Random thoughts- bioart

I’ve found that one of the greatest barriers to writing something down regularly these days is a concern that I’d piss someone off.

What a way to grow up.


While wrapping up last of the sequencing reactions accumulated these past few days I found myself wondering about bioart again- there was a time when I was completely nuts over the concept of artscience, and pushed as hard as I could to get some bioart representation within the Genspace hierarchy. We didn’t even have PCR machines back then, it was before Ellen got the equipment from Vector donated after it downsized and closed down the lab she was managing, and way before we found MEx through bunch of random people. It was a life time ago.

Anyway, my earlier perception of ‘artscience’ at the time, as vague as it was, brought to mind something curious, something like Leonardo Da Vinci but for the modern age. Scientific discovery and application dictated by aesthetic sense to create something beautiful and perhaps even meaningful. Being freshly out from school it was a view uninformed by realities of both scientific research and how many artists operate.

From a general point artscience as it stands right now seem to refer to anything and everything created and curated using tools normally reserved for usually inaccessible scientific research for purposes of artistic expression- and nothing else. It’s art as usual except the tubes of paints and canvas got switched out to some other things associated with science (or should I say popular perception of science? No real scientist I know plays around with that much colored liquid, or uses racks of test tubes). 

It brings up an interesting question on what artscience actually is. When you really dig into the history of arts from across the globe, the techniques of art was never really far away from experimentation and keeping track of data- the practice of simply walking into a store to buy tubes of paint without knowing how it’s made and where it came from is a ridiculously modern one. Same goes for architecture. The amount of experimentation and fundamental knowledge that has to be learned to be even remotely adapt at the craft is extensive- otherwise you have a lot of dead people on your hands. Experimentation, data gathering, perfection over life time and generations- are all rather common practices in the arts.

In that light, what IS artscience? It’s highly probable Da Vinci was on the cutting edge of chemistry at the time just from making his paint and gunpowder for fireworks. Same goes for almost all the older masters. If it’s simply using scientific means and tools for purposes of art how is that so radically different from what people had been doing for most of history, when you consider that ‘traditional’ tools of art themselves were products of experimentation?

Here’s another kicker- the relatively recent interest in bioart, itself a practical artscience of sorts, is based on broader accessibility of the tools and better abstraction of ideas that allows any sufficiently funded and motivated artist to use the tools usually associated with pure research. Easier accessibility to better and more professional tools of the scientific trade by the layman will be a continuing trend for the foreseeable future… So what does artscience do that’s really different when the science part of it is as normal as walking into an arts supply store and buying tubes of paint?

Is it even real? If it is, where is it going?


And all this is without even getting into the difference between science and technology.