What do advances in genetics mean for the future of humanity and other species? How will medicine change as a result of genetic research? What do we mean by biotechnology? What possible genetic futures can we imagine?
In FUTURES week, we explore how science and art influence each other through the imagination of genetic futures.
The Signal and the Noise (2017)
Charlie Tweed and Dr Darren Logan
Voiced by an anonymous group of ‘hybrid’ machines from the near future The Signal and the Noise takes us through advances in genetic technologies such as DNA sequencing, optogenetics and CRISPR gene editing, to propose a future vision of hybrid computing devices that are used to monitor and repair living things. Whilst the film appears to be science fiction, all of the technologies and ideas discussed are based on actual advances and visions of the future. The work questions the limits of human desire for control and technological progression: what is the future of the ‘human machine’ and what are the ethics of fixing the code? The Signal and the Noise was produced as part of Silent Signal, a Wellcome, Garfield Weston and Animate Projects collaboration.
TrainSlidingTalk was originally delivered as a performance lecture at BALTIC CCA, Gateshead. Chris Dorsett is a Professor of Fine Art at Northumbria University and a founding member of the Cultural Negotiation of Science research group. He is an artist and exhibition-maker whose career has been built on cross-disciplinary collaborations with collection-holding institutions. For a number of years, Dorsett regularly met genomics experts Volker Straub and David Elliott (both of the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University) on a local commuter train. Across a moving carriage they would swap ideas about 'junk' DNA and institutionalised collection-holding. The motion of the train is part of their exchange: the stations they stop at a reminder that inactivity, rather than continual transition, can shape both history and evolution.
The Genetics Revolution (2016)
In this condensed 'screen-bite' philosophy film, media artist, futurist and philosopher, Jason Silva speculates that if genetics is code, our new canvas is life itself.
Exchanges at the Frontier: Paul Nurse (2012)
Sir Paul Nurse shares his visions for the future of research in genetic and cell biology. Sir Paul Nurse is a Nobel Prize-winning cell biologist and the new President of the Royal Society. A geneticist and cell biologist, his ambitions for the future of science exceed the confines of the laboratory. He is also Director and Chief Executive of the new Francis Crick Institute, a major scientific research centre that opened in 2015.
Design Meets Synthetic Biology (2016)
On 12th July 2016, in Edinburgh, during the ‘Design meets Synthetic Biology workshop', biologists, engineers, designers, artists and social scientists were invited to discuss issues of representation, access and perception of synthetic biology - the growing field of making with living material. They were asked to share their vision of the future synthetic biology, their hope and fears. This video aims to represent a range of voices gravitating around the discipline but disconnected from each other. Far from a single united vision, it depicts the complexities of working with living material and the range of opinions surrounding the discipline.
The Synthetic Kingdom (2009)
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Animation by Cath Elliott
Created in 2009, the questions raised in this film are still highly relevant 10 years later. How can we classify what is natural or unnatural when life is built from scratch? Synthetic biology is turning to the living kingdoms for its materials. For two decades, scientists and engineers have envisioned a technology where we could pick a feature from an existing organism, identify the DNA encoding it, and insert that DNA into a biological “chassis" or cell to copy it. Engineered life could compute, produce energy, clean up pollution, make materials and even kill pathogens. But doing this may require adding an extra branch to the tree of life. Whilst biotechnology promises humans control over nature, The Synthetic Kingdom reminds us that biology doesn’t respect borders or patents.
The Breeder (2017)
The Breeder hints at the ethical dilemmas in our genetic futures, setting out a scenario in which the genetic modification of pets has become mainstream. Demelza Kooij is an independent artist/filmmaker and works as senior lecturer in fiction and documentary filmmaking at Liverpool John Moores University. Her work is presented at film festivals, art galleries, and conferences. The Breeder (2017, UK/USA) is a short film commissioned by Imagine Science Films and Labocine New York as part of the feature film Mosaic.
Virophillia is part of a proposal by artist Pei-Ying Lin for a near future in which viruses have beneficial use outside of a medical context. Lin's current work involves the development of a cookbook which details how the viruses can be used. This short film, a work-in-progress, shows the culinary influenza virus: a bioengineered / cultivated strain of the influenza virus that causes only minor infection reactions in the host. Each viral strain is briefly experienced only once as a vaccine that is mixed with food. The infection reaction, such as fever and sore throats, is the "add-on dining experience" in this new trend of "viral cuisines", extending a traditional food experience whilst boosting the immune system.
The Ray Cat Solution (2015)
The Ray Cat Solution explores the possibility of using genetic technology in the creation of a ‘future myth’. This short film engages with a theory initially proposed in the 1980s by Philosophers Françoise Bastide and Paolo Fabbri as part of the Human Interference Task Force, employed by the US Department of Energy to tackle the issue of how to warn future humans of radioactive waste sites.