Project Genesis

Past Exhibition
Begin: 01.08.2013
End: 26.07.2015

The scientific achievements of recent years have catapulted us into a new age—one in which we can not only read the genetic information of living creatures but write it as well. Nevertheless, just because we’re able to, does that mean that doing so is a good idea?

This all began with the discovery of DNA as the molecular key to life. Now, synthetic biology enables us to create completely new life forms—to configure them from scratch according to our own design concepts and assemble them from customized components to build in desirable traits. At the same time, these high-tech marvels have gotten more affordable, and the know-how is no longer insider information accessible only by experts.

But in light of our all-too-human mental capacities, isn’t it expecting too much of humankind to be able to form the living creatures of this world? The more we deal with synthetic biology, the more questions emerge—a number far exceeding the questions answered—from the virtually limitless spring of possibilities. And after all, this is a matter of nothing less than life itself; this is about us! It’s high time to give some thought to the future, one in which our genetic fate is no longer cast in stone.

In this exhibition, the works of art themselves occupy the focal point of attention. They provide food for thought about these issues, and interesting enlightenment as you go about coming to terms with the consequences that will necessarily affect us all. But you also have easy access to authoritative assistance: on the walls of the entire exhibition space, you’ll find brief texts about basic scientific concepts. Get active and get involved in Project Genesis! It’s all about a very important person: You!

Interviews at the Ars Electronica Blog

The project is realised in the frame of Studiolab.

Studiolab is funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Program.




Convert your name or some other series of characters into a DNA sequence and see how much you would have to pay today to have this done in a lab.

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Genetic Ethos

Since we’ve now reached the point at which we can not only read DNA codes but write them as well, we’re faced with fundamental moral questions that we as a society have to answer as quickly as possible.

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The New Weathermen

How can we prevent the climate change that’s now looming? The New Weathermen are a fictional group of activists who have found their answers in synthetic biology, which they aim to use to bring about radical change in the current situation. (Genetic Ethos)

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Dynamic Genetics V Mann

Videos, photographs, documents and physical objects—the evidence exhibited here makes a powerful case against Arnold Mann. Dynamic Genetics, a major corporation in the genetic therapy industry, accuses him of possessing proprietary DNA produced in an illegal clinic. (Genetic Ethos)

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Biogenic Timestamp

When we use synthetic biology to perform complex changes to nature, we usually forget that we rely on fragile, human-made computer systems to do so. “Biogenic Timestamp” clearly illustrates that bacteria are capable of internalizing our technological creations and modifying them as they please. (Genetic Ethos)

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Mousetraps No. 3, 14 and 18

What happens when we modify living creatures and then set them free? Three different mousetraps are designed to get people to reflect on this. They’re custom-tailored to genetically and technologically modified mice like the ones used in testing labs. (Genetic Ethos)

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Common Flowers / White Out

The “Common Flowers / White Out” project develops strategies to enable laypeople to remove genes that had been implanted into genetically engineered plants. (Genetic Ethos)

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Synthetic Memetic

Artist Matthew Gardiner composed a DNA sequence in such a way that the series of substances in it correspond to the letters in the song’s title of “Never Gonna Give You Up”. (Genetic Ethos)

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Citizen Science

Interested in investigating the new possibilities of synthetic biology? We live in an age in which the internet is a very convenient source from which to obtain the knowledge we need about lots of subjects.

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DIY Mobile Gen Lab – Hackteria Object Collection

You don’t need extremely expensive lab equipment any more to be able to work with bacteria and micro-organisms. Now there’s Lab-in-a-Box, a conveniently packaged collection of simple, affordable technologies that enable people interested in performing biology research to do so in the privacy of their own home. (Citizen Science)

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Gene Gun Hack

At several thousand euros apiece, the high retail price of a gene gun, a scientific instrument, meant that only professional labs could afford to own this piece of basic scientific equipment. Then, biologist Rüdiger Trojok succeeded in building a gene gun of his own, and in slashing the cost to a mere 50 euros. (Citizen Science)

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Nature can be designed and modified according to our own conceptions. We can endow new forms of life with traits that we intentionally copy from other creatures and release them into the environment.

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To produce the painkillers of the future, the pharmaceutical industry’s sterile infrastructure will no longer be necessary. The barn of a dairy farm is just as suitable if the cows housed in it are endowed with new features. (Biomedia)

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In the city of the future, bacteria will take over the job of illuminating the streets at night. Mounted on large picture windows, they store solar energy during the day while also reducing public spending. (Biomedia)

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We human beings are walking biotopes. To make the hidden diversity of this personal ecosystem visible, “Metabodies” focuses our attention on the bacteria’s communications. (Biomedia)

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Synthetic Hybrids

But what about when human beings use synthetic biology to go out into uncharted territory, to exploit technology to evade natural reproduction, and to create synthetic hybrids that have never before existed in this world?

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The Listener

What might this little creature be feeling? This humanoid figure that Patricia Piccinini’s crew painstakingly put together out of silicon, fiberglass and human hair doesn’t seem the least bit threatening. Actually, its vulnerability is what makes the strongest impression. (Synthetic Hybrids)

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Hybrid Workshop

Create your personal hybird inside the exhibition “Project Genesis”.

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