in Making Biology Art ~ read.
Challenge the Now

Challenge the Now

If you don’t give yourself permission to craft a new world, odds are nobody else will. Those who make an impact give themselves permission to love something so ardently that every synapse in their brain unites to make dreams come true.

Seattle's Institute for Systems Biology hosted Bio-Fiction this past Thursday (May 7th, 2015). The event connected many disciplines of science in an artistic film festival. Short movies, ranging from one to twelve minutes, played in the auditorium on vibrant LCD screens.

Synthetic Biology was the topic of the night. The event layed out the term:

"Synthetic biology is an application of science, technology and engineering to facilitate and accelerate the design, manufacture and/or modification of genetic materials in living organisms to alter living or non-living materials."

The short films asked questions of the moral consequences of bio-engineering attempts. Whether it be methods of restoring nature's beauty through environmental restoration or 3-d printing personal pills. More artistic films such as a psychedelic Life Spectrum or what I would label as a String Theory inspired display of proteins and atoms in a "Dance of Life".

Whether they were focused on reality or were merely offering a glimpse into the future, the presentations were thought-provoking. This film portrayed the use of advertising messages not from artificial lighting, but swarming midges!

This technoscience and "sustainable luminosity" brings nature into urban culture. Alterations to the lives of small bugs through special training impacts man-made civilization.

Another film that left me wondering about the world around was Sonja Bäumel's "Expanded Self." See her website here. Ms. Bäumel notes,

“We are only 10 percent human and 90 percent bacteria”

In her display, she sought to uncover something that we too often overlook. Bacteria! The tiny microbes that crawl about our body and within our gut that make life what it is. This symbiosis is hard to capture without a microscope, but when there's a will, there's a way! Laying her body down on a canvas-like material for some period of time and then transferring this "print" to an Agar bed enabled bacteria to flourish. We are not just the sack of skin, bones and consciousness. We carry much more baggage, teaming with life all around us.

Perhaps the most impactful film was a 60s-themed talk show about the possibility of eternal life.
I cannot embed the video here (as it is a private viewing), so I highly recommend you spend the six and a half minutes to watch through this piece.
See “Hybris” by Arjan Brentjes.

The piece existentially posits if eternal life for the individual is all that we make it out to be. That is, why would we wish to live forever? With no need to reproduce, there is no biological drive for love, which implies that love itself is just an illusion. A biological manifestation to make us want to reproduce.

While the film was shatteringly nihlistic, my takeaway was more optimistic. Happiness is found in the moment. The only time that matters is the now.

Whenever you regret memories, or remain anxious about what's to come, you are time traveling. How exciting!

But you can time travel all your life and then suddenly you're dead without having lived in the present, the only moment that exists.

Make a dent in the universe, a marker in the timeline. Make your life count.

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