“To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
- Leonardo da Vinci
Art exists since the origins of humanity. Likewise, science has always been prompted by a desire of knowing more and more about the world, the nature and life.
While developing Printeria, we had the chance to get into the vast applications of the BioArt world: a contemporary art form that adapts scientific methods and biotechnology to explore living systems as artistic subjects (1).
As a consequence, we realized we needed to explore the existant synergy between art and science by getting into the BioArt ways of expression.
Printone: express yourself
While creating our Printeria Part Collection, we wanted to provide bioartists with a complete DNA toolkit for their artwork production. To do so, we assembled several transcriptional units with our different colour reporters (GFPmut3, sfGFP, YFP, mRFP1, amilCP ) and a variety of promoteres and RBS to get different tones.
By this way, we finally obtained Printone: a palette of pigmented bacteria, with different colours, fluorescence and intensities, for the entire disposal of the bioartist creativity.
Image 1. Some of our colours palette: Printone
Thanks to the information gathered as part of our Integrated dialogue with artist professionals, such as María Peñil and his collegue Mehmet Berkmen, we decided to explore the Microbial Art field: creation of masterpieces with microbial living cells such as bacteria.
Thus, we used our palette to introduce, both ourselves and the general public, to the Microbial Art. As María advised us, we tried several inoculating techniques to draw, such as directly pippeting liquid medium or using inoculating loops, to choose these that better fitted with the desired results.
Indeed, we even sent some of our Printone samples to María and Mehemet, as they were interested in testing the use of our genetic engineered bacteria to paint their own artworks. Commonly, genetic engineered bacteria bright much more than natural strains, and some of them even express fluorescence, so the artistic possibilites are extended with this kind of microorganism.
Images 2 and 3. PhD Mehemet Berken and María Peñil holding Printeria's logo. You can also see our own Printeria logo painted in the lab.
Bioartist for one day
How to attract people to SynBio? It is possible to achieve this challenge in a subjective and eye-appealing way?
While developing Printeria, we realized we had there the perfect way to approach SynBio to the non-researcher world. Thus, we organized the workshop ‘Bioartist for one day’, in which we demostrated that Printeria living products could be used to create authentic artworks.
The activity took place in the Mustang Art Gallery (Elche), a cultural space dedicated to the diffusion of contemporary art. This workshop involved last year high school students of arts, science and social sciences, so we could interact with a wide range of different profiles.
In this activity, they created their own ‘living masterpice’. Previously, we did detailed explanation on how to properly use the lab material during simple microbiology protocols. Thus, they learned both from the art and microbiology worlds.
Images 4 and 5. High school students participating in the MAG workshop
Then, using solid agar plates as a canvas, inoculating loops as brushes and the palette of pigmented bacteria we self-made in the lab as tempera, they blew their minds to do imaginative Microbial Art.
As soon as they finished, petri dishes were collected and kept for a later incubation in our lab. Finally, a gallery of all their beutiful works was published in @printeriaupv Instagram profile, so everyone could share them and create interest into the Bacterial Art.
As a conclusion, this workshop was a total success, and both the public and ourselves were delighted to realize the beauty of the microbial world and its simple but yet appealing applications.
Image 6. Recopilatory of some of the high school students artworks
Yturralde: fusion between art and science
José María Yturralde is an spanish artist widely known for his relationship with science. He collaborated with artists and scientists to redefine his understanding of shapes, and explored ways that the mainframe computer could be used as a tool for his art (2).
In this context, we thought it could be a great idea to introduce him to the vast possibilities of the BioArt, and so learn about his life experiences all at once.
We introduced our attendee into the basics of the synbio and the microbiology protocols. We also disscused the necessity of integrating both art and science, in order to broaden the social art perception. Finally, after showing him our laboratory facilities and the way to safetely handle lab material, he finally was eager to try by himself the creation of agar art.
Images 7 and 8. Yturralde creating a Microbial Art piece
Moreover, as part of this outreach collaboration, we decided to recreate one of his masterpieces, from the well-known collection 'Impossible Figures', with our own genetic engineered bacteria.
To do so, we printed a 3D mold to delimitate the barriers of the drawing, so we could inoculate each coloured bacteria in a compartiment of the solid agar medium. Finally, using bigger than usual agar dishes, we were able to recreate his artwork. After several trials with different colour tones and molds, the final result was perfect.
Images 9-10. Yturraldes's masterpiece and our final Microbial Art version under UV light.