Evolution of the Subject – Synthetic Biology in Fine Art Practice

I will discuss how art practice within a genetics laboratory can provide a situated account of scientific knowledge through a performative exploration of subjectivity. The focus of this paper is my doctoral research on my relationship with the microbial organism through its use as synthetic biology resource. Drawing source material from synthetic biology and art practices that employ biotechnology, I undertake a slow, performative practice tracing my subjective experience in the laboratory through devising a method of converting my thought into DNA and then physically inserting this DNA into the body of the common laboratory micro-organism, Escherichia coli (E. coli). Diffracted through readings of post-humanist and vital materialist works, I (re)consider my intuitive engagement with the materials, methods and tools of synthetic biology both as an imposition upon the constructed space of the laboratory and upon the constructed body of the organism. Through the ongoing art project, Pithos, a practical engagement with the organism as vessel, and Transformation, a participatory performance workshop that reconsiders genetic modification as an act of assembling lively material, I construct narratives that reframe our relation to biological material through intra-action, kinship and responsibility.