DIYSECT has been reporting on the biohacking and bioart community for over three years. The team consists of Ben and Mary who have already put together five different 15 minute episodes. They also have many more short related clips. Their videos capture the personalities, progress and extremely unusual projects which are coming out of the DIY Bio scene.
DIYSECT’s currently available episodes are:
The first episode of the DIYSECT web-series, ‘Learning in Public’ introduces several members of the do-it-yourself biology movement (Norfolk’s Biologik, Victoria’s Biospace, and Sunnyvale’s Biocurious), as well as tactical performance artists Steve Kurtz (Critical Art Ensemble), Claire Pentecost, and subRosa (Faith Wilding and Hyla Willis). What these groups have in common is idea of public amateurism: hacking hardware, ideas, and life, and revealing that process in the public sphere. These practices reinforce the idea that you don’t have to be classically trained to engage with biology, and show that having access to the tools of biotechnology empowers the everyday citizen with technical knowledge as well as social-political insight into the world we live in.
Episode 2: Bioterror & Bioerror focuses on the FBI bioterrorism case against artist Steve Kurtz as well as the FBI’s present relationship with the DIYBio community. The episode also tries to analyze society’s paranoia on germ warfare, the media exaggerations that fuel it, and the myths and truths about the DIYBio community’s potential to create a pathogen.
The third episode of the DIYSECT web-series highlights discussions surrounding the emerging field of transgenics, and the artist and scientists who are provoking them. Synthetic Biology is making its way into the consumer market, evidenced by the Kickstarter-funded Glowing Plants project. This has created a backlash with technology watchdog groups like the ETC, who fear its release will have damaging effects on the environment. The episode also features artist Adam Zaretsky who uses performance to push the boundaries on what is commonly perceived as frightening and disgusting to the public in biotechnological advancements. His work takes advantage of its controversial nature to propel a wider discussion on what is ethical in the field of synthetic biology. The episode also looks at the public’s relationship with genetically modified organisms, and how corporate manipulation has created general mistrust in the public sphere.
Episode #4 Genocracy focuses on the recent advancements of genetic technologies as well as the socio-political and cultural implications that follow. The private company 23andMe offers a low cost, genetic testing product that markets itself as empowering the individual with his/her genetic data, even though they initially neglected to announce that they were actually reselling people’s genetic data to pharmaceutical companies. On the other hand, the Personal Genome Project sets a better example by offering a platform where an individual can donate their genetic and environmental data to a public domain, with full acknowledgment of the privacy risks. Artists Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Paul Vanouse also create projects that investigate the notion of genetic determinism that surrounds the language of genetics. The works of these artists (Stranger Visions and Latent Figure Protocol, respectively) challenge the validity, authority, and security of genetic profiling technologies.
The fifth episode of DIYSECT, Hybrid Practices gives a chronological outlook at the field of “bioart,” beginning with the pioneering works of Joe Davis and Eduardo Kac and ending with the merging of the field with DIYBio and biohacking at the present moment. The episode also includes the perspectives of writers and curators of bioart, such as Daniel Grushkin and Wythe Marschall of Cut/Paste/Grow, and Jurij Krpan of Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, who recognize the importance of DIYBio community labs as a facilitator of bioart production. As evident with the Hackteria | Open Source Biological Art network, the fusion of art production with DIY practice will enable more interdisciplinary approaches to working with biology.