What is Bioart (agar art)?

What is Bioart (agar art)?

What is Bioart (agar art)?

BioArt (biology + art) is an art practice where humans work with live tissues, bacteria, living organisms, and life processes to create artwork. 

There are many different ways to approach Bioart as a new and exciting STEM topic that can be done safely and ethically by all ages and skill levels. From top art and design schools such as the Royal College of Art in London to Parson’s School of Design in New York City to your school or home, Bioart offers many opportunities to explore the boundaries between science and art.  You can learn about the whole history and notable works of bioart on Wikipedia

One notable work of art is Eduardo Kac’s ‘GFP Bunny’ (2000). Engineered to fluoresce under blacklight, the GFP Bunny named Alba was one of the first piece of Bioart, hoping to normalise genetic modification even as it raises critical questions about ethics | Source: Wikipedia

A popular way to explore the bioart field is through bacterial painting, or agar art. Leveraging the age-old technique of painting and combining it with the cutting-edge activity of growing genetically engineered cells, you, your students, or kids can express what is important to them through a visual arts activity while doing and practicing science.

Bacterial painting is a uniquely rewarding and challenging form of art because the “paint” is living. It grows and changes through time! This is unlike traditional painting, where once your paintbrush stroke lands on the canvas, it doesn’t change unless you add or mix something into it. The outcome of your bacterial paintings is a mixture of your strokes, the temperature at which you incubate your “canvases,” the time that you allow the cells to grow, and whether anything else in your environment landed on your canvas. Your very own living art!

Did you know? The ASM Agar Art Contest is a unique competition where participants create agar art. The contest showcases the beauty and diversity of microbes and has gained international media coverage. It's an excellent opportunity for students interested in both microbiology and art to explore and express their creativity in a scientific context. For more information and to see examples of past winners, you can visit the ASM Agar Art Contest page.

Another great example of agar art is creative director and artist Karen Ingram's work. (Image above) Her most recent exhibition, “Biogenetic Blooms: Collaborations with Genetically Modified Yeast” is currently showing in NYC and uses many different colors of engineered and natural yeasts, including some from Amino Labs! Explore her work here: https://www.kareningram.com/biogeneticblooms