SAIC's Bio Art Lab Is Redefining the Meaning of Life

Eduardo Kac, "Genesis", Photo courtesy of Eduardo Kac and the "Chicago Reader"

In the basement of SAIC, art is literally coming alive. Featured in the Chicago Reader, SAIC’s Bio Art Lab was brought under the microscope, alongside students' and faculty members' unique take on interdisciplinary work. 

The current Bio Art Lab opened in 2014 by Professor Eduardo Kac in the Art and Technology department as a level 1 biosafety research lab. It has since evolved into a classroom starring an eight-week crash course in the biology students will need to create living art. It has everything from old gaming systems, worms in dirt, a locker full of vials of the distilled essence of gym socks, and a virus made out of a poem. 

David Hale’s (MFA 2017) poem “Affliction 11” was coded into DNA and inserted into E. coli. Currently sitting in his freezer post-graduation, Hale doesn’t know if it will, “do anything. Or maybe it [will do] something weird, like it grows hair," reports the Reader.  Another student, Em Adele Oppman (BFA 2019) is attempting to patent themself in response to the 2013 Supreme Court case that ended the 25-year practice of gene patenting. 

Lecturer in the Liberal Arts department Andrew Scarpelli told the Reader, "What's great about [the SAIC program is that artists have a great enthusiasm, and it's really just being here as a biologist to match up what they do with the right language."

SAIC's Bio Art Lab is an evolving field, allowing students to take their work outside of traditional formats and redefine the meaning of life. To learn more about the aforementioned projects and the science behind the art, read the full piece online at the Chicago Reader.