index | biography | projects| workshops | publications | crosslab | teaching | OIA | contact

 

Bag-Bug: Adaptive Horizontal Transfer

Considering the importance of the sub-theme Bio creation and data, in the Project that is a tribute to the Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica’s work “B50 Bólide Saco 2 'Olfático' (1967; plastic, and coffee)”, the artist intention is to work in the design of a series of apparatus that explores genetic information horizontal transfers due to the eventual molecular scale superficial contaminations/transferences – plastic, coffee beans and electronics (sensors, microcontroller and displays) involving the body in a cross-scale conversation. The microbial population that integrates the apparatuses to be exhibited in Manizales is the one of a region in Colombia known as the Coffee Cultural Landscape, declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO, where ISEA 2017 will take place. Integrating biological data phenomenon in the creative process, and proposing a transversal reflection considering the sub-themes for ISEA 2017, “Bag-Bug: Adaptive Horizontal Transfer” is an invitation to reflect on the intersections between biocreation and heritage from a cross-scale perspective. Beyond media, does bioart have the capacity to preserve heritage?

//

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) involves the nonsexual transmission of genetic material across species boundaries. Although often detected in prokaryotes, examples of HGT involving animals have become commonly detected.  In 2012, Ricardo Acuña from Cenicafé - Centro Nacional de Investigaciones de Café, in Manizales, Colombia, discovered  a case of adaptive horizontal transfer of a bacterial gene to an invasive insect pest of coffee by analysing the genes that are switched on the little bug’s guts. One of them – HhMAN1 – creates a protein called mannanase that breaks down galactomannan, one of the major carbohydrates in coffee beans. The bugs in question aren’t meant to have mannanases. Beyond the natural occurrence of gene transfers, through bioengineering techniques scientists are able to simply insert genes from one microorganism into another. A team of scientists from the University of Austin, as an example, developed a portable caffeine degradation operon by refactoring the alkylxanthine degradation (Alx) gene cluster from Pseudomonas putida CBB5 to function in Escherichia coli as reported in a paper published in 2013 (ACS Publications). Bacteria and humans have been swapping DNA for millennia. Studies suggest that gene transfer events can and do occur in human tissues, sometimes with devastating consequences.  The human body external and internal surfaces can be seen as constantly open doors for molecular transit – and sometimes this ‘transit’ implies the interchange and recombination of genetic information between species.

Exploring in a cross-scale poetics issues related to potential horizontal gene transfers between Colombian coffee beans microbial population and consequently its genetic/informational heritage, the work consists is a series of sleeping bags like apparatuses filled with Colombian coffee beans from the region known as the Coffee Cultural Landscape in Manizales. Considering that the superficial molecular transfer is a fact, the audience will be invited for a ‘contamination session’ or, better to say, “Horizontal gene transfer Session (HGTS)” where the whole body surface – external and internal (skin, mouth, ears, eyes, nose) will be exposed or suitable for microbial and molecular scale interchanges.

Most of microbiome studies have focused on the health implications of gut microbiome. As a recent phenomenon, a crescent number of labs and companies are running research experiments interested in the microorganisms that populate our glands, hair follicles and epidermis. As an example, as reported by Julia Scott for the New York Times (2014), L’Oréal’ has patented several bacterial treatments for dry and sensitive skin. According to Doctors Elizabeth Grice and Julia Segre, in a paper published in 2011 at Nature Microbiology, viral communities, as an example, have the potential to modulate states of cutaneous health and disease. Dr Grice collaborated in an effort to establish a resource for the cutaneous research community to guide experimental design in characterizing skin microbiota, presented in a paper in January 2016 (Elsevier ).

Considering the importance of the sub-theme Bio creation and data, in the Project that is a tribute to the Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica’s work “B50 Bólide Saco 2 'Olfático' (1967; plastic, and coffee)”, the artist is working in the design of a series of apparatus exploring genetic information horizontal transfers due to the eventual microbial and molecular scale superficial contaminations/transferences – plastic, coffee beans and electronics (sensors, microcontroller and displays) involving the body in a cross-scale conversation thought the approximately 2 million holes and surrounding microscopic scale neighborhoods of our epidermis .  Considering the fruition of the artwork, the intention is to have 2 ‘bagbugs’ set up in a space measuring  3 x 3 meters, 2,8 meter high, that could be in a collective open exhibition space, where  2 sleeping bags like apparatuses – the ‘BagBugs’’ – will be setup on the ground allowing the audience to lay down on it. The dimension of the ‘BagBugs’ is 2,0 meter x 0,8meters x 5 centimeter high.