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Biotech + Animals + Art
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Biotech + Animals + Art



Lecture by media artist and professor Victoria Vesna on animals and biotechnology as part of a class being taught at UCLA and Parsons. She is joined by scientist / collaborators Siddhartha ...

Lecture by media artist and professor Victoria Vesna on animals and biotechnology as part of a class being taught at UCLA and Parsons. She is joined by scientist / collaborators Siddhartha Ramakrishnan in New York and Romie
Litteral in Los Angeles.



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  • When we talked about food production,we looked back at the beginning of the 20 th century, the second industrial revolution and the mechanization of society and processes, including art. This is no less a backdrop for the relationship to animals.
  • Much of the industrial processes around animals and food is hidden from the public view…
  • I took this photo when we landed in Shanghai, May, 2009. All passengers had temperatures checked for swine flu before disembarking. Previous to this was the bird flu and before that we had the mad cow disease. One may consider if it is a coincidence that the three animals most consumed and abused in the industrial process – the cow, pig and chicken are sharing their sickness with us?
  • So, let’s start with the PIG: this image that was considered cute in the past -- now horrifies us.
  • Babe was a famous animal from Hollywood movie production – comes from a long history of the human-animal relationship stories. Link to famous animals.
  • Countless pigs, cows, chickens have been killed to control the flu virus from spreading…
  • And, yet – the pig is helping make some very important advances in the medical world. This is how entangled our relationship to the pig is… Romie Litrell comments: In the video she claims to want to “open a door to the idea of [organogenesis]” and does not possess a technique to create a functional heart by any means In this she may be correct, but the complex process of creating a complex organ like heart or liver involves a far more comprehensive understanding of stem cells and developmental pathways than we currently possess . This is a good example of adding drama to science to make good TV since the reality is disheartening (hah!), and often boring and/or confusing
  • How about bugs / flies? To this day, Kafka’s masterpiece still holds the imagination of many…
  • http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1641/B571003?prevSearch=&cookieSet=1
  • The Fly is a 1958 American science-fiction/horror film, directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was written by James Clavell (his first), from the short story "The Fly" by George Langelaan. It was followed by two sequels, Return of the Fly and Curse of the Fly.
  • As with many of Cronenberg's films, The Fly deals with themes of bodily disfigurement or metamorphosis and the darker aspects of human emotions and behavior.
  • http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32541662/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZr9ztQPNXA&feature=related http://www.mindfully.org/GE/Bioengineered-Bugs.htm
  • 12 Monkeys is inspired by the French short film La Jetée (1962), notably the story of both protagonists being haunted by the image of their own death. References to time, time travel and monkeys are scattered throughout the film, including the Woody Woodpecker "Time Tunnel" cartoon playing on the TV in a hotel room, The Marx Brothers movie Monkey Business (1931) on TV in the asylum and the subplots of monkeys (drug testing, news stories and animal rights).
  • Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, often described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The thought experiment presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event. In the course of developing this experiment, he coined the term Verschränkung — literally, entanglement. Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, often described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The thought experiment presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event. In the course of developing this experiment, he coined the term Verschränkung — literally, entanglement. Romie Litrell comment: “thought experiment turns simplicity into confusion. People know what cats are and cats don’t do this. What does this are particles that display discrete quantum effects. A good way to explain this is to attribute the characteristics to particles that we can mentally mold a lot easier. I’m not sure why he chose a cat, perhaps it was to highlight absurdity, or was a tongue in cheek reference to contemporary, heavy handed use of animals in science…”
  • Leonardo’s choice
  • Joseph Beuys' fascination with plants, animals, and the natural sciences developed early and remained strong throughout his life. As a child, he collected local plants and insects and catalogued them in notebooks. He also set up an extensive laboratory in his parents' apartment and conducted experiments in chemistry and physics. His first career plans were to study medicine and become a pediatrician. Though eventually he enrolled in art school instead, he retained his personal interest in the natural world, becoming especially well-versed in the properties of herbs and their use in natural remedies. Source: http://www.walkerart.org/archive/D/9D43B9DCCD821B0F6167.htm
  • Marco Evaristti (born 1963 in Santiago, Chile), is an artist who has lived in Denmark since the 1980s. After studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Evaristti gained notoriety for a museum display entitled Helena in 2000 that featured ten functional blenders containing live goldfish. The display, at the Trapholt Art Museum in Kolding, Denmark, invited guests to turn on the blenders. This led to museum director Peter Meyer’s being charged with and, later, acquitted of animal cruelty.The artist himself says that this that this was yet another project on the theme of beauty’s transience – the fine line between existence and nothingness
  • In 1991, Hirst presented In and Out of Love , an installation for which he filled a gallery with hundreds of live tropical butterflies, some spawned from monochrome canvases on the wall. With The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), his infamous tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde shown at the Saatchi. The tank pieces incorporate dead and sometimes dissected animals - cows, sheep or the shark - preserved in formaldehyde, suspended in death."
  • Damien Hist
  • Damien Hist
  • Damien Hist
  • Damien Hist
  • OncoMouse® AgreementThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) and E.I. DuPont (DuPont) have signed an agreement on the use of DuPont's proprietary OncoMouse® transgenic animal technology covered by the Harvard "Leder" patents. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) describes the terms by which the technology can be used in research conducted by and/or supported by NIH, without compromising DuPont's ability to receive appropriate value from commercial applications of the technology. This agreement reinforces the partnership between NIH and DuPont first established over a year ago with the signing of the landmark agreement on Cre-lox technology. The full text of the Memorandum of Understanding is available at: http://ott.od.nih.gov/pdfs/oncomouse.pdf Romie Litrell comment: “This mouse is a good callback to the heart in the earlier slides. The methods they used WERE successful for simple tissues which have simple structural roles.”
  • These rats are named Matilda, Tara and Star. These are all transgenic (gene transfer) rats, HLAB27 transgenic rats to be precise, exhibiting a phenotype similar to humans suffering B27 related rheumatic disorders. They have been microinjected with human DNA that sets them up for a precondition to beautoimmune challenged. The injection of human genetic material occurs in the pronucleus of mouse embryo, and it is passed generation to generation ever after. They are prone to develop diseases like reactive arthritis, psoriasis inflammatory bowel disease, and other things. They are developed for pharmaceutical research studies in systemic inflammation. Matilda, Tara and Star are also retired breeders, meaning they were used to give birth to baby rats that carried their added gene. They came from a laboratory that breeds such rats (and mice too) and sells them to researchers. Their ears have holes and yellow markings on their fur as a kind of numbering system. These marks denoted their identification, their names, until they came to live with me.  
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpw7xXF8XiE&feature=related Stem cells are building blocks that turn into different types of tissue. Embryonic stem cells in particular have made headlines, as scientists attempt to harness them to regenerate damaged organs or other body parts. They're essentially a blank slate, able to turn into any tissue given the right biochemical instructions. But human embryonic stem cell research is politically controversial, because culling the cells destroys embryos.
  • A transgenic animal is one that carries a foreign gene that has been deliberately inserted into its genome. The foreign gene is constructed using recombinant DNA methodology. I A transgenic animal is one that carries a foreign gene that has been deliberately inserted into its genome. The foreign gene is constructed using recombinant DNA methodology. In July 2000, researchers from the team that produced Dolly reported success in producing transgenic lambs in which the transgene had been inserted at a specific site in the genome and functioned well. Dolly will now become part of the permanent collection at the Royal Museum, which already has one of her fleeces on show.She will also join her cloned 'cousin', Morag, one of a set of Welsh mountain ewe twins cloned from cells grown in culture at Roslin in 1995 and donated to the museum three years ago.
  • Picture source: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/02/14/rt_bird_flu_071005_ms_2.jpg
  • PigeonBlog adopts a playful approach in effort to address a serious topic: 1) Hazardous air pollution continues to affect the lives and development of young children growing up in urban areas , and results in a significant all cause mortality in Los Angeles and other urban communities 2) Facilities emitting hazardous air pollutants are frequently sited in, or routed through, low-income and "minority" dominated neighborhoods, thereby putting the burden of related health and work problems on already disadvantaged sectors of the population who have the least means and legal recourse (particularly in the case of non-citizens) to defend themselves against this practice.
  • The development of the family of scanning probe microscopes starts with the original invention of the STM in 1981. Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer developed the first working STM while working at IBM Zurich Research Laboratories in Switzerland. This instrument would later win Binnig and Rohrer the Nobel prize in physics in 1986.The STM works by scanning a very sharp metal wire tip over a surface. By bringing the tip very close to the surface, and by applying an electrical voltage to the tip or sample, we can image the surface at an extremely small scale – down to resolving individual atoms. Source: http://www.teachnano.com/education/STM.html Slide added by: James Gimzewski
  • Slide added by: James Gimzewski
  • The record player illustrated best the concept of the STM – scanning the surface textures to produce data that can be output as image or sound.
  • Siddhartha Ramakrishnan comments: “Look around and try and notice the small adaptations that essentially help an animal navigate its everyday life - lizards, water kitters, polar bears, plants etc. What adaptations do we have that we take for granted (hint: fingers that can feel texture, depth vision, ear cartilages etc.). Which adaptations from other creatures would you like to have? How will your perception of the world change because of that?”
  • Animal adaptations- Pit organs in snakes - heat sensing organs - can differentiate even species of prey. Can be inspiration for night vision goggles, heat sensors etc. Cannot clai that the snakes eyesight is deficient by looking at vision alone. Hav eto have a bigger perspective, greater respect for an animals adaptations Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • We as humans should not be smug in our senses. What we claim to be colour vision is completely different than that of an ant or a bee. When experiments are designed/when we study animals we need to keep that in mind. Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • We as humans should not be smug in our senses. What we claim to be colour vision is completely different than that of an ant or a bee. When experiments are designed/when we study animals we need to keep that in mind. Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • Blue Morph butterfly: that beautiful blue color is not pigment at all but patterns and structure which is what nano-photonics is centered on studying. The lamellate structure of their wing scales has been studied as a model in the development of fabrics, dye-free paints, and anti-counterfeit technology such as that used in monetary currency. Blue Morpho has intrigued scientists for generations because of its subtle optical engineering that manipulated photons. Today, its dazzling iridescent wings are giving rise to a market trying to mimic its wonder and create a counterfeit proof currency and credit cards.
  • Making materials that can help us use natural examples better. Lotus leaf - water droplets can roll off. Shar skin that reduced drag. Olympic swimsuits modeled on that… how can such mterials help us. Faster travel through water? Creating compound lenses- expanding our visual environment? Understanding the environment of animals better? It works both ways - nature can inspire technology and technology can help us comprehend nature better. Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • Talk about oscillators in us, Central pattern generators, other synchronus things in nature. Fireflies on this tree have lit up together, coordinating their glow despite not being directly connected with each other. Such pace-makers exist all around us.. From avery small scale to organismla levels. Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • Based on molecular clocks ad also used to simulate them. Such nano-oscillators generate maximum power when they are synchronized. Showing that mimicry need not be on a large scale.. Can mimic something that is really really small. Like a biological clock. Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • Colloidal particles and polymers now engineered on the scale of biomolecules that can self assemble and thereby help repair body tissue. Concepts such as self assembly and self replication work better when they mimic nature on the nano-scale rather than the micro- or macro scale. Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • Bacteria that can take up heavy metals. These bacteria now can trap metals and get a skin coat. Can they be used to purifwater and other environemnts? Can they be placed on building walls and windows to purify air that comes in. a natural filtration device? Would people be happy with bacterial filtration? How much bacteria would one need to cover a building.. Wil that pose a problem in terms of scale? Would it still work? Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • Diatoms have naturally strong silica shells that are susceptible to high forces and still do not break. Being studied so that they can be used to engineer shields and building materials . Very strong, very light… Slide added by: Siddhartha Ramakrishnan
  • When Siddhartha and I started working together, I asked him to tell me what he found fascinating in science outside of his lab research and he told me – the hox gene. He proceeded then to explain that this as short for homeobox and that these genes are responsible for many different variations of legs, arms and other parts of the body exist in the animal kingdom. The hox gene also plays a role in many dynamic changes in human development and continues to be an important subject for scientific exploration in the areas of brain development, body patterning, and variation across species.
  • So we proceeded to start a collaboration and when I was invited to exhibit last year at the Shanghai Art & Science exhibition, I decided to show the first version. The chinese zodiac offered a perfect way to narrow down to twelve animals that many already have some relationship to. I felt that this was a really nice way to address not only the genetic similarities and emerging hybrid forms but also in a cultural sense…Now I will share the process of this collaboration and work in progress…
  • Then when we started talking more about it, I was trying to figure out how to capture images and sounds of these animals – the zoo and the lab… what about the dragon?
  • As it turns out, half of the chinese zodiac consists of animals that are used in science labs for research…
  • And, half are mythical animals, not typically used in labs…
  • Pinar Yoldas and Miu Ling joined the Hox team and we started with a video interface that adds different limbs to your body’s video projection and you mirror a hybrid animal / human body.
  • See video of the hox version 1 experiment. http://artsci.ucla.edu/hox
  • The interface to the zodiac is a table with twelve petri dishes that contain genetic materials of these animals. Touching one would activate the video… Romie Littrell joined the team to help construct the table and figure out the petri dish contents…
  • Further developing the conceptual framework of the physical interface, I came across an old roulette and thought that this adds an interesting element… Chinese zodiac + roulette… hmmm
  • And in relation to sound, we were joined by Takashi Ikegami who developed a software that “reads” genetic code and translates into sound files.
  • This last slide is added by Siddhartha Ramakrishnan -- it is a photo he took in India of a group of monkeys sitting in a circle and chatting – for a long time. They took turns and were clearly communicating something beyond what is usually assumed preoccupies them, ie. Food and procreation… It is a lovely story that he will tell you.

Biotech + Animals + Art Biotech + Animals + Art Presentation Transcript

  • Nano_Biotech + Art : #2 ANIMALS Professor Victoria Vesna with Siddhartha Ramakrishnan, Parsons, the New School of Design Romie Littrell, UCLA Art | Sci center FEBRUARY 26, 2010
  • Assembly Lines: FORD
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor: Taylorism He would break a job into its component parts and measure each to the hundredth of a minute. One of his most famous studies involved shovels. He noticed that workers used the same shovel for all materials. He determined that the most effective load was 21½ lb, and found or designed shovels that for each material would scoop up that amount.
  • Kafka’s Metamorphosis
  • Mosquito (Aedes aegypti) Replace disease-carriers with breeds resistant to malaria and dengue-fever parasites. Alexander Raikhel of Michigan State rewired it to produce antimicrobial defensin. Anthony James of University of California, Irvine, is trying to get it to make anti-bird-malaria antibodies. Figuring out how to drive disease-fighting genes into wild strains.
  • Medfly (Ceratitis capitata) Use gene warfare to prevent this agricultural pest from infesting the U.S. Alfred Handler of USDA has spliced in the jellyfish gene marker and is trying to express a sperm-killing gene in the Medfly's testes. Making biobugs that are not killed by the fatal trait they're supposed to pass along to offspring.
  • Kissing Bug (Rhodnius prolixus) Replace with a version incapable of spreading Chagas' disease. CDC and Yale have caused bacteria in its gut to make substance that kills the disease's protozoa. Settling whether it is safe and ethical to release biobugs that bite people. .
  • Silkworm (Bombyx mori) Increase its silk output and modify for making medically important proteins. Researchers in Canada and Japan have successfully used different transposable elements in it. Looking for foreign genes for transplanting into the bug
  • The FLY 1958
  • 1986 remake by Cronenberg
  • Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Protect this struggling bug, vital for pollinating many crops, from diseases and pests. Research at very early stages in the U.S., Japan and Europe. Ohio State researchers have attached jellyfish gene to bee sperm and it was inherited by offspring. Learning how to integrate foreign genes into bee chromosomes. Why are Honey Bees disappearing? – view video
  • 12 monkies
  • MONKEYS in science
  • Schrödinger's cat
  • Animals in Movies Animals in Galleries
  • Joseph Beuys
  • Marco Everistti
  • Damian Hirst
  • Oncomouse 1988, which was engineered to be susceptible to cancer (U.S. Patent No. 4,736,866).
  • Kathy High
  • Dolly first cloned animal, 1996
  • Andrea Zittel
  • BIRDS: Avian Flu
  • Beatriz da Costa: Pigeon Blog
  • Symbiotica The Tissue Culture & Art Project
  • Adam Zaretsky
  • Feeling the invisible: The principle of the Scanning Tunneling Microscope STM A billion times larger Where the real finger is the Eiffel tower And an atom is a golf ball Yet nothing is more different than a golf ball Nothing less solid Its mainly nothingness
  • The finger: a fine needle terminated by a single atom
  • Biomimetics
  • Fee-Fi-Fo Fum
    • Rattlesnake pit organs
    • Kangaroo rat
    • Squirrels
  • What you see and what you don’t
  • Imitating a bee: In search of their consciousness
  • Blue Morph
    • Low drag materials
    • Compound lenses
    • What about cotton candy?
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
    • Oscillators
    • Pace makers
    • Synchronized with the environment
    • Nano-oscillators
  • The Nano-oscillator
    • Power generated when they are in synchronicity is greater
  • Molecular scale bio-mimicry
    • Bone grafting?
  • What about skins?
    • Would you want nanoengineered skin?
    • For buildings?
    • In terms of absorbing pollutants and sealing them off?
    • Scale problem?
  • The other beings….
    • Diatoms
      • Walls of silica
    • Shields?
    • Structural integrity of natural materials
  • HOX Genes
    • Homeobox genes regulate number and placement of embryonic segment structures
  • Chinese Zodiac
  • Lab Animals
  • Mythical Animals
  • Installation
  • Installation
  • Roulette with Petri Dishes
  • Interface Idea
  • Sound
    • Takashi Ikegami
    • Canis familiaris (dog) homeobox D13 gene (partial sequence)
    • ggccgggccg ggccgggcca tgagccgcgc cgcgacctgg gacatggacg ggctgcgggc
    • ggacggtggg gccgcagggg cggcccccgc ctcctcctcc tcctcctcgg cggcggcggc
    • ggcggcgggc cagtgccgcg gcttcctctc ggcgccagtg ttcgccggga cccactccgg
    • gcgagcggcg gccgcggcgg cggcggcggc ggcggcggcg gcggcctcgg gcttcgcgta
    • ccccggggcc tcggagcgcg cgggctccgc cgcggcggcg tcgtcctcgg ccgtggtggc
    • cgcgcgcccc gaggctcccg cggccaaaga gtgcccggcg cccggcgcgg ccgctgcagc
    • gcccccgggc gccccggccc tgggctacgg ctaccacttc ggcaacggct actacagctg
    • ccgcatgtcg cacggcgtgg gcttacagca gaacgctctc aagtcgtcgc cgcacgcctc
  • umwelt (plural: umwelten; "environment" or "surrounding world") is the "biological foundations that lie at the very epicenter of the study of both communication and signification in the animal.” Whose consciousness? The term is usually translated as "self-centered world". Organisms can have different umwelten, even though they share the same environment. -Jakob von Uexkull and Thomas A. Sebeok