is called Self-Hybridation, in which she adds and manipulates her face to fit the 'ideal beauty' standard of various cultures.

Her website is

See these Sea Slug Dresses!

This project struck me as funny. It's a side of BioArt that isn't uber scientific (or pretending to be.) All it is is a bunch of dresses designed after sea-slugs. It might sound kind of lame, or over the top, or kitschy, but I think it is kind of refreshing. I can see where the man is coming from. He's this marine biologist obsessed with sea-slugs and has a picky wife who didn't like the dresses that were super simple. She found sea-slugs beautiful too, so he designed a bunch of dresses for her. Some of them aren't too bad either. If you are brave enough to wear them, that is.

Shada - Self Portrait


Shada - "Nature?"

I chose to write about "Nature?" This project was done by Marta de Menezes, a Portuguese artist. Marta de Menezes has modified the wing design on butterflies. While the butterflies are still in their cocoons he uses a needle to alter the butterflies' development slightly and change the patterns on their wings.  These modifications are not genetically modified so the changes are not passed on to offspring.  For "Nature?" de Menezes only changed one wing of the butterfly, so we can see the difference between normal and artificial. One question I had was if this wing modification affects the butterfly in any way?

Amanda Yeager - Diatomic Art

Way back in Victorian times, scientists would pick out certain diatoms that they were studying under a microscope and move them around using a hair to create different geometric patterns and designs. Although this may not be a very modern example of BioArt it could very easily be one of the first representations of what we now know today as Bioart. I think diatoms in themselves are very interesting and unique and by combining them all into an art form like scientists decided to do makes it a fun form of art!

9/30 Animatronic Flesh Shoe

     I am really interested in this piece of art work.  I like the fact that they made a nike shoe not only because it is my favorite kind of shoe but it reflects the country we live in.  This was not just an awesomely twisted project but it was a project that meant something as well.  It touches on the issue of manual labor overseas and reflects where our society is obliviously headed.  The difference in the size, shape, textures and colors (the white Nike logo draped over this shoe) reflect this issue.  I love the way this shoe was put together and the message it portrays.    

Erika Haug - BioArt Photography

This week I found the BioArt Photography page. I thought this was really interesting because it is a little different than what we have been looking at. Most of what we have been looking at has been bioart projects that are actually creating things and getting more into the scientific aspect of bioart. I see this as a simpler way to look at bioart. Instead of creating something in a lab, or modifying the DNA of something this is actually just the raw beauty of nature. It is a more natural aspect of bioart, and i think that the simplicity of it also says a lot. It isn't something that  large amounts of money went into, it is pictures of the biology that nature has given us, without us tampering with it like we do in many of the other projects. This is the natural bioart. 


By tampering with the normal developmental mechanisms of the butterfly, Marta de Menezes was able to engineer wing patterns never before seen in nature.  the turnout being a natural butterfly with wings designed by the artist.  In "Nature?", Marta modified one wing and left the other wing alone.   The result is nothing too crazy, it could be just a simple removal of an eyespot to show only the white center.  She does not intend to enhance natures design but "explore the possibilities and constraints of the biological system."  She does intend on creating unique butterflies.  However, the patterns will not be passed on because the changes aren't at a genetic level.  Instead, the pattern will live and die with the butterfly.  Thus, it is art and biology. 


I thought this was a really interesting idea to explore.  Marta seems to have only gotten so far as to alter eyespots and minor such things. But picture if we got to a point where we could fully create our own butterfly wing design. what if you could design a pattern or image and display it on a butterfly as if the wing were your picture frame? It may not even be possible but that sounds like Bio-art at its fullest extent to me.

The Fluorescent Bunny

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Alba, the fluorescent bunny

Once again Eduardo Kac uses his ingenuity to concoct a strange artwork with a scientific twist, from petunias displaying human veins to a green fluorescent bunny.   The GFP, green fluorescent protein, bunny was originally albino.  Now, when shined with blue light, Alba glows a bright green light.  Alba was created with EGFP, an enhanced version of the gene found in Aequorea Victoria jellyfish.  When introduced to mammalian cells, EGFP produces fluorescence two times brighter than the original jellyfish gene.  However, Alba is specifically a transgenic art not created for the purpose of breeding.  She is to be viewed as a piece of artwork, bio-artwork.  I think that since that the right amounts of precautions were used in modifying this bunny and she was not created for breeding purposes, it is acceptable.  Alba is living, biological artwork, just like the rest of nature.

Equipment Check Out - CLA

CLA-OIT has loaner equipment available as well.

Prosumer and Professional equipment is available via the  CLA-TV Studios

Equipment Check Out - Art Department

you can reserve equipment at  Equipment Checkout

reserve equipment online before picking it up

When you log in you will see the equipment that you have access to for the duration of the course.

Laptops can be checked out for a 4 hour period and can be used with the Regis Center for Art during that time.

If you need help email Karen Haselmann


The art piece, "Myrmecological Literacy" was created by Joseph E. Trumpey. He was always fascinated by these insects and was very involved with nature. He even has his own farm which he runs with his wife. By working with leaf cutter ants he was able to teach them how to spell words, when they cut up leaves. These ants by themselves live in a very organized society, very much like our own, so the artist believed that they are a good symbol of what human society represents. This art piece can mean a lot of things scientifically. In some way he has proven that we can use insects to do what we want them to do and benefit people. From an artistic viewpoint this is a great bio-art project using life forms to create a message that can be understood by another life form.

Enzo & Donato (Brianna Mattson)

Jessica Joslin is an artist who uses various materials such as brass, bone, fur, painted plastic, cast plastic, glass, antique hardware, leather, and many others materials to create pieces of art that bridge the awkward gap between biological specimen and art object. She used mostly metal materials to construct the body of the specimen and then used the actual skull of the typically tiny animal in the art peice. She sometimes used fur in her peices to add to the realistic feel of the BioArt piece. Each piece she creates is very delicate and I don't think anyone could argue that it wasn't art, maybe an arguement may arise from a scientific view from not from an artistic one. I think these pieces are beautiful and I think its very interesting that she used mostly metal in them and usually only uses a skull as the real part of the animal. Bone is the dominant part of a skeletal structure of an animal, and she, alternatively, encases or houses the bone in metal, not quite sure if its supposed to mean something but its definetely very interesting. Here are a few pictures or her work...




Laura Nelson: The Cactus Project

In "The Cactus Project," Laura Cinti introduced human genes into cactus cells via agrobacteria.  She incorporated the human gene for keratin, a protein in hair, into the cactus genome. Her final products were human-hair-sprouting cacti. The artistic challenge was to engineer the cacti so they would externally express human hair. This project was designed to challenge and present questions about humans' relationship to their surroundings. Another consideration is how "layered" life is; genes are on one layer; flesh and hair are on another.

The Cactus Project
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Assignments for September 30 Class

The assignments for the September 30 Class are:

1. Write a brief description of a Bioart project. Be be prepared to orally present the piece to the class at the Sept. 30 meeting. Please put an image of or link to the project on the blog.

2. Be prepared to discuss "Exploring the Invisible" by Anne Brodie and Simon Park.  Be prepared to discuss this from the prospective of how the piece works and as a piece of art.  Note: there is no written assignment.  Information on the project can be found at and  In your research try to go beyond these sites and find additional information or commentary on this piece.

3. Be prepared to present your BioPortrait to the class.  If possible load an image on the blog.

Building Blocks-Max Stahel

9/23 John Romens

The piece of bio art that I chose was a project done by Amy Young called the hydroponic solar garden. It is a system of hanging glass bubbles containing live plants, with a water pump that is solar powered. The circulation of the water brings nutrients to the plants and doubles as an aeration feature. 

The art side of this project is that it creates a beautiful waterfall-like sculpture, which can reside anywhere inside a building. when the pump brings the water back up during the hours of daylight, it creates a quiet trickling sound.  I thought that this was very cool looking and I wish I had one.

Infective Art (Brianna Mattson)

When I was looking for a piece of BioArt to write about I found many different things ranging from a simple goldfish pond to robots controlled by rat brains. However it was one piece in particular that caught and held my attention, it was entitled "Infective Art". A molecular biologist, Simon Park, collaborated with an artist, Anne Brodie to create a very unique type of photo booth. In this photo booth they took portraits of people using only ephemeral blue-green light produced by bioluminescent bacteria. When this type of light is used to take photos it not only illuminated the subjects but penetrated certain features of the face revealing more than a standard photo would. I thought this to be a very interesting way of looking at things, not just lighting them up and seeing their exterior but partially looking through the subject, or deeper into the subject if you will. I loved the title as well, "Infective Art," I wasn't sure what the piece was dealing with when I first read the title but after you read about it, it makes perfect sense, get the point. This project also got me thinking of different ways I could start my own Bio portrait for the class. Below is a portrait taken with the special photo booth...

Infective Art.jpg

Feifei Zhang Semi-Living food




Growing vegetables is normal. How about growing meat over bio polymer for food assumption? 
Disembodied Cuisine is such a project that makes attempt grow frog muscle over biopolymer after the try-out for semi-living steak. This is really interesting to think about our human beings  relationship with other livings in nature. My first thought after reading about the idea of growing meat is probably chickens can "lose some weight". I made the connection of fast food industry and huge consumption on chickens. Saying lose weight does not only mean their biological condition but the whole environment of their living condition. If it becomes the main source of meat consumption one day, there will be no more vegetarians. However, I am wondering whether the new method of gaining food will change the chain of lives and how to balance between humans and the other livings? 

Worry Dolls

I read about an interesting piece of Bioart entitled "Worry Dolls". They were created by a group from the University of Western Australia known as SymbioticA. The idea to create these dolls was inspired by dolls made in Guatamala that children could tell their worries to every night before they went to bed so the dolls could fix their worries before they woke up the next morning. These pieces are initially crafted out of a polymer and then muscle, bone, and skin tissue is grown over that, essentially creating a living form of art. To grow the tissue they put the dolls in a bioreactor, which is basically a machine that simulates the human body in that it provides the right temperature and nutrients to grow live tissue. They created seven of these dolls. All in all I thought it was a really neat idea.

Extra Ear (Char Bogonko)

The Tissue Culture and Art project uses living tissue to create art. In this instance, there was an ear generated from living tissue and able to sustain itself outside of being connected to a body.  The artists use tissue engineering technology to create semi-living entities in a controlled environment allowing the artists to determine the shape of the creation. In this case, living cells from one of the artist's, Stelarc's, ear were used to create the semi-living ear. The suggestion for this art piece is not to let it be a prothetic replacement for a missing or malfunctioning body part, which it could be, but rather to let it be a possible addition to a body.
The idea is actually pretty amazing, partially because it is a body part outside of a body and because of the challenges it poses to the general ideas of life and wether or not it shoudl or should not be manipulated. 

9/23 The "Move 36"

(Matthew Paul Schroeder) Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

2a1.jpgEpcot's Flower and Garden Festival is a full on experience starting from March 18th to May 31'st every year. This event takes place at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center and features many luxurious flower beds and lush topiaries like you see above. This event is funded and ran by Disneynature. Biologists and artists alike spend all year growing and sculpting these flowers into the forms you see above. All in all this year's Flower and Garden Festival featured 70 amazing topiaries including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and her 7 Dwarfs. You can even meet with top horticulturists and botanists for fun facts or gardening tips. Along with the Flower and Garden Festival you can head over to The Land pavilion and take a "Behind the Seeds" tour of the entire facility to learn about the cutting edge of agriculture. In conclusion Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival is the perfect combination of biology together in a beautiful display of art for everyone to see.

Lauren Mackmiller- 9/23- GFP Bunny

GFP stands for Green Fluorescent Protein. It is a transgenic "art piece" by Edaurdo Kac. They took the GFP from a jellyfish. Eduardo claims that he has a connection with the animal and feels really close to it. It is genetically an albino bunny in normal light, but when blue light is shone on it, it turns a fluorecent green. I honestly don't think this is any sort of bioart. You could say that the cloned sheep was artwork, saying that you display the same creature created by nature and the beauty of man's work in it. I've read an article this summer about puppies that glow red when a certain light is shone on it. It wasn't advertised as art, it was pure science. I disagree that this project is art.

Erika Haug - Victimless Leather

Victimless Leather is a project that is a interesting piece of bioart. The project is a lab grown garment made out of cells of skin that are grown. It isn't meant to be a way for making more clothes for people, but more of a comment on the lengths that we will go for our clothes. Also it is about how clothes tell so much about us, they aren't just clothes, they are an extension of ourselves and how we present ourselves to the world. It is also meant to be an eye-opener to the fact that we don't need to kill animals for leather to dress ourselves, there are other ways that wouldn't end with an animal dead. I think it is a strong comment on our society and makes the view really think about the lengths we will go for our clothes, killing innocent animals to make us look better. victimless_leather02.jpg

Shada Ahrar

"Engineered for Empathy "is an interactive Bioart sculpture by Amy Youngs. It is made from Live Mammillaria Elongata Monstrosus cactus, clay, soil, wood and electronics - including LEDs, microprocessor and Qprox proximity sensor from the Quantum Research Group. I thought this Bioart project was interesting because this cactus is engineered to "elicit empathy" for humans, so that we feel obligated to take care of it. Amy Young says, this engineered cactus "creates empathy because its signal to us is a pulsating, glowing heartbeat that speeds up as a person comes near it." Does everyone feel some sort of empathy towards this plant?

Here is the website:

Fossilized Mosquitos and Dinosaurs??? Jess Kessler

 Fact: Dinosaurs once walked the planet.
 Fiction: Scientists can use DNA from fossilized prehistoric mosquitoes to revive dinosaurs?

     Ok, so you cannot recreate dinosaurs from fossilized DNA. Michael Crichton was under a lot of speculation for his novel Jurassic Park. The reason for mentioning the novel or movie is because it was my inspiration for this blog. I googled bioart and jurassic park and found a paper written about biotechnology for the use of art. From that article I ran across a man named Adam Zaretsky. He is a scientist and artist. His project that caught my attention is called Workhouse Zoo. For this project he put himself in a protected room with other organisms, in which he had to live in correspondence with. The organisms were encourage to reproduce, and consume. The main purpose of this "art", was to show the difference between the natural and the artificial. His exibit was in located in Kansas, and since then has been apart of other bioart projects.

Interesting links:

Laura Nelson: Egg-Shaped Phenomena

As I type this message, I am looking at a bioart piece made by my father. He is an artist by trade but now works as a museum curator. He continues to make art at home, and his latest productions include wooden egg-shaped "objects" (as he likes to call them). He sculpts chunks of ponderosa pine of various sizes with a chainsaw, sands them, polishes them, and places them in unusual locations around the Black Hills of South Dakota. By selecting wood from ponderosa pine, a native species, he emphasizes the connection between his home in the Black Hills and his art. Especially important in his art is the process of returning the wooden eggs to their original homes after they have been manipulated by a human. He also places them in unusual places such as the landfill, construction sites, and craft shops. In doing so, he anticipates that those who find the pieces will become indirectly involved in his mission to connect Black Hills biology and art. 

Living Letters - Sammy Dunne

Gunnar Green's approach to BioArt is using living things to create/form graphic designs. In the particular piece, Living Letters, Green injected seeds and bacteria into different pieces of paper. One, with the intention of growing plants or flowers to spell out messages. Another letter uses E.coli Bacteria to display the note - the bacteria "grows" with heat, thus forcing the recipient to warm the letter in order to read it. I think this concept of depending on nature to relay a message is very powerful to our world today. Its curious though, how long does it take for one message to be revealed? 

9/16 My view about BioArt

In my view, anything can be show in a way of art. Biology could not be an exception. Every tiny part of living being exists so many unimaginable beauty. Art can be found in a leaf, a flower, a piece of feather, a cell, a part of DNA, and sounds and odor and far more beyound our vision. On the other hand, study art in a biological way seems to be a new subjuct. What we used to learn, in class of field of art, such as painting and music, seems had nothing to do with nature. If you know something about philosophy, you must have heard of the word  " Material decides consciousnes." Different people may choose different from materialism and idealism, but I believe the words is true, which means, what we treat as art, what we created as art a all come from the material of nature. And life, undoubtly is the most wonderful thing of the world!

And by the way, sorry for post this make up assignment so late. The question about bioart was a little confused me... but hope I have already understand it better.


When I saw the art titled as Ophelia, I was instantly mesmerized. It made me wonder about its meaning and think "What is happening to the lion?". To me it looks like the lion is slowly turning into gold liquid, but to another person, the gold liquid may be solidifying into the lion's form. It really makes me think contradictory to what my mind is telling me. Then looking at the lion's facial expression and posture, I see that the lion is sleeping and isnt bothered by this slow transformation process. What process could this picture represent? The best answer I could think of is evolution.

The Brain Unraveled

The Brain Unraveled is a project going on at the Slade Research Center in Woburn Square, London that connects three different studies:  neuroscience, anthropology, and art. It is an attempt to bring brain research to the public. The public does not know about what is going on in studies on consciousness and myths of the brain, so by setting it up with an artist's perspective they are hoping to draw more people in to learn about the brain. Some of the world's top professors, doctors,  and companies are in on the project including Professor Brian Butterworth, author of The Mathematical Brain, and Professor Richard Frackowiak, a leader in a research group for Neuroimaging. Art exhibits include performances, speeches, and visual artwork. 

Click here for video explaining the project by Maria Lopes and Prof Brian Butterworth.

Natural History of the Enigma

Artistically and scientifically, the Edunia is a beautiful feat.  It is an eerie depiction of the link between humans and other species, in this case plants.  I think that it ties the natural world together in a compelling, new manor.  It also makes for an interesting piece of art.  Art is all about symbols and the Edunia does just that.  It demands observation and afterthought.  A flower with veins and a skin tone definitely tells the viewer a story and sends a message.  Eduardo, a scientist, is also an artist.  The artist must be creative and bring something new to the table.  Eduardo created something new and thought provoking for people to analyze and maybe come to realize the interconnectedness and beauty in the world beyond what meets the eye. 


 Create a BioPortrait - a re-presentation of yourself - that communicates how you see yourself or how you would like to present yourself. It can be based in the present, past, future or a hybrid time zone that you imagine

This BioPortrait differs from a traditional self-portrait. It invites you to think about yourself from a biological perspective and to convey this in your portrait.

We have introduced Photoshop as one creative tool available for your use. If you choose to use an image editing software, consider the metaphors of the tool such as layers and filters. Imagine how you can use these as metaphors in the construction of your BioPortrait. Areca will be introducing some of her favorite Photoshop tools  on Wednesday 9/23.

It is your reflection upon yourself as a biological being that distinguishes this self portrait from other portraits. Although we are introducing digital images as a starting point you are free to use any artistic medium that you wish.

Email if you have any questions about your BioPortrait or want feedback on your idea.

We will present our BioPortraits in class on September 30th.

Remember to meet [face to face] with your BioPortrait partner to talk about your concepts and to share work in process.

A few examples of the ways that artist incorporate the idea of the biological in portraits.

Kip Fulbeck - Hapa Project

Amy Youngs - Micropropogation

Lynn Fellman - DNA portraits

Photoshop on Campus

To find computers with photoshop search for it as a Product at this site.

Description of Bioart Piece

Write a brief description of a Bioart piece.

9/23 Eduardo Kac's Genesis project-Max Stahel

I absolutely love this idea and see the artistic relevance within it.  I am shocked as to how he combined a passage from the bible, the language of war, and the contents of our DNA into one uniting project.  Seeing the bacteria with that specific sequence of DNA is amazing and how it represents a holy message is unreal.  This an outstandingly artistic project that deals with the fundamentals of biology.
What inspired Eduardo to create this project?
Was the significance of changing the DNA sequence? Only to show dominion?

Max Stahel

Elizabeth Edwards

When I initially learned that Eduardo Kac was able to produce a petunia plant that expressed his own gene for red-colored veins, I was a little grossed out. The red coloring of the veins brought to mind blood flowing through a flower, and something about that just doesn't seem right. As I read into the project, though, and thought more about it, I realized how amazing this project is.All of the work that goes into creating a plant like this is astounding. From drawing his own blood and isolating the gene, to placing it in the plant's DNA, so much knowledge is required.

Will Gobeli

A Response to Natural History of the Enigma

I think that the creation of a new species of plant for art is truly remarkable.  The incredible amount of time and effort that went into achieving the artist's vision blows me away.  The result of this effort is a striking pink flower with red veins.  The science behind this is amazing as well.  Twenty years ago, this would have been impossible.  The artist's message of how all forms of life are interconnected is presented in a new, fresh, and very real way.  Another aspect of this piece that I appreciate is the inclusion of seed packets.  These packets, though not strictly bio art, make the Edunia seem more accessible to people and less like a sterile experiment. 

Natural Hist. of the Enigma response (Charlene Bogonko)

Artistically, the Edunia is a beautiful representation of the bond shared by humans and plants. The link between plants and humans seems to be a small one, and I would have never thought that there was any possible way to bring the two entities together. However, the Edunia has shown me that the link is stronger than I thought.  Also, the Edunia shows the expression of human appreciation of nature through interacting with it from more than the surface.

            Biologically, its impressive how far science has come in being able to open more pathways to bring together many/more of our world's components. 

(Matthew Paul Schroeder) Enigma Project

From a scientific perspective the Enigma project is unlike any other. The amount of work with the human genome and the work with the flower genome must have been so extensive it may just have bankrupted the "artist". I don't think anyone else on earth has attempted anything like it. At least for an artistic purpose that is. This man must have such a deep and profound respect and love for the artistic community. This is not a project that would be very valuable or profitable for the artist/scientist. But from a scientific perspective this project is a very complex one. The use of splicing his genes with one of a flower is both astounding and unbelievable. Even though this project deals a lot with art and the beauty of this flower, without the scientific and biological part this project is nothing. And that's why I chose to see this project from the scientific perspective. 

class schedule

BioArt Syllabus :: Fall 2009
Freshman Seminar Blog:

Neil Olszewski    Diane Willow
Biology                          Art

BioArt Description
Victimless Leather alive at MOMA, an artist designed DIY Digestive Table for your kitchen, the One Tree series of genetically identical trees living in San Francisco, and artists "cultivating" consciousness with a Botanical Gameboy each hint at the range of contemporary artwork by artists whose creative research integrally links art and biology.

Exploring topics from ecology to molecular biology, artists are accessing, critiquing, and demystifying biotechnology. We will examine the collaborative process between scientist, artist, and the public, the questions that artists and scientists pose, the poetic and political implications of this art, the response of scientists to this portrayal, and ethical issues associated with the creation of this art.

These issues will be explored through engagement with living things, reading and discussions that develop critical thinking, as well as laboratory and studio sessions that lead to the creation of BioArt.

To see examples of the range of BioArt go to:

• By design, the BioArt Freshman Seminar introduces you to the:
    • hybrid zone of BioArt
    • ways of thinking that are fundamental to Biology and Art
    • experimental contexts of the lab and the studio
    • University of Minnesota student learning outcomes
       as they relate to BioArt, including how to:
        ~ identify and solve problems artistically and scientifically
        ~ locate and critically evaluate information
        ~ gain competency in the history, theory, and practice of BioArt
        ~ understand the diverse perspectives that inform BioArt globally
        ~ effectively communicate your ethical views related to BioArt
        ~ develop creative inquiry and critical thinking skills that will
           empower you as a lifelong learner
• Seminar LOGISTICS:
meeting place: In the spirit of the Freshman Seminar and as an introduction the extraordinary resources of a large research university, we will introduce you to a variety of  resources and hold our seminar in several places on campus. Check for our meeting location each week. Unless noted, we will meet in Regis Center for Art, Room W123

• Standing Weekly ASSIGNMENTS ~ (Unless instructed other wise)
      1.  Find a description of a BioArt project. Write a brief description of the project,     that covers both the artistic and scientific elements. Use the format of two
    statements and one question. Be prepared to present the piece to the class at the     next meeting.
2.   After a presentation on each project, the class will vote on the project that will be     discussed in depth the following week. The instructors will decide if the focus of     the discussion will be artistic, scientific, ethical or a combination.
3.     Prepare to discuss the project in class.


Week 1 September 9
•Classroom Activities:
    • Introductions
    • Course mechanics
    • Discussions: What is BioArt? What is Transgenic Art?
    • Introduction to Uthink Blogs and our BioArt Blog
    Read about Natural History of the Enigma at Eduardo Kac's web site To prepare for the discussion in class next week, write a brief paragraph discussing the project from a scientific or artistic prospective.

Week 2 September 16
•Classroom Activities:
      • Neil presents the project Natural History of the Enigma and leads a discussion
    • Diane introduces the BioPortrait project and related concepts and techniques,
         including Photoshop as a tool for exploring and making visible concepts
       related to portraiture and biology in the production of your BioPortrait
    • The Standing Assignment part 1 plus research one of Eduardo Kac's artworks.
    • Be prepared to describe the project to the class and to pose a question for us to

Week 3 September 23 - meet in the BioMedical Library
•Classroom Activity:
    • Introduction to U of MN library search engines at the BioMedical Library
    • Brief presentations by class of Bioart projects and vote on topic for next week
    • Areca introduces Photoshop - favorite tools and techniques
• Critique of Natural History of the Enigma   
    • Complete your BioPortrait

Week 4 September 30
•Classroom Activity:
    • BioPortrait presentations and critiques
Week 5 October 7 - meet in Cargill Center and Biological Science Bldg
                      St Paul Campus

•Classroom Activity:
    • Neil introduces lab and everyone will Streak Bacteria
    • Brief presentations by class of Bioart projects and vote
    • Discussion of project picked last week.
    • The Standing Assignment, Parts 1, 2, 3

Week 6 October 14
•Classroom activity:
    • Presentation by Diane: Her Light Sensitive Project with bioluminescent plankton and an overview of BioArt and artists   
         working in these hybrid contemporary art forms and actions.
     •  Identify teams for transgenic art project
    • Working with your team come up with concepts for a BioArt project.
      • The Standing Assignment, Parts 1, 2, 3
October 16th 3:15 pm SPECIAL event: Steve Kurtz from Critical Art Ensemble

Week 7 October 21 - meet at the Weisman Art Museum
•Classroom activity:
    • Curator Diane Mullin will meet with us at the Weisman Museum to discuss      
      Transgenic Art exhibitions Eduardo Kac: Natural History of The Enigma
       and Gene(sis)
    • Discussion of transgenic art; students present and discuss project concepts
    • Meet with your group to develop and clarify your project proposal

Week 8 October 28 - meet in the Imaging Center, St Paul Campus
•Classroom activity: visit to the Imaging Center
    • Continue group planning meetings
    • Finalize project and prepare a written proposal
    • Find and Read 2 articles that discuss ethical issues related to BioArt
    • post 3 questions on the blog that we will use in our discussion
        with Jeff Kahn next week.

Week 9 November 4
•Classroom activity:
    Jeff Kahn, Director of the Center for Bioethics, UMN
    Visit with Jeff Kahn to discuss ethics of BioArt and Transgenic Art
    Continue developing, documenting, and making blog posts of your group projects

Week 10 November 11
•Classroom activity:
    Guest Artist: Lynn Fellman   
    Ceri Myers, Art History, PhD candidate - presentation and discussion
    Introduction to the Exhibition/Installation Space
    Continue developing, documenting, and making blog posts of your group projects

Week 11 November 18
•Classroom activity:
   Areca  Roe, Art, MFA candidate - presentation and discussion
   Laboratory work for project
    Continue developing, documenting, and making blog posts of your group projects

Week 12 November 25 (Thanksgiving Week)
•Classroom activity:
    View Film: Strange Culture and discuss the Steve Kurtz story   
    Studio work for project
    Continue developing, documenting, and making blog posts of your group projects

Week 13 December 2
•Classroom activity:
    Studio work for project
    Continue developing, documenting, and making blog posts of your group projects

Week 14 December 9
•Classroom activity:
    Exhibition of Class Projects in Regis W130 ~ 12noon to 5pm
    Prepare a paper that reflects upon a particular aspect of the exhibition, discussing artistic, scientific and ethical issues.


1:00 pm to - 4:00 pm
BioArt Exhibition

6:00 - 8:00 pm
Dinner with students from the Transgenic Art Seminar in 2006

Week 15 December 16
•Classroom activity:
    Full group discussion of the exhibition and the seminar
    Complete all blog entries including complete documentation of your participation in the process of making and exhibiting new work in the BioArt exhibition

Remember that Goosebumps movie?...

The moment I started reading this article, I was absolutely amazed, it reminded me of that old Goosebumps movie "Stay out of the basement", when the father of two children was a mad scientist who combined plant and human DNA and got a disastrous result. However this project did not have a similar results, it had a both beautiful and mindblowing result. Combing Human and plant DNA? That's an amazing thing to accomplish scientifically. From an art perspective its also very beautiful, combing two different life forms to create one. Like the article said, just the sight of this new life form inspires people from any culture and reminds everyone that two different things can unite to form something breathtaking. In addition, the article stated that the principle parts of humans and plants are the same, reminding us that even though people are very different, we also share commonalities which can bring us together. Although this project proves astounding, its also is quite alarming. Again, making a reference to the Goosebumps movie (I hope someone's seen it), it's a little frightening to think that we can combine different life forms to create new ones at will, hopefully nothing bad will come of it, but you never know, makes me a little nervous as to what we selfish humans might do with this information.

Examination of Eduardo's Work

I think it was a very artistic and scientific expression of work. He was able to literally express his DNA through his work, which most artists don't get to do. I liked how he was able to get his DNA to only be in the "veins" of the flower. It made it really human like, like our blood running through our veins. Our veins carry our blood which keeps us living, and the veins in the flower are what keeps Eduardo alive in his flowers. No artist would be able to create such an expression of art with out the help of science. And scientists on the other hand are limited to expressing their sucess in labs and papers. They don't get to display it in such a matter when they literally get to become a part of the project. It is a very fascinating concept.

John Romens 9/16

I think that from an artistic perspective, this project would be very self-fulfilling. Literally putting a little bit of yourself into your artwork gives you a new connection with the piece. It's as if the art is the child of the artist, and it must be amazing to have this level of connection with your work. I also liked Eduardo's reasoning behind the whole project. It is important to realize our connection with other forms of life, and people often forget about that. 

The Natural History of the Enigma

From an artistic perspective, Eduardo Kac's work is unique because it creates a human sympathy for a plant. Because the Edunia shares human DNA, it commands a novel respect from its viewers and becomes closer to humans than it was previously. My heart does not normally thump when I see a petunia, but the thought of seeing a part-human flower evokes an affinity that I imagine arises in some people that view the Edunia. This feeling represents the connection that humans and plants share through possessing the same ancient genetic material. In this way, Kac fuses thought-provoking art and science.

Who Doesn't Want A Human Plant?

During my orientation to the U of M during the summer my mother and I stopped by Weisman Art Museum to check out what they had to offer. I was taking pictures of my favorite pieces, just so I could remember them, but Eduardo Kac's Natural History of the Enigma really stuck with me. The art itself, the simple set up, the Edunia sitting plainly in the middle of the room, paired with the elegant lighting made the plant seem dramatic before I read it's story. I'm an Applied Plant Science major with an emphasis on Plant Improvement, so I was excited and I went home and showed all my friends the picture (which they thought was cool on it's own,) and then I told them that that petunia was part human. (Gasp!) Most of my friends were also in AP Biology, so they knew about recombinant DNA, plasmids, understood how Kac went about the process and all that jazz, but you learn about it in class and never see it applied. You see pictures and diagrams, you read about examples, but it never seems exciting. This is, though! It turns science into art, which in turn gives you a better appreciation and understanding of science. I mean, who doesn't want a part human plant? As long as it doesn't take over the world, that is. It makes science appealing, even through the menial and mundane parts, which I think is needed in our ever-growing "I want it now" frame of mind. Art has always been something that makes people stop and think, so why not stop and think about science?

The Natural History of the Enigma

This article was about a remarkable flower named and Edunia.  This flower expressed the geans of a flower and a human.  It was amazing to her the ways in which this was achived.  Because of technology today we are able to make more and more advances in science. Because of this discovery the advancmet was not just in the science world thought.  It was also in the art world.  The combination or art and science in the project seemed almost efforless and resulted in a beautiful and intreging flower.  The gap between the different species of the world now see to be less than before

Natural History of the Enigma

The Edunia flower is an astonishing creation in the scientific and artistic world. Eduardo Kac ingeniously was able to put his DNA into a petunia , which must have taken a copious amount of time and effort to accomplish. This new form of plant opens many doors that connect human life and nature to one another. With this being quite a new area ofexploration, scientists will be able to use Kac's project as a starting point for many more research opportunitues and experiments. Biologists and artists alike now have something new and original to study and admire. I will be very interested to see where they end up taking this new form of biological science and art. The Eduina flower truly represents how science and nature can fuse together to create something so unique.



Will Gobeli

A Response to Victimless Leather

I find the concept of victimless leather very interesting.  As a thought-inducing art form, I think it is very effective.  The art is a miniature jacket that is grown entirely out of a line of cells.  No stitching is involved.  The piece actually didn't look like I expected, but this does not change the fact that it is revolutionary.  But could this be harnessed in a way that would reduce tradidional leather consumption?  Or is this just a statement?

Natural History of the Enigma

After reading about Eduardo Kac's creation, I was immediately astounded. As an artist, this proves potential for the discovery and construction of endless, cutting edge projects that will reel in the world's eyes. I think this particular piece beautifully demonstrates the intimate relationship that humans have with nature. Through modernization, slowly but ever so surely humans have become disconnected with the Earth and have begun to carelessly scavenge what is left of it. This particular piece reminds us of the importance of nature, as well as its intellect. From a biological standpoint, Kac's project shows us that we are not so different from plants or animals, and that, at the basic level, we are composed of the same elements. Overall, this project was an incredible discovery for both the creative and the scientifically progressive world. 

"Natural History of the Enigma"

I found the article very interesting specifically from an artistic standpoint. I think that it is very interesting that instead of just creating something with his hands, Eduardo also used his DNA. Instead of just creating something he became part of it and is now biologically present in his art. He also has a unique approach to selling his art since he can sell something that the buyer can watch grow and come to life. He is selling living, growing art. 

Thoughts on "Natural History of the Enigma"

            When I heard about the idea of combining a part of human blood cells into plants, I thought such a thing was not possible and it's crazy to even try. I always thought it was nearly impossible to crossbreed different animal with each other, but a plant and animal that were just a wild aspiration. Reading the article about Eduardo Kac actually trying it and achieving it, was a shock. This was a breakthrough in the field of biology. Eduardo explains that human and plant DNA are more similar than most people think and that all he had to do was remove the immune system part of his blood cell and the put it together with the plant cells. The plant took this DNA and fused it with its own, and its effect was that the Petunia had human like veins with some blood like liquid flowing through it. Though this is a relatively small achievement, it is a giant step for the advancement in science. It may give scientists an idea to try to use the properties of plants and animals so they are able to help each other, in a mutual relationship. An example would be developing a cure or prolonging the life of both species.

            At first I didn't know what a petunia looked like, and then I searched for it on the internet. It looked like a pink or violet flower with weak colored veins on the petals. The Edunia however is a lighter shade of pink with blood red veins on the petals. This new breed of petunia looks like a stronger version of the other since it has darker color that stands out in the light pink area. This is one piece of art that nearly everyone will argue that it is truly original and "one of a kind". One nice thing about an art piece like this is that anyone who wants to see it or wants to own it has a chance to in the near future. The artist is planning to distribute seeds from his petunia, so people are able to share his work. It even comes in a unique seed pack that was designed specifically for this plant.

Natural History of the Enigma

            This article caught my interest right away. Who would have ever thought to make a new life form using human and plant DNA?!  Well as we can see Eduardo Kac did, and called his new life form "Edunia." I was glad that Eduardo wrote this article and explained how he carried out his experiment. I was fascinated by how Eduardo was able to express his blood-derived DNA exclusively in the Petunia's red veins. As I read further I found that he used Professor Neil Olszewski's CoYMV (Commelina Yellow Mottle Virus) Promoter, which drives gene expression only in plant veins. This article makes me wonder about other new life forms we could create.

Red veins rush through life.

Just by skimming Eduardo Kac's "Natural History of the Enigma", I was amazed by how many times I saw words like "blood, DNA."; and raised the question:" How is this done?" After reading this article, not to my surprise, I was drawn into this project. Since it's a symbol; it "talks" to me in a unique way that is thought provoking. Red veins add human emotion and  complexity to Petunia, the beauty of nature. I think it's not only symbolized the inseparable relationship between human and nature. That we are shaped by nature; many art pieces are inspires by nature; and on the other side, that human beings influence nature around us. Also, the Endunia reminds me of the science of relationship with others who has different background, different culture, different opinion, different belief...but at the mean time, share much more fundamental similarities. It intrigues with the word harmony. 

Jess Kessler - Natural History of the Enigma

      While I thought that the "Natural History of the Enigma" was a very interesting article, I also found it alerting. From an artistic point of view, I believe that combining two separate life forms into one is moving. This project proves that plants and animals begin with the same basic essentials and that they can live in harmony. But from a scientific point of view, I feel that this is bone chilling. If plants can adapt to human DNA, then could they also become prone to our diseases? And on the other hand of the spectrum, could they also be healed by our medicine? This would be an interesting hypothesis to prove.  In theory we could give a plant cancer. Concluding, I propose this question: Would it be beneficial to use plants to cure diseases that we cannot cure ourselves?

course description

Victimless Leather alive at MOMA, an artist designed DIY Digestive Table for your kitchen, the One Tree series of genetically identical trees living in San Francisco, and artists "cultivating" consciousness with a Botanical Gameboy each hint at the range of contemporary artwork by artists whose creative research integrally links art and biology.

Exploring topics from ecology to molecular biology, artists are accessing, critiquing, and demystifying biotechnology. We will examine the collaborative process between scientist, artist, and the public, the questions that artists and scientists pose, the poetic and political implications of this art, the response of scientists to this portrayal, and ethical issues associated with the creation of this art.

These issues will be explored through engagement with living things, reading and discussions that develop critical thinking, as well as laboratory and studio sessions that lead to the creation of BioArt.

To see examples of the range of BioArt go to:

Eduardo Kac

Tissue Culture and Art Project

Amy Youngs

Steven Wilson's Links

Future Farmers


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