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BioArt as a Cognitive Way

Author: Li Shan 2017

Unlike previous works that relied on materials and narrative frameworks, and that used symbolic and allegorical techniques, BioArt is a new field, using biomaterials to tell the story of a nucleic acid molecule based on the writing method of genetic editing.
Due to the late start, few works, few comments, and few groups engaged in artistic creation, BioArt has not yet entered the field of history, and the relevant texts are not available in the history books. There may be other reasons for this, but it's just that something comes out of the blue, behaves oddly and constructs in a way that people don't yet understand, and it's not clear where it's going to go.
This is an off-topic.

Definition and Boundary
As a new thing, BioArt causes many new problems, among which the most desirable one is about what its definition is, where its boundary is and how to solve the ethical problems which it involves.
Strictly speaking, BioArt original background comes from the experments and researches of molecular biology in the 1950s, or to say there wouldn't have been no biological art without molecular biology. It built a framework of statement language to delimit the definition of biological art and demarcation of the boundary of BioArt, that is, Biological Art is a cultural construction at the genetic level, a cognitive way, and a construction of cultural morphology. The genome structure and gene expression provides us ideological understandings. The definition quoting from Wikipedia is debatable at the material level and perspective. The artist's proposals and implementation methods should be based on a basis of in-depth understanding of life sciences, instead of simply using of biotechnology.

Thinking about genes
We know that few genes can be coded, which comprise only 2% in a long genome chain and 98% of it are the gaps between genes.Previously, scientists referred to these gaps as garbages or errors,which are taken as remnants of ancient genes or viruses, and later they found that the garbages or debris were not useless,which also involved in gene transcription and translation. Shan Li regards these gaps as "the dark matter of the genome". They are randomly sequences of no-coding DNA indeed. If we can identify and activate these so-called"silencing genes", encode and construct them in sentence patterns rather than just participate in expression, which will bring about fundamental changes in the structure of the genome and the function of genes.
The DNA double helix is a structure held together by a base that connects two spiral arms. There are four bases: adenine, uracil, cytosine and guanine, which are represented by the letters A, T, C and G. The four bases are paired according to strict grammatical rules to construct the double helix. The complementary pairing of bases on the double helix of DNA is of great biological significance. It is the molecular basis of gene expression and the standard pattern of life writing.
In 1992, humans successfully replicated DNA that could express artificial bases. In 2014, DNA containing artificial bases dNAM and D5SICS replicated successfully in living organisms. Life has grown from A, T, C, and G to six letters, and Godb knows how many new words will be created. If we can modify the translation, that is, modify the RNA in order to be capable to recognize artificial bases and to incorporate them into the information system, finally to achieve gene expression. I will bring unlimited possibilities to BioArt creation.
A gene is not only an exchange and a mutation unit, but also a functional unit. Replacing a nucleotide sequence or moving a reading frame changes, the expression way of whole organism will be re-written.

Gene editing and Gene splicing
CRISPR-CAS9, which was introduced in the early 1990s, can be used as a tool for gene editing to modify the DNA of almost all organisms. At present, scientists of various countries are constantly improving the tools for gene editing.
Gene editing changes the molecular sequence, and gene splicing changes the structure of the molecule itself. Both can make the gene product a new structure and function, although the methods are different. Splicing is an event in the initial stage of transcription. The same gene leads to different mRNA and protein products because of different splicing methods. Editing is a post-transcriptional modification which involves insertion deletion of bases and nucleotide substitution. By changing the information characteristics of the transcriptional products, gene editing will lead to changes both amino acid sequences of coding protein, codon meanings, as well as whole reading frame due to the gene moving location to change the gene products.
At present, the biological art creation method is still in the stage of gene editing and gene splicing, and the conditions for going to the artificial genome are not yet available. The work "Smear" is a corn trait constructed by deleting two genes, Tb1 and Tul, by using the CRISPR-cas9 editing tool. There are many ways to use gene editing, such as deleting, inserting, inverting, repeating, and translocating DNA fragments. Artists can make choices based on the needs of the program.

Genetic Ethics
Let's start with a case study on genetic ethics. The British government invited Oxford University philosophy professor M. Warnock to form a multidisciplinary committee to study ethical and legal issues in reproductive and embryo management.Based on the results of embryological research, a 14-day limit was proposed, that is, the early embryos less than 14 days can be used as research materials, and those older than 14 days are forbidden. The reason is that original embryo has not yet appeared in early embryos less than 14 days, which is too early to constitute the subject of ethics. This proposal was accepted by the British Parliament, which became legislative basis of UK's supporting embryonic stem cell research.
In this case, the connection between the pro-embryo and the ethical subject is not inevitable. The committee didn't provide reliable scientific evidences. The committee's recommendations are approved by the congressional as a consideration of value. Modern science and biotechnology have always been based on the promotion of human health and longevity and on the improvement of human happiness index. Ethical judgment and choice are the result of value-driven.
BioArt has no practical value, which neither a value question, nor directly link to ethics. Ethics should not be a barrier to the BioArt creation. Interestingly, a laboratory of Emory University in Atlanta has discovered the physical basis of ethics at the genetic level. Ethical judgment and choices may be determined by "gene expression".

Shanghai, 2017.

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