MA : Regenisis of Fur
- Exploring ideological forecasts for the future of synthetic biology and materials for fashion.
Duration: 5 months.
- Qualitative and practice based design research.
- Material experimentation & communication.
- Artistic process and making.
- BioArt Laboratory, Eindhoven, Holland.
- Dr. Darren Nesbeth, PhD of Cell and Molecular Biology, UCL.
- Professor Frank Sargent FRSE, Professor of Bacterial Physiology, University of Dundee.
This MA project has grown entirely from idea of creating in-vitro grown fur.
Something extraordinary is happening in the field of materials.
The fashion industry is adopting synthetic biology and genetic modification, and is developing “victim-free” and genetically modified animal materials such as spider silk and lab-grown leather. The process often involves manmade DNA and genetically modified yeast, which will produce the proteins that make up most animal materials.
In a future of lab-grown materials and man made genomes, what will it mean to be a vegan or vegetarian fashion company?
Luxury brands could have massive influence on the commercialization of synthetic biology. I propose that brands, especially those built on ideologies, test the futures of their ideologies and ethical frameworks when engaging with lab-grown animal materials.
This project explores bioethical frameworks in relation to bioengineered materials, and investigates ways of identifying and challenging the values we employ.
The project aims to engage the viewer in cultural discussion on the subject through the creation of 3 speculative design artefacts, which are based on a set of 3 personas, each representing their own ideologies, belief systems, and idea of what it means to be ‘natural’.
Ideologies & Speculative Futures
Ways of seeing and their effects on bioethics.
1: The Future Vegan & The Genome Boutique
The Future Vegan connects with nature through ethics and morals, and an internal feeling of justice, based on their perceived inherent rights of living organisms.
They believe that DNA is a recipe for identity. Therefore, the source of DNA predetermines whether a material would be ethically produced. They consider animal cells and DNA to be non-vegan, regardless of how it was created. The only kind of hair acceptable to the Future Vegan, would be the kind grown from their own DNA, or DNA of willing, human participants.
The Genome Boutique is placed in a future where the use of synthetic biology for materials is widely accepted, and both companies and private people have the opportunity to produce fibres identical to human hair, as to make the product suitable for vegans.
How integral is DNA to the question of rights and ownership, and is man-made genomes a ‘solution’ to questions of veganism?
2: The Future Sensorial Explorer &
The Specimens of New Nature
The Future Sensorial Explorer connects
with nature via aesthetic, sensory and emotional experiences. They believe that their subjective experiences of the world can validly inform their opinion, and they don’t operate from a predefined ideology.
The Specimens of New Nature provides a sensorial and tactile experience of material combinations, that in many ways could be seen to be either natural or unnatural. They are built from animal materials, synthetic materials and chemicals, which are, as anything, just matter.
In a future where the lines between the 'natural' and the 'unnatural' are blurred by technology, can biophilic design be used to impose specific opinions regarding synthetic biology on the public?
Click below to view images in full screen.
3: The Future Scientist and
The Patent of Synthetic Natures
The Future Scientist connects with nature through the understanding of physical and chemical laws, rather than omniscient intervention.The fruits of synthetic biology are natural because they are built of the same molecules as any other organism. The scientist bases their bioethics largely on risk and benefit assessments, rather than a perceived sense of right and wrong.
By designing novice genomes and growing protein in yeast, they produce bioengineered materials as an evolution of the original medium, like fur.
Does the technological development of synthetic biology foster more biodiversity and sustainable production, or is it just another way for humans to continue endless consumption, and sustain the status quo of economics?
Click image to view in full screen.