By Adam Zaretsky
Adam Zaretsky is an American Wet-Lab Art Practitioner mixing Ecology, Biotechnology, Non-human Relations, Body Performance and Gastronomy. Makery invites him for a summer series of speculative texts based on his own artistic practice and the ethical and philosophical questions he raises regarding contemporary biological research.
As a follow-up to the Open Source Body symposium and festival organised by the Makery medialab this May at the Cité Internationale des Arts as part of the European ART4MED programme, we are opening our columns this summer to Adam Zaretsky, a pioneer in the field of bioart, a provocative performer and a troublemaker in biotechnological research, for a series of speculative texts on the ethical and philosophical questions raised by his own artistic practice as well as by contemporary biological research.
Adam Zaretsky is a Wet-Lab Art Practitioner mixing Ecology, Biotechnology, Non-human Relations, Body Performance and Gastronomy. Zaretsky stages lively, hands-on bioart production labs based on topics such as: foreign species invasion (pure/impure), radical food science (edible/inedible), jazz bioinformatics (code/flesh), tissue culture (undead/semi-alive), transgenic design issues (traits/desires), interactive ethology (person/machine/non-human) and physiology (performance/stress). A former researcher at the MIT department of biology, Adam runs a public life arts school: VASTAL (The Vivoarts School for Transgenic Aesthetics Ltd.). His art practice focuses on an array of legal, ethical, social and libidinal implications of biotechnological materials and methods with a focus on transgenic humans.
His first text, “Transgenic Ecology: An Oxymoron?” questions the possibility of a “Homo Sapiens Solaris” and what it would imply in a possible future.
Transgenic Ecology: An Oxymoron? Global Foreign Solar Species Invasion
What if we made stable transgenic zebrafish who were able to feed off of sunlight? The application of this methodology might save farmers money. Eliminating the need to pay to feed farmed fish (or other livestock) would certainly cut down on expenses. Solar cows, solar pigs, solar chickens would free up edible grain for hungry humans without sacrificing human tendencies for flesh consumption. On the other hand, if solar powered livestock became released from captivity, we might be in the middle of a global foreign solar species invasion.
It is a dystopian worry but we have to consider the ecological effect on the oceans, the deserts, the cities, the tundra and the jungles when teeming with exotic solar powered feral, free range, diasporic lifeforms. How would this affect endangered species, native species and global ecology in general? Do we know enough about the metabolism of planet earth to go about geo-engineering applied global sustainability? Whether the escape from industry is due to intentional release or escape of their own instinctual volition, what will be the result of solar powered species reproducing freely in the environment? Artificial leaves with spines might leave retrograde, non-solar powered, heritage species at a great fitness disadvantage. How might this effect living diversity?
Food Politics: Photosynthetic Food Critique
Until we become fully photosynthetic, and no longer eat, we can still talk about the aesthetics of eating solar powered animals. What kind of meat can we make with technology? For instance, yet to go to market hordes of pigs have been bred “true through transgenic technology to express spinach desaturase gene known as FAD2.” This means that the pork chops from these pigs have inbuilt extra omega-3 oils usually found in spinach, fish and snake oils. “This study is the first time that a plant gene has been functionally expressed in a complex mammalian system. This success may open the road towards the production of pork that is better for the consumer.” The new veggie pork is applauded among geneticists and industry breeders as a way to, “facilitate public acceptance of genetically modified food and pave the way for the commercial production of transgenic animals. … It will be possible to deliver better bacon in the next decade or so.”
These fresh piglets have the latest extras. They are retrofitted with the newest aesthetic productions of genetic enhancement the industry can offer. Are these pigs aesthetically kitsch because of their consumerist potential? Or is a spinach pig just strange enough to lift itself off the kitsch gravy train and into spectacular disgust? Really, doesn’t it depend how the pork chops taste? Using your imagination, how different do you hypothesize solar fish, solar chicken, solar pig or other solar meat will taste? Is photosynthetic meat unappetizing to you? Why or why not?