Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Genes, Pets, and Blue Roses

Genetically Modified blue roses produced by the FloriGene company. This picture was snagged from their website

Man has been domesticating animals, plants, bugs--you name it. Now, with the increasing ability to manipulate the code of life through genetic engineering, there are plenty of examples of pets that are the result of bioengineering to make special colored flowers, cats that are allergen-free, fluorescent fish, even clone pets (currently this option is on hold for one US company) or store the DNA for future use.

Maybe someday, we'll have examples like this to buy in the store: GenPet which is proclaimed as some sort of semi-living flesh based organism, but is just a sketch by artist Adam Brandejs for now.

Florigene --
Genetically modified flowers - they created the blue rose...

Felix Cats --
Allergy-free cats

Allerca --
Hypoallergenic cats

GloFish --
Glowing fish

BioArts --
BioArts - used to offer pet cloning, but has ceased this product offering

RNL Bio --
Cloning pets as a service offering in South Korea

Fluffy 2.0 --
Fluffy 2.0 - DNA bank for pets

GenPets --
Semi-living pets coming soon? ;)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Carbon Copies: Spread your ashes over pages and pages...

Carbon Copies photo from Nadine Jarvis' research website.

Nadine Jarvis has created an interesting new concept for dealing with the body after death. In her Carbon Copies piece, the human body is cremated and the remaining ash is made into 240 pencils which are stored neatly in a beautifully designed box. The box also contains a sharpener built in, so that the shavings are collected in the box, becoming another form of the human ash. I like the idea of this; it makes me wonder how the family will use the pencils, what they will write, will they keep their writings forever? Or will they write tributes to the dead and then burn the pages in some sort of a grieving ritual? Who knows?

Project website:

Friday, December 4, 2009

My DNA Fragrance smells fishy

Image of the "M" fragrance that is apparently based on the DNA of Michael Jackson

A collector of strands of hair from famous people has lended some of them to the "My DNA Fragrance" company which extracts mtDNA and then uses that as a way to make mixing decisions for fragrances. They market the fragrances to individuals who can order their own unique personalized fragrance and they sell premixed fragrances based on the celebrity mtDNA.

The perfume contains no DNA or any materials from a human, but has been used in some mysterious way to determine the amounts of each component that goes into a perfume. The website claims to donate some of the proceeds to the charities of the late celebrities, but I just have to imagine they are not authorized to use the likenesses of these dead folks for their own profit. I bet they will battling it out in court with many estate lawyers in the near future.

What is your opinion? Whether the product is cool or not, does it raise some ethical issues? What does M actually smell like?

Company website:

This blog, apparently from the company describes some of the details:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Metabolic Materials: Dr. Rachel Armstrong

An artist's depiction of the city of Venice after the implementation of the metabolic materials of Rachel Armstrong. The limestone formations protect the buildings from the sea and new sea life can utilize the architectural formations bringing a new attraction to the city which is sustainable and natural.

Another exciting bit of research involving living, or in this case, semi-living protocells and architecture. Dr. Rachel Armstrong, from the Bartlett School of Architecture, discussed her ideas for buildings that not only repair themselves, but signal a departure from traditional architecture. Her ideas call for architecture that merges with the environment through materials that are alive and become part of the ecological systems in the surroundings. In this way the buildings can be sustainable, beneficial to the inhabitants of cities, and produce opportunities for new encounters with life.

Watch her TED talk here:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Buildings in the Desert: Sand and Bacteria

Image taken from the Holcim Foundation website.
Full image available here:

Architect Magnus Larsson presented his novel project idea in a Ted talk recently, in which he proposed to halt the expansion of the Saharan desert by using the sand itself. His construction idea involves the use of a bacteria (bacillus pasteurii) which can be used to turn ordinary sand into sandstone.

Read more about the science behind this new bio material:

Read more about the architect's projects and ideas on his website:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oats + mold = computer!

Plasmabot project photo

As reported in a number of news outlets, researchers from the University of the West of England are building a computational robot based on the growth habits of the hysarum polycephalum mold. Read more at the following links:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

TAXIDERMY: Ravishing Beasts

One of the many `fraudulent animals' in the gallery: cowbird?

If you haven't run across this site, you need to take a peek. As the site suggests, start in the gallery and let yourself be amazed at the beautiful and bizarre examples of taxidermy in contemporary art. From the more standard examples of the jack-a-lope to the cowbird chimera, this website provides contemporary examples of artwork that incorporates the processes and concepts from taxidermy. Aside from the beautiful and shocking visual materials, there are many articles provided that explain the science, processes and aesthetics of the field.

Open to interpretation, but this sculpture somehow captures the beauty of nature even though it is quite unnatural

These photos are linked back to the original webpage
and are the materials and property of the respective owners/caregivers.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eduardo Kac's newest Bioart piece lets the artist live in his work, literally!

You may be familiar with George Gessert's hybrid irises and Steichen's delphiniums, but the latest large scale installation by Eduardo Kac is composed of a new transgenic organism that is partially petunia and partial Eduardo himself. He names this new part plant part animal organism the `Edunia' and it is part of a show opening April 17th at the Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis. Take a look at the artist's website for more information.

Natural History of the Enigma

Picture of the `Edunia' transgenic organism that is part of the Enigma work of Eduardo Kac, 2003-2008

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Antennae grown with genetic algorithms capture cosmic radiation echoing since the beginning of time, which is processed by a live ant colony, gathering and moving in patterns offering a tool in which the world's most populous insects extend human perception, reveal and then retell the story of all existence.

Genetically grown antennae capture signals from the cosmic microwave background, which began echoing in space since the Big Bang. The signals are processed by a computer system and translated into shapes of food, water, and pheromone trails in real-time. Ants gather and move according to these patterns, revealing the activity of the most abundant source of radiation energy ever known. From a distance, the sculpture appears to be a gigantic ant peeking into the human world. Upon closer examination, the human peeks into the ant world and is presented with patterns formed by the ant colony╩╝s social mind.

Conceptual Trajectory
The uniting force behind our work is a mission to create emotionally engaging biological media. This has led to the focus on developing an aesthetic framework and a pattern language unique to biological art. In order to build and refine this, we create living interactive systems and then study the spectators of the installations. Our recent biological ambient media examined the use of bacteria in one case, and plants in another as simple vehicles for the encoding of information and an abstract form of telepresence. With exist(ants), insects present a big leap in the sophistication and complexity. Ants are surprisingly advanced with a highly developed social structure. In the exist(ants) project, the behaviors of a colony of insects extends human perception allowing the visualization of the cosmic microwave background. The installation explores the role of the author as a choreographer who prepares the stage and then leaves the actual creation of the moment-to-moment experiences to the performers.

Role of Technology
A genetic algorithm based on the antennae of the ant is used to
grow a highly tuned antennae to capture signals in the 0.3 GHz and 300 GHz range. These signals are then translated into shapes using a visualization algorithm and then “printed” in the ant habitat with the placement of food, water, and pheromones in real-time using bubble jet technology, thus influencing the gathering and movement of the ants.

Biological Media
exist(ants) raises
issues on various levels relating to the logic of natural processes. The notion of all existence as a delicate balance between chaos and order is a primary function of this installation. As time passes, the ant colony changes and refines its ability to process the cosmic signals that have echoed since the beginning of time.

Link to the conceptual video - Low Resolution Google Video
High Resolution Coming Soon

Video Credits:

Animation: Doros Polydorou
Concept, Writing and Directing: Tim Merritt

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Thank You!" to the Mixed Reality Lab, Singapore

Babbage Cabbage: Color changing cabbage raises awareness and empathy for the world's important issues.

dDNA: Glowing E. coli bacteria used to make an ambient living display and to explore the notion of telempathy.

Over the past two years, I have had the unique pleasure to work closely with the Mixed Reality Lab at the National University of Singapore under Dr. Adrian David Cheok. In this time, we have worked on a number of award winning interactive systems including biological media installations such as the Babbage Cabbage (Nokia Mindtrek Winner 2008 and LAVAL Revolution Winner 2009) and the dDNA: Empathetic Living Media paper that I presented at the DIS2008 conference in Capetown, South Africa. I have moved on to explore the more theoretical aspects of bioart and biological media from another perspective and through a process of design-oriented research. Through the realization of biological media installations and interactive systems, I hope to uncover a new pattern language of bioart and biological media. I remain very grateful for the experiences in the Mixed Reality Lab and I hope to continue to collaborate with the great researchers in the future.

Tim Merritt
Post Graduate Research Scholar
Communications and New Media Dept.
NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences
National University of Singapore


Mixed Reality Lab Website:

Mindtrek 2008 Nokia Ubimedia Award. Third Place. Babbage Cabbage: Empathetic Biological Media

LAVAL Revolution 2009 Winner:

A.D. Cheok, R.T.K.C. Tan, T. Merritt, O.N.N. Fernando, Y.P. Sen and D.T.K. Nguyen. 2008. Empathetic Living Media. ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems DIS 2008, February 2008, Cape Town, South Africa, pp. 465-473.

Words to help search engines place this blog:
bioart bio-art biological-art biomedia bio-media biological media empathy telempathy ddna babbage cabbage mindtrek mxr interactive media insect art plant-based media