“In a funny way I’m scarred for life. I can’t un-think these things. These are implications that will probably follow me around for a long time,” said Ben Welmond.
“It totally changed the way I view science, and the social conscience around science,” said Mary Tsang. “I’m seeing now you don’t need to be in industry, or a corporate setting, or an academic setting even to ask a simple question about something that affects you or your environment.”
DIYsect, a documentary web-series, did this to the pair.
Welmond and Tsang are creating the series as they travel the United States interviewing bioartists and do-it-yourself (DIY) biologists. Tsang, a bioartist from Carnegie-Mellon University, and Welmond, a videographer, have been in for a ride.
The green-and-white site features artists from Pittsburg, to New York, to Houston, to San Francisco where I caught them by phone. Travelling by ‘02 Honda Civic, this Kickstarter-funded project brought them to artists and bio-tinkerers like Adam Zaretsky, George Church, Joe Davis, Ellen Jorgenson, and 33 others.
Adam Zaretsky showed them plants he was tattooing, invoking visceral reactions as the needle drills the flesh, inking the remains. His works take critical stabs at the ethical and political responsibilities our society assumes to afford creatures ranging from frogs, to E. coli, to corn.
Joe Davis focused on the beautiful aesthitics of biology, uninvested in socio-politics.
Heather Dewey-Hagborg gave DNA a face, modelling 3D portraits on DNA extracted from chewing-gum and cigarette butts.
Ultimately, the DIYsect pair hope their project encourages discussion about biotechnology. In particular, Tsang said she hopes the bioart community can connect into the wider biotech community, fostering some deep thinking among scientists, do-it-yourself biologists, and the public; everyone outside the gallery-going bioart community.
Gallery-goer or not, check out the DIYsect site. The touring has now wrapped, so more videos are to come!