Stress-o-stat (2011)

by C_LAB

This living artwork visually captures stress in bacteria through light. The work explores convergence of life and machine, where the machine controlling the bacteria becomes life-like and the bacteria engineered through synthetic biology machine-like.

Full Description

Stress-o-stat is a living artwork that visually captures stress in bacteria as light. The life-size installation, combines scientific instruments, methods and aesthetics to produce a real and speculative device.

Stress-o-stat is a result of an immersive and independent laboratory practice using synthetic biology to develop new types of artistic expressions. It involved locating a special genetic switch involved in stress response and combining this into a genetic construct to produce fluorescing proteins.

The switch was located using bioinformatics and extracted from bacteria genome. Using synthetic biology standards, a library of genetic parts was available and a fluorescent expression construct was combined with the switch to complete the genetic circuit. Once implemented in bacteria, fluorescing proteins are expressed during oxidative stress producing a yellow-green colour in response to blue light.

Synthetic biology tends to postulate a machine-like language onto the living, as something programmable. Paradoxically, it is the opposite of the digital; instead of the machines becoming life-like it suggests life becoming machine-like.

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