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Food for Thought

Louise Mackenzie (2017)

#FEED, Queen's Hall, Hexham

Genetically modified E. coli transformed with pEX-A2-Mackenzie (the artist’s thought, translated as DNA), autoclave tape, borosilicate glass, C-type print, documentation of autoclave procedure


Supported by Professor Volker Straub and Dr Ana Topf, Institute of Genetic Medicine and Robyn Hare, Glassblower, Newcastle University


Advances in biotechnology have enabled humanity to creatively redefine the living body at the molecular level.  Not only is it possible to extract genetic information from one species and insert it into another, it is also possible to store information such as text, images and data in the form of DNA.


As synthetic biology and genetic modification become increasingly interdisciplinary, the possibilities for the biotechnological body are as limitless as our thoughts.  In this context, Louise Mackenzie has learned basic techniques in synthetic biology in order to store a thought within a living body (E. coli bacteria) as a form of dérive, to examine our social and political relationship to the lively material that we use as resource. 


Mackenzie refers to the genetically modified E. coli as BioAssemblages: biological material that exists as a construction of parts and the fluid relations of these parts within a wider context.  In her discussions with scientists, the amount of biological and technological waste generated through the need for sterile conditions is a common concern.  The E. coli BioAssemblages require nutrient media to grow and are maintained within plastic containers that must be disposed of after use. 


Food for Thought shows for the first time the genetically modified E. coli BioAssemblages that Mackenzie has stored her thought within, sterilised and sealed within a glass vessel.  This vessel marks the first evolution of a longer-term project, Pithos, in which the artist explores ways to store and present BioAssemblages in public spaces.

Memento Perimortem 2016-17


Supported by the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University

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