Bioart involves the process of using living organisms to engineer a result. It can cover several different products and outcomes, but where it’s made particularly fascinating strides is in the art world at large, with items and exhibitions featuring works made with bacteria, insects, human tissue, and more.
The term itself was coined by Eduardo Kac, who had genetically engineer a rabid to be a florescent shade of green, which he referred to then as “transgenic art.” If the future of art seems to be moving toward digital trends and creation, then it shouldn’t be as much of a surprise that it’s taken a sharp turn into a realm that at one point would have been considered the realm of science fiction.
- The Cactus Project, created by Laura Cinti, uses transgenic techniques to grow human hair on an engineered cactus by incorporating keratin cells into its genetics. The end goal was to create a cactus that would grow something very similar to human hair, and it has been successful.
- Stelarc, a performance artist who has undergone voluntary surgeries and implants to demonstrate humanity’s connected nature with machinery. Of note is the third, robotic arm, which has attached, and an ear, cultivated from cells, which is attached to his natural left arm. He also engaged in an exhibition wherein his body was connected to electrical stimulation wires, which observers could use to remotely control his body.
- Orlan, perhaps one of the most extreme of the list of “BioArtists,” engages in the artistic use of cosmetic surgery on her face and body to recreate the look of several famous figures. In her piece, “The Reincarnation of Saint Orlan,” Orlan uses cosmetic surgery to recreate the faces of figures like the Mona Lisa, Venus, and Europa.
- Genesis, a work by the creator of the term, Eduardo Kac. Kac converted a verse from the bible into morse code, and then coverted that code into genetics, which he then placed into bacterium in a controlled environment, to underline the injection of religion into the nature of the people it effects. His green rabbit, Alba, was created by using transgenic transplants from a jellyfish that produced a green protein that glows a bright green color under a blue light.
And in the future.
BioArt’s current limitations lie in machinery, and more specifically, in its size. Some of the BioArtists on this list, like Eduardo Kac and Stelarc, have expressed interest in implanting micromachinery into their bodies, both to relay information and to display different presentations on what the body is, and what it can be. What’s clear from the rise in interest in BioArt is that there’s an ever-growing fascination in how malleable the human body is, and where it may be going in a future where computers can be as small as the cells that compose us. When one considers that most of the cells in the body itself are composed of bacteria, it’s only natural that the artificial seems so compelling.