organism: making art with living systems

The idea of making art with living systems is not new; you might even consider a garden or a goldfish pond to be biological art. What is new is the degree of control over biological systems and materials contemporary technology offers us. Topics on the organism weblog include technical, practical, aesthetic, and ethical issues related to making art with living systems. Artists, scientists, engineers, students, and anyone else with an interest in this area are invited to contribute.

October 5, 2007

Hybrid Insect MEMS (HI-MEMS)

Filed under: news & oddities — douglas @ 3:31 pm

Hybrid Insect MEMS (HI-MEMS) is a DARPA program focused on “Developing tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis.”



Clever Plants ‘Chat’ Over Their Own Network

Filed under: news & oddities — douglas @ 12:50 pm

plant chat

From ScienceDaily:

Recent research from Vidi researcher Josef Stuefer at the Radboud University Nijmegen reveals that plants have their own chat systems that they can use to warn each other. Therefore plants cannot be considered boring and passive organisms that just stand there waiting to be cut off or eaten up. Many plants form internal communications networks and are able to exchange information efficiently.

September 27, 2007

VIDA 10.0

Filed under: news & oddities — Monica Bello Bugallo @ 11:51 am

VIDA 10.0 is a annual competition for artists working in the field of artificial live to gain recognition and support for their latest projects (they need to be created not before than Stember 2005) as well as financial support for the production of projects with no realization for those artists from Spain, Portugal and Latinoamerica.

Many of the arts projects that explore issues on life and living systems could be suitable for this competition, so I encourage everyone working in this area to submit their projects. The artistic projects that address the interaction between “synthetic” and “organic” life”. In previous years prizes have been awarded to artistic projects using autonomous robots, avatars, recursive chaotic algorithms, knowbots, cellular automata, computer viruses, virtual ecologies that evolve with user participation, and works that highlight the social side of Artificial Life.

The call for projects is opened since the 17th of Setember until the 22nd of October. 

September 4, 2007

organism is alive!

Filed under: news & oddities — douglas @ 4:07 pm


Here we go! The NEW new organism blog is ready for action, with your hosts, Douglas, Regine, Andy, Monica, and Garnet (see “who’s who” on the left). Please send comments/suggestions/post ideas to: organism at music columbia edu.

September 2, 2007

uses Woven Out of Trees Proposed

Filed under: news & oddities — organism @ 10:50 pm

Houses Woven Out of Trees Proposed

“Growing a home from living trees instead of building a home from felled timber is the goal of an architect from
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

People have been building living structures/furniture/etc. for a long time…but it’s good to see some
mainstream/high profile institutions getting behind the idea! Try a search on “arborsculpture” for lots of good
links. –dr

via: treehugger

Can you grow cress in a keyboard?

Filed under: news & oddities — organism @ 10:50 pm

Can you grow cress in a keyboard?

via: BoingBoing

Pickled fetus head fuels art furor

Filed under: news & oddities — organism @ 10:50 pm

Pickled fetus head fuels art furor


Fri Aug 26, 2005 01:19 PM ET

ZURICH (Reuters) – A sculpture made with the pickled head of a dead fetus attached to a seagull’s body has fueled
a furor in Switzerland about the boundaries of art.

Berne’s Museum of Fine Arts removed the piece from a Chinese art exhibition earlier this month after a complaint
that it was disrespectful to the dead, and following concerns its grisly appearance might traumatize visiting

The piece, named “Ruan,” stole headlines in Swiss newspapers when artist Xiao Yu confirmed that the fetus head
was real.

Now the museum’s management will decide next week whether to reinstate the work, which sits pickled in a jar of

“As a result of the complaint it was taken out of the exhibition with the proviso that there would be a debate
about the boundaries of art,” museum spokeswoman Ruth Gilgen said.

Earlier this week, ethics experts, artists and art lovers argued at a conference in Berne that keeping the work
under wraps was an affront to freedom of expression.

Swiss journalist Adrien de Riedmatten, who lodged the complaint, had demanded to know where the head came from.

“The complaint was not about restricting artistic freedom but rather about where this fetus had come from and how
the artist found it,” Gilgen said.

She said the head had belonged to a fetus conceived sometime in the early 1960s. It was later a museum exhibit.

“It had formed part of an exhibition in formaldehyde in Peking,” Gilgen said. “When that came to be renewed, it
fell into the hands of the artist.”

Concerns that the fetus might have come from a forced, late-term abortion could not be substantiated, Gilgen said.

(C) Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

More of Xiao Yu’s work: class="link">

*** Not exactly a currently living system, but certainly touching on familiar issues… –dr ***

Biological Arts Programs at University of Western Australia

Filed under: news & oddities — organism @ 10:49 pm

Biological Arts Programs at University of Western Australia

SymbioticA will offer as of 2006 a postgraduate degree in Biological Arts MSC (BiolArts) and Grad Dip (BiolArts)
designed for art practitioners, scientists, and Humanities scholars who wish to engage with creative bioresearch.

The course will focus on recent advances in the Life Sciences, both in theory and practice. Emphasis is placed on
developing critical thought, exploring ethical and cultural issues and experimenting with cross-disciplinary art
and science projects.

SymbioticA: the art and science collaborative research laboratory is based in the School of Anatomy and Human
Biology at the University of Western Australia and the course is taught by the Tissue Culture and Art Project
artists: Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts with some lab components taught by Gary Cass from the Faculty of Natural and
Agricultural Sciences. Based in a Science Faculty facilitates access to scientific laboratories, techniques and
expertise rarely available to arts and humanities students.

Students who have previously majored in arts will be required to pick up science units and science graduates will
be required to enrol in art units. Students would then join together in the SymbioticA units: Aesthetic
Crossovers of Art and Science and Art and Life Manipulation.

The course will consist of an equal content/discourse/methodology from the two disciplines. The laboratories will
focus on learning scientific techniques in a meaningful way for both the artist and scientist and using these
techniques for creative output in order to create a true hybrid unit of Art and Science that is multidisciplinary
in nature as well as in title.

For more information regarding course requirements and enrolments contact Ionat Zurr:

Singing Mice

Filed under: news & oddities — organism @ 10:48 pm

Singing Mice

(image from:

Researchers add mice to list of creatures that sing in the presence of mates
By Michael Purdy

Scientists have known for decades that female lab mice or their pheromones cause male lab mice to make ultrasonic
vocalizations. But a new paper from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
establishes for the first time that the utterances of the male mice are songs.

ArtBots 2005 Call for Works

Filed under: news & oddities — organism @ 10:48 pm

ArtBots 2005 Call for Works
The fourth annual ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show, an international art exhibition for robotic art and art-making
robots, will take place at Saints Michael and John Church in Dublin, Ireland on July 15-17, 2005. Creators of
talented robots are invited to submit their work for possible inclusion in the show. Proposals and
works-in-progress are welcome, provided a detailed production timeline and samples of previous work are included
in the application. The deadline for entries is April 1st, 2005.

The ArtBots curators for 2005 are: Douglas Repetto (Columbia University Computer Music Center), Michael John
Gorman (The Ark), and Marie Redmond (Trinity College Computer Science). ArtBots 2005 is sponsored by The Ark and
The Columbia University Computer Music Center and is being produced as part of The Ark’s summer “Save the Robots”

Please see for more information and entry instructions.

(We’ve had a number of bio-art works in past ArtBots shows, and would love to have more in the future! –dr)

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