ASCUS Art & Science, Edinburgh
1 April 2017, 11 April 2017

Transformation – Thinking Through Making With Life is an ongoing series of bio-art workshops as a part of Louise Mackenzie’s research, exploring the philosophical and moral implications of working with living biological material and storing information within DNA. The first workshops are in collaboration with the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University and ASCUS Art & Science at Summerhall in Edinburgh.

“Synthetic biology is an emerging area of research that can broadly be described as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems.”  Source: UK Royal Society 

Artist Brion Gysin announced that writing was 50 years behind painting (1959) and proposed to his colleague William Burroughs the cut-up technique as a literary collage method to re-dress the balance.  Today, the same principle is applied in synthetic biology to cut and splice DNA, collaging new forms of life by cutting and pasting genes from one species to another.

This workshop combines Gysin’s literary technique with the field of synthetic biology by taking a thought and physically inserting it into the DNA of a living organism.  Questioning both literally and metaphorically what happens when we undertake this action, the workshop seeks to address our relationship to living material as biological tool through performing the act of cutting and splicing biological material and subsequently reflecting on this process through recorded dialogue, where participants become the organism observed.