Artificial Cells

biomaterials and sound, 2019

This project is an artistic take on artificial life.

This immersive installation explores scientific protocols that mimic different natural processes as closely as possible. This one is specifically about morphogenesis, the biological process that causes an organism to change shape. 

I try to create this phenomena as a painter would create a painting with his pigments and brushes. My brushes and pigments would be chemistry and light.

This work is rooted in the Gothic novel Frankenstein (or The Modern Prometheus, a 1818 novel written by English author Mary Shelley). The book tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. In the novel, the monster is decribed as an hideous and ugly creation, with translucent yellowish skin pulled so taut over the body that it “barely disguised the workings of the arteries and muscles underneath". 
This exhibition shows clusters of artificial cells alongside an organic soundtrack. The cells are only a membrane, which grows and 'die' after a few hours. 
The underlying narrative of this piece of work is double: the artist as the creator and the mad scientist who “plays God” and unleashes a horrifying monster on the world. The “playing God” argument is a central theme of the Frankenstein myth, serving as a good framework for people or groups wishing to question artificial life. 

"The Frankenstein myth concerns an important paradox of modern science: how can societies regulate science that is capable of creating and manipulating human and artificial life? 
This question is important today, given rapid progress in applied sciences working towards the production and modification of biological and artificial organisms. In the context of these emerging means of fabricating life, the Frankenstein myth suggests that the boundaries between life and matter, human and nonhuman, living and machine are not easily defined."

Peter Nagy, Ruth Wylie, Joey Eschrich & Ed Finn 
Science and Engineering Ethics volume 26, pages737–759(2020)