C-LABC-LAB QRCodeUniversity of WestminsterAHRCClare Chemical ResearchFOM Institute AMOLFDA4GA
Art from Synthetic Biology is the cumulation of a doctoral research using synthetic biology and genetics in art production. As the first public art exhibition to feature living genetically modified microorganisms in the UK, it represents a milestone within bio art practices and highlights the challenges of putting such matter on display.

It is our pleasure to invite you to the Royal Institution to experience living synthetic biology artworks. A special evening event on the 10th of April from 6.30pm will discuss the artworks and their context.
The exhibition ‘Art from Synthetic Biology’ features living genetically modified artworks produced through a doctoral research combining innovative approaches in the arts with the biological sciences. By tapping into a range of behaviours and capacities unseen in nature, the exhibition offers experimental insights and novel experiences using bacteria, genetics and life-processes as artistic media.

Developing novel characteristics in bacteria was made possible through a three-year immersive laboratory engagement adopting synthetic biology methods in the art production. Exhibiting such artworks required ethical approval and liaising with regulatory agencies, making this the first legal exhibition in the UK showing living genetically modified organisms.

The research aims have been to explore novel expression, materials and methods in ways that can expand language and boundary conditions of art. By grafting scientific methods onto an artistic practice, the research made available a new set of innovative tools to explore hidden and extended capacities in the living.

The exhibition is curated by C-LAB.

The exhibition includes a body of works: (1) Stress-o-stat - a life-size installation capturing invisible processes of oxidative stress in bacteria as light; (2) Banana Bacteria - an olfactory display utilising synthetic biology to produce banana smelling bacteria; (3) katE-RED - a visualisation of stress in bacteria using a swarming plate; (4) Transient Images – employing sewage bacteria to generate disappearing images by degrading textile dye; (5) Sugar Rush – a chemotaxis system that visualises sugar preferences in Escherichia coli; (6) Bacteria World - a data visualisation system using bacteria colonies as cities to simulate overpopulation scenario; (7) Bacteria Compass – an interactive setup with nanomagnetic particles allowing manipulation of bacteria; and (8) Bacteria Light-sensor – an image generating system using engineered light sensing capabilities in bacteria.

The research was funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), University of Westminster and C-LAB.
On the 10th of April from 18:30, a special evening event will be held to discuss the artworks and their contexts.

It looks at what it means for an artist to engage with laboratory practices independently and include those who have been actively involved in shaping it. We ask the questions: What are the challenges of exhibing living genetically modified art in the UK and how was this made possible? What can be gained from experiencing such material directly? How can artists explore biotechnological life as art? A brief talk will also be held around each work to offer a way of engaging in some of the deeper knowledge processes they involve.