Artifacts of Desktop Biotech


Artifacts of Desktop Biotech


Picture 1 of 3

prototype poems + mixed media images 

“Artifacts of Desktop Biotech” is an inventory of the recently possible; it documents emerging and possible manifestations of synthetic biology. 

As the capabilities of biotech become increasingly democratized, we are seeing a shift from “lab to studio” and the beginnings of a distributed scientific research and desktop (and kitchen counter) biotech future where any interested individual may participate in the living sciences. 

Each piece was conceived of first as a research­based speculative poem. ‘Product’ ideas were then extracted from the poems and expressed as visual prototypes through digital illustration, collage, and paint. 


[KitchenAid Home Bioreactor] 

It’s Post­-burger night—named for Mark Post 
the physician and tissue engineer. It’s grown 
ex vivo, flavored by predictable patterns
of spice use and mineral, reddening beet juice 
and saffron likens the Salisburian patty 
to carcass. Meaty. Fetal cow serum
and a little lichen media feed in my KitchenAid 
home bioreactor. Breadcrumbs bind
twenty thousand helices of muscle fibre—
a paisley­-braided badge of artisanal science
and nature’s dominion over nature
to honor and savor: say grace and god
bless the supply chain. 


[Rapid DNA Prototyping Standard] 

Language, like any technology, matters 
when it is dangerous, in transition from 
lab to studio. Like synthetic biology — 
like de sktop publishing — 
flexible, universally
 connecting morphemes 
arrange + make the world 
do what the fuck I tell it.


[DNA Watermarking + Integrated Policy Dialogue Tool]

                                 The story of the regulatory framework struggling                                                                        
to keep pace with invention
                                 sources its ghost
                                                from the archetypal folktale of a race
between unequal partners—doggedness and cunnings.

To future proof
the laws, they should be drafts.

                    A policy fabric, stretching
                    software, hardware, and wetware, absorbs
                    discoveries and new truths disclosed.
                    Biohackers stitch their ethics, things woven
                    of progress and possibility (one recalls the other pushes)
                    into the open texture of emerging science. Codes are told and negotiated
                    in the margins. Data and their apparitions, layers of annotation
                    —of intellectual history, of origin and identity, of biosecurity—
                    translate into binary string and inseparably interlace
                    into the organism’s expressed genes, watermarking.

The palimpsest is self­regulating and naturally surveilling.

                                       Ultimately, the race is won by trickery.



Robert Bolton (MAPH ’10) is a Canadian writer, futures thinker, innovation strategist, and multidisciplinary artist.

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