Transformation – Thinking Through Making With Life

As part of this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival visual arts programme, Contemporary Connections, co-curated by the Science Festival, Summerhall and ASCUS, we are delighted to host artist Louise Mackenzie in ASCUS Lab. For this featured workshop Louise will provide participants with the opportunity to get hands-on with the scientific processes of making with life! Join us in the ASCUS Lab to participate in the critical discussion and debate around the ideas Louise presents, including exploring the use of DNA to store information within living organisms and through this, asking how we can relate to creating new forms of life in this way.


Image courtesy of Louise Mackenzie

Transformation – Thinking Through Life

Time: 13:00 – 17:00 (approximately 3-4 hours)
When: 11th of April
Number of Participants: 10 max
Where: ASCUS Lab, Summerhall
Tickets: £20, Adults BOOK NOW
Transformation – Thinking Through Life is a bio-art workshop exploring the philosophical and moral implications of working with living biological material and storing information within DNA. The workshop is for participants who are interested in working with life as material. It is a complement to the work shown in the exhibition space, as part of the Science Festival visual arts programme, which will include an interactive installation that enables the public to voice how they feel about having the ability to store information within DNA, and in doing so, having the potential to create new forms of life.

The first iteration of this workshop will be held for a public audience at Edinburgh Science Festival, on the 1st of April, in collaboration with ASCUS Lab at Summerhall. For this second workshop we are inviting guests from the sciences, synthetic biology, art and design the opportunity to critically explore the affects and ethics of using and becoming life as material.

“Synthetic biology is an emerging area of research that can broadly be described as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems.” Source: UK Royal Society

Artist Brion Gysin announced that writing was 50 years behind painting (1959) and proposed to his colleague William Burroughs the cut-up technique as a literary collage method to re-dress the balance. Today, the same principle is applied in synthetic biology to cut and splice DNA, collaging new forms of life by cutting and pasting genes from one species to another.

This workshop combines Gysin’s literary technique with the field of synthetic biology by taking a thought and physically inserting it into the DNA of a living organism. Questioning both literally and metaphorically what happens when we undertake this action, the workshop seeks to address our relationship to living material as biological tool through performing the act of cutting and splicing biological material and subsequently reflecting on this process through recorded dialogue, where participants become the organism observed.

Here’s how it went…

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