1 From the Desk of Adam Zaretsky, Ph.D. BioSolar Cells: Making a Field for Interpretation Two Year Report and Proposal for Future Research Overall Description of the project: Arts and Engineering Towards a Solar Powered Species Video of Public Presentation of the Two year Report : What is BioSolar Cells: As oil, coal and gas become increasingly scarce, there is a growing need for energy alternatives and alternatives to products made from petroleum (such as plastics.) The sun supplies as much energy every hour as the entire world population consumes in a year. Plants and algae have refined systems for storing energy in their fibres and nutrients. Increasing our understanding of that process should enable us to produce energy ourselves or improve the conversion of sunlight and make new products. - Dr. Huub de Groot The research program 'BioSolar Cells' (BSC) in the Netherlands addresses questions of green energy and creation of sustainable biomass. The BSC program combines natural and technological components to create solar collectors that supply fuel rather than electricity. It is the function of involved artists to collaborating in the development of these bio-solar collectors at the level of cultural production metabolically effecting commentary in whole organisms and social perception simultaneously. In order to integrate bioartistic research into world quality art exhibitions, I was asked to be the artist involved in all levels of the scientific practice. I have undertaken the task to become an informed and practice-based cultural educator with shareable hands-on experience and skills. The following is a report of the results of my artistic research. Simply put: BioSolar Cells aims to understand photosynthesis and use synthetic biology or genetic engineering to increase the energy we can siphon from the sun through the enhancement of plants, algae and solar collectors. This seems like a program that invites support. Many people that I talk to are heartily in favor of any alternatives to our current unsustainable fossil fuel economy. I want to believe that focused technical achievement resulting in a net increase of photosynthetic yield is helpful and beneficial to humans and earth base life forms. But, just the color of algea and plants, their being green, the mention of solar energy, does not automatically make their scaled up refinery into a sustainable factory system for
2 pollution free renewable resources. The level of bullshit detecting should be high because the claim is one that strums on our heart strings. Are these new technologies worth developing? Will they clean up the environment or just give us next generation pollution? Within the European Union, the European Science Foundation is pressing for more attention to be paid to this field. In the USA, the Obama administration has identified artificial photosynthesis as a potential sustainable energy source. In the Netherlands, the BSC programme was awarded upwards of 42 million euro in research funding by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality with matching funds from BASF, DSM, Exxon-Mobil, Unilever, Synthetic Genomics, Total Gas, Saudi Basic Industries and Phillips (to name a few). It is hoped that the results will contribute to green energy, improve food supplies and create a more sustainable biomass. The high ambition level of these BSC initiatives requires organisms such as plants, algae and in our case, vertebrate animals, to be genetically modified, forced into interspecies symbiosis, have their whole genomes fractured and subsist in awkward and noisy experimental audio and light based growth chambers. This tumult is put into research action in order to increase the efficiency of sunlight conversion into energy, building materials (plastics), food and higher functions (drugs). One of the intentions of the BSC consortium is to contribute something of importance to society. A not too subtle subtext of these contributions is based on persuasion and propaganda meant to foster social acceptance of GMOs in the EU. Because of their potential to provide both sustainable fuel energy and enhanced being, GMOs may make social life more plentiful and cheaper at the same time. This in turn can make the European Union reindustrialized and more competitive on the global scene, which is what some people want. The scientific aim of the Making a Field for Interpretation portion of the BSC consortium is set up to stimulate debate through artistic design and hands-on engagement in the biotechnological breeding of novel, photosynthetic, mutant organisms. This hands-on and active critique has drawn its own criticism due to the bioartistic use of life in the process of ethically interrogating the factory system for the management of all life, the ecosphere, human affairs and deep time environmental stability. This hands-on and active critique has drawn its own criticism due to the bioartistic use of life in the process of ethically interrogating the factory system for the management of all life, the ecosphere, human affairs and deep time environmental stability. In order to be aid in the interpolation between the environmentalist culture and the optimization culture of profit driven energy corporate culture, lets start with the basic critiques that any energy producing giant like Exxon, Shell, DSM or BP might need to take into account in an open debate on the efficacy of genetically modifying organisms for ecostabilizing appropriate technology applications. Can we sell GM algea built in order to increase photosynthetic yield to the critics of GMO technology? Is GM biofuel a dual use technology, able to be more competitive in the world of both business and yet green enough to champion future environmental stability? It is not without thunderous suspicion that I took this mission. The
3 following are some standard socio-political questions that help most people decide for themselves as to the efficacy of this line of research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
4 What are the possible effects GM algae biofuel life forms, built in order to increase photosynthetic yield, might have on environmental stability if it populates the open seas? $)C$&1$0,*(&*1/,(%*&(6/,H*%(0/1P*S/(.*.'2&).*4(:,*$&*$)C$&1$0,*1'*>,<[* Will an ultra photonic harvesting, enhanced alien algae bloom have a positive or negative effect on biodiversity? Is this worse or better than an oil spill? Why? K'D,%1LM$&*+,,%1.H*RF..2>(&0*1/(.*(.*;'..(D4,H*(1*(.*$1*4,$.1*-'%.,*D,6$2.,* 6'2%.,H*D21*$1*-/$1*D'2&)$%?P[* * It was suggested to me by Huub de Groot that public acceptance of GMOs grown for fuel production without labeling would eventually lead to EU public acceptance of GMO foods being legally allowed to be grown and fed to humans without the stigma of labeling that consumers now demand. The Freudian metaphor was based on the idea that if you could get a person to pump GMO byproducts into their gas tank, it was only a matter of time before they would be willing to eat similar technical organisms. This linking of gas pump to oral consumption is demented and surreal and ripe for analysis. I don t think that the people are just consumers or marks as they are referred to on the carny circuit. But the symbolic relegating of the people as tanks to be filled is worse than folk being labeled cogs in an assembly line, or pets to keep. As slaves to the feed lot, private opinion assumes a level of wisdom below the conventional self effacement of plebian lay people, little men and little women. We do not think of ourselves as just mouths. * In case this under-estimation of the general populous is truer than I can admit, I will state the obvious: the use of eco-crisis based terminology to use propaganda (science as advertising) to coerce the EU populous to accept that there is no other green alternative than Genetic Modification is an oxymoron. Only a compulsive reaction formation would promote such a desperate argument as an act of persuasion. There are certain conservative elements of command and control who, by violent necessity, over-react in the face of grass-roots resistance. Perhaps they don t know that the side of global free market competition has already won over the masses? * All temporary setbacks to complete oligarchy are in the process of being bought. Life has more or less delicately been put under the thumb of the rich. The biosphere is one great debtor s prison. If we want a sustainable world it will be a sustainable world under the sign of wealth not universal biopolitical unity. There is no reason to use subterfuge to sway people unless you want to a tight CNN advertisement of volition to go with your original reason for taking a certain research path. This need of the appearance of democracy is an abreaction to fascism and shows the repressive
5 impatience of the profiteers to doubt and skepticism. In this way social criticism is more rational, scientific and logical than the ideological use of science that is todays pipeline choice. Is it possible that solar energy is being used as a foil for a form of industry sponsored paranoid greenwashing? Is the entire parade of sustainable GMO liturgy a way of stultifying public perception of gene splicing risk through the camouflaged management of a manufactured eco-crisis panic? * Only inept business pecking orders revert to red scare styled paranoia when they are already the victors. This is, unless grass-roots resistance, the questioning of GMO safety to the environment, diversity and human health and an up in your face critique of power s vectors do have both valid points of view and burgeoning power of their own. What if the first step to sustainability was a refusal, a massive refusal, to suck it up? Do we need wealth, inequality and GMOs to direct spaceship earth towards longevity in a more responsible, enjoyable and perpetual trajectory? * V" * This is why we must have foresight into the potential Ecological effects of increasing photosynthesis in plants (for greater crop yield) and increasing photosynthetic potential in algea (for biofuel production)? For this question we have to ask about the unknown effects of intentional, unintentional or just plain lazy release of our solar enhanced being-factories and think ahead about the concept of living and replicating modifications becoming a new kind of pathogen, a living toxic waste. What happens if our star hyper-energy accumulator monocultures are loosed into the fields and ocean biomes of our diverse world? How do we make an informed risk benefit analysis of the potential harm engineered foreign species invasions might incur? * Who might be found stemming from the lab and growing uncontained outside of our manicured greenhouses and algae biofuel fermentation plantations? For this we need to consider worst-case scenarios. Are photosynthetically enhanced algea blooms possible? Do the organisms we are tweaking have an advantage that might make them capable of major disruption of imperiled habitats? Are these mega sun energy harvesters capable of more disruption of the dynamic equilibrium of planetary diversity than the energy benefits that they may provide? Are we making monsters for short-term competitive excellence or is the offset of carbon credits shoring up travesty and more anthropogenic alienation in the form of life itself? What kind of pollution is self-replicating pollution, in terms of clean-up and infective drifting invisibility? We can imagine and bring to fruition modified organisms who have the innate ability to become globally invasive and putrid stinky algea blooms (enhanced versions of red tide, kudzu or rock snot) with the added value of alien organismic assets of streamlined photonic harvesting. Gifting metabolic alterations to these gloppy killer plants and algea, we open them to the ability to harvest sun energy at an exponentially greater rate than wild type algea, crops and trees. We have to wonder if this project has considered fail safes to
6 prevent an outbreak of phytoplasmic proportions? Is this worse or better than an oil spill? ^" * Throughout this questioning I have thrown about the language of insurgent, invasive, alien, anthropogenic, foreign species as toxic, degenerate and potentially costly mistakes. I have also been sure to refer to the potentially monsterous algea and plants of the lab as beings in themselves. The entityness of the organisms of industry is in now way denuded by their being coerced into forms beyond natural selection. * Factory farmed fruits and veggies and fungi and cyanobacteria are given short shrift as they are non-vertebrate and often produced merely as utility based byproduct intermediaries. But, non-humans, like humans, feel the difference between the free range and the enslavement of factory parts. Though we may differentiate the cool hand of consciousness or the imperative reflectivity of vertebrate nostalgia, I have yet to see hard proof of human morality, consciousness or exceptionalism. * Many of us humans are just being milked for cash like any algae biofuel or sharecropper s regime. This is concurrent wage-slave as lifestyle. We can feel as well as a shucked corn or a soy bean. Quashed, defoliated and aborted for the maximization of competition, human and non-human empathize, can feel together each other s sacrifice implied in a world divided, conquered and sold. In this sense, liberty to the monsters and aliens of modification s mutant gallery deserve the right to bloom and horizontal transfer and pollinate into the next generations with inefficient, slow and unfullfilled dreams of traversing borders, escaping containment and general release from the power grid. * I ask if we can encourage solidarity with our transgenic others in the wish to liberate their gonads, stamens, pistle, orgasmic divisions, budding, etc, even if it takes sides with an ecocidal acne: pestis on the earth s crust? This is not geo-engineering but a sort of geo-orgy of borderless, international and inter-biomic exchange. Perhaps this project is a gift to algea. The unintentional effects may increase oxygen, make for an enhanced monoculture in the fresh or salt water biomes of the globe and actually make a super bug that is both edible and an entity in and of itself. 4) Who Wins?: Contracting out public research and Patenting Solar Enhanced GMOs * 6'&1(&2,)*-$0,*.4$C,%?*$&)*$2.1,%(1?*D$.,)*,6'&'>(6*,&.&$%,>,&1* (&C,&1('&.*0'*;%(C$1,4?*1'*1/,*.6/''4.*1/$1*)'*1/,*%,.,$%6/*$&)*$%,*1/,&*
7 ;%';%(,1$%?*$&)*2&$C$(4$D4,*1'*;2D4(6*2&),%.1$&)(&0P*Q'-*)'*-,*$..,..* * S/,*;$1,&1.*0'*1'*1/,*.6/''4.*1/$1*)'*1/,*%,.,$%6/*$&)*$%,*1/,&*$261('&,)* _" 5&/$&6,)*+78.9** * O,.1,%&*$662>24$1('&*(&*0,&,%$4P*=&*'1/,%*-'%).H*(.&G1*1/(.*>'%,*$D'21* &'1*/$C(&0*1'*%,4?*'&*6%2),*'(4*.'2%6,.*(&*$&*2&.1$D4,*-'%4)*,&1(%,4?* ;4$&1.P*8%*1/,?*6'24)*D,*),.(0&,)*-(1/*D2(41*(&*-(4)-$?.*1'*;%'>'1,* * Again, Robert-Jan Geerts:
8 Well, is this the only imagined future system? I don t think so, there s some work on alternative economic systems, and sociology has been pointing out for decades that homo economicus doesn t exist. It would be nice if BSC was more sensitive to this, but I see how and why they evade this stuff by focusing solely on the production side of the story (as if production and consumption are not connected). By the way, I think that much of the research is more or less neutral towards visions of the future (it s good to know how photosynthesis works regardless of whether this knowledge is used for monocropping or rooftop gardens), but that isn t always the case: if you re designing algae that only grow in the sunniest of places, you re already signing up for a global energy regime. But still, this can take many different forms... * With big named sponsored like BASF, DSM, Exxon-Mobil, Unilever, Synthetic Genomics, Neste, Total Gas, Saudi Basic Industries and Phillips, I am sure we-thepeople are going to be taken care of. If we want to apply the neologistic term biobased economy a little more broadly, perhaps we should set up a bio-based standard for economics, comparable to the gold standard of our ritualistic past but establishing limits to production and consumption by linking credit to the cyclical nature of reproductive life. For instance, artist Shu Lea Chang in her performance Garlic=Rich Air, imagined a future where garlic was currency and worth was based on the garlic standard of credit and social trade, the garlic credito trading system 1 for wireless garlic trading was linked to actual garlic (as a non-virtual currency). This would replace ATMs with organic farm stands and market gardens.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "!
11 Bioart of BioSolar Cells My job as an artist is not to answer all these questions but to pose them in creative and often non-verbal ways to what I hope is a more informed world vision. I have found the hopes and aspirations of many of the involved scientists to be less nihilistic about human futures than I am. Though some are unabashedly pro-business as usual, many also harbor optimism that Rome will not burn out, that the empire never ended and that we can find genetic technologies to be appropriate technologies for the benefit of humanity, earth climate stability and sustainable capitalism as a final world democratic solution. Although I do not find these rites to be self evident, we move now to the art produced and the questions that arose from an in depth insider s view of these bi-polar discontinuities. The following intends to demonstrate how artistic ideas can make a contribution to the science of sustainability and the social awareness of current experiments in photosynthetic genetic modification, forced symbiosis between algae and animals and the whole genome reprogramming of vertebrates, plants and phytoplankton. The intention is to allow the public a hand in increasing their global and transpecies photosynthetic potential while having an informed stake in assessing the risks involve in this sort of inherited geoengineering. The research is not finalised but represents preliminary, proof of concept experiments and initial socio-cultural investigation. In my own ethically challenged way, I have pursued and achieved a fair if innacurate public introduction to the BSC consortium. By emphasising the concept of Danio rerio (Zebrafish) and other organisms (including humans and human embryonic stem cells) as potential solar collectors, we have begun opening visions of the future of transgenic, transhuman sustainability to the greater public. Though an imaginative and sometime stressful realty test, it is my hope that the social sphere can benefit from the actions and debate stirrings entailed in this report. In its well tempered style, Dutch funding of bioart for social amelioration of controversial science practice, through art, makes evident that: in such cases the confrontation of everyday scientific practices with open public anxiety can be made productive by the initiation of art and science collaborative deviations from the norm that originate from the humanities through the artist and his sequestering of volition. This achieves an implication of the humanities in the process of life science technological invention, and our research has shown that the public is also willing to get their hands dirty and try these techniques of plasticity and amalgamation in exchange for becoming a stigma sink. This process of green washing biotechnology s for-profit schemes is a use of art as propaganda and subterfuge. It is also readable as safe and ineffectual criticism, ameliorating oligarchy through displays of free speech and faux democratic illusions. It is perhaps the permit for the release of the Bipolar Flower itself (into the environment of the museum) that is too critical as a legal historical document to pass through the Ministry and be granted existence. Come on guys, if I can suck it up, you can too.
12 In order to be an aid in the interpolation between the environmentalist culture and the optimization culture of profit driven energy corporate culture, lets start with the basic critiques that any energy producing, technology managing, multinational, financial warrior corporation might need to take into account in an open debate on the efficacy of genetically modifying organisms.!< 0,&'>,*%,;%'0%$>>(&0*1,6/&'4'0(,.*$4.'*$;;%';%($1,* >'%,*,6'L.1$D4,*-'%4)P** V< ^< B$&*-,*.,44*+7*$40,$*D2(41*(&*'%),%*1'*(&6%,$.,*;/'1'.?&1/,1(6*?(,4)* BioSolar Arts and Society: Process and Achievements As an artist hired to open a wide social field of interpretation for the BSC consortium, I have tried to do just that. My general art form is referred to as bioart. Bioart starts as wetlab benchwork. By considering art as a form of research, the stages of development looks like this:!<,&1,%*1/,*4$d'%$1'%?* ^< ;%$61(6,*1/,*;%'1'6'4** Y< 2&),%.1$&)*1/,*.'6($4*(..2,.*.2%%'2&)(&0*1/,*;%'6,..** _< b< >$:,*4(C(&0*D('1,6/&'4'0(6$4*$%1*1/$1*(&6'%;'%$1,.*1/,*6'>>,&1$%?* c< d<,>;'-,%*1/,*;2d4(6*1'*6'>>,&1*'&*1/,*.'6($4*(..2,.*d,/(&)*1/,* ;%'6,..* * The quiet subtextual challenge of bioart is made simple here: * +'')*A('$%19*`(C,*8%0$&(.>*'&*Z(.;4$?*(&*F%1*B'&1,I1* * * *
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