SymbioticA 1 day workshop.

Today I went to a one day SymbioticA workshop. Missed the end, as I had to catch a plane, but got to see most of it.It was incredible. I learnt a great deal, and as I sped off to the airport, I felt like my frontal lobe was going to explode.

Why? Because it took you into the thick of laboratory processes, teaching us super basic lessons like how to use a pipette to measure 0.5ml as part of an apparently 'untouchable' (for non-scientists) process of DNA extraction and 'gel electrophoresis' (a DNA analysis). All this, while throwing up larger socio-political questions with the help of a adjacent projector, such as the use of DNA analysis in forensics and the genetic modification of tomatoes. It was, as one would expect, no more than a light touch of a fingernail (not yet even scratching the surface), but enough to demonstrate that more of us should be exposed to this experience. I was convinced that what might seem like hype about the radical changes afoot via biotechnological processes is very real, and very much with us.

discussion in SymbioticA lab. And, on top of that, it was attended by a group of interesting, intelligent people.

Lake Clifton

This week, I am visiting Lake Clifton, south of Perth and in the vicinity of Mandurah, reportedly the fasted growing city in Australia. Lake Clifton is also contains a roughly 6km long colony of thromobilites, a form of microbialite or growing rock-formations. Microbialites are the oldest known fossils, dating back to 3.5 billion years or so. They are made by cyanobacteria, the ancient life form that generated the oxygen atmosphere upon which life as we know it today depends. The Lake Clifton thrombolites are not this old, but they are the only known living examples, although their current status (ie living/dead) is apparently a debated point.I am visiting the site as part of the research we are doing with SymbioticA, who are doing a large project exploring the thrombolites and other linked environmental issues of the area. We will be discussing approaches to siting a speculative architectural future in this region. Thrombolites at Lake Clifton, WAThrombolites at Lake Clifton, Western Australia

becoming animal

The rather mind mind-boggling news about the Californian woman giving birth to eight babies (and she already has six), made me think of Patricia Piccinnini's work, particularly her piece 'The Young Family': The Californian brood was the result of IVF, the embryos being artifically implanted (they apparently didn't expect all of them to 'take'). Interesting how biotechnology is leading us closer to our animal companions.

Foreskins for the face

I recently discovered an anti-aging beauty treatment with the primary ingedient of 'Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media'. They make this with newborn foreskins. But the process, if I understand correctly, involves 'conditioning' a particular media with the foreskins. So, as collaborator Oron Catts pointed out, what is the media? Fetal calf serum? Is it a strange hybrid of cow fetus and human newborn?