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DIYSect by Ben Welmond and Mary Tsang

diysect2
DIYsect

“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!

 

tsang and welmond

 

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Audio: Another Interview with prof Dietram Scheufele

Dietram Scheufele is a professor of mass communications at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, who has done a national study in the US of the impact Internet comments have on science journalism.

I spoke with him just before the website Popular Science closed it’s comments because “comments can be bad for science”.

I asked him about the impact of comments on the public understanding of science, and the future of online comments in general.

Another Interview-Dietram Scheufele by Tomeksysak_ on Mixcloud

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sneak peak: BioARTCAMP @ Arts and Science Journal

Jennifer Willet in "InsideOut: Laboratory Ecologies" @ Banff National Park, 2009.

Jennifer Willet in “InsideOut: Laboratory Ecologies” @
Banff National Park, 2009.

Jennifer Willet creates art connecting inside the bio lab with outside.

Projects like 2011’s BioARTCAMP in Banff National Park built a portable bio lab with 20 artists completing biological experiments and artwork in raw nature, removed from the sterile, stereo-typically white bio labs.

A professor and bio artists, Willet runs Incubator Art Lab at the University of Windsor, a bio lab and exhibition space.

Her works try to re-contextualize and bring a new perspective to organisms in labs.

“I think somehow in our minds we’ve decided that the organisms in our lab are not part of our ecology, so we don’t need to afford them the same sort of considerations that we afford organisms out in nature, or in our home,” said Willet.

To Willet, that consideration isn’t just academic. She sees humans as reacting differently to living organisms than artistic representations. After all in bio art the representation is alive.

“I think there are these bodily responses to other bodies, the same way that when a cat lets us pet it we have this very visceral response, I think those responses come with all sorts of organisms,” she said.

It’s exactly this sort of reaction that needs to be considered ,said Willet. There are some serious ethics and politics to consider, and not just by elite specialists in labs.

“Right now were able to produce and reproduce bodies. And this technology is going have a really significant generational, environmental, biological outcomes for hundreds of years. So I think it’s really imperative that other people outside the biological sciences engage with these technologies so we can all share in the decision making systems around these technologies.”

Willet and her students at Incubator lab continue producing new art. Recently they paraded bioluminescent bacteria for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, and right now there is a retrospective of student work at the Ontario Science Centre.

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