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NATURE Lab Workshop With Marta De Menezes: 3-day DIY CRISPR

April 1, 2019 April 3, 2019 EDT

An action shot of Marta De Menezes working on her lab workshop.

Join us for a three-part DIY Workshop series on CRISP-CAS9, a genome editing system.  Explore the possibilities modern  science offers artists, with an internationally-renowned
pioneer of biological arts.

Prior to the workshop will be an introductory lecture from 5:30-6:30. de Menezes will reflect on the possibilities and strategies of identity and nature, and how they interconnect and entangle. Then roll up your sleeves for three evenings of do-it-yourself scientific investigation with CRISPR!

CRISPR refers to a range of novel gene editing systems that can be programmed to edit DNA at precise locations. It allows the permanent modification of the genes in cells of living organisms. CRISPR enables novel basic research and promises a wide range of possible applications from biomedicine and agriculture to environmental challenges. The previously unknown precision and simplicity of CRISPR and its possibilities has led to a wide diversity of reactions. While some welcome it as a gene editing revolution others urge for a worldwide moratorium, especially when it comes to human germline modifications. Particularly controversial is the CRISPR given possibility to intervene in the evolution of organisms.

We will investigate and work with DIY CRISPR, look into its materiality and artistic possibilities, and discuss and explore socio-cultural, political and ethical implications within our transdisciplinary group over the course of three days! 

More about Marta de Menezes

Marta de Menezes is a Portuguese artist (b. Lisbon, 1975) with a degree in Fine Arts by the University in Lisbon, and a MSt in History of Art and Visual Culture by the University of Oxford. She has been exploring the interaction between Art and Biology, working in research laboratories demonstrating that new biological technologies, DNA, proteins and live organisms can be used as an art medium. Her work has been presented internationally in exhibitions, articles and lectures. She is since 2005 artistic director of Ectopia – Experimental Art Laboratory and from 2009 director of Cultivamos Cultura – Association.

Marta de Menezes’ work explores the possibilities modern biology offers to artists. She has been developing the use of biology and biotechnology as new art media, conducting her practice in research laboratories that also are her art studios. She has been trying to not only portray the recent advances of biological sciences, but to incorporate biological material into her art as a way to convey a discourse that is not possible with any other medium: using DNA, proteins, cells and bodies offer an opportunity to explore novel ways of representation and communication. In the artistic research and practice that Marta de Menezes has been developing over the last 20 years, she experiments with living and pulsing material, changing that material to express her concepts.

Through her art works she positions herself and the audience in a range of perspectives that allow different understanding of self through other, through nature and our alternative selves.

The works to be discussed include de Menezes’ first seminal bioart project entitled “Nature?” (1998) that questions the definition of nature through a non-genetic manipulation of live butterfly wing patterns, and her most recent projects that use the technology of CRISPR-cas9 to reengage with questions of identity as a species, as animals, as composites, and multiples – and how we understand these concepts in relation to our future. The works discussed are a series called The origin of Species: Post evolution using CRISPR-Cas9 to silence a transgenic modification of corn, creating a new variety simultaneously natural and genetically modified, developed in collaboration with Mexican philosopher Maria Antonia Gonzalez Valeiro (UNAM-Mexico), with geneticist and immunologist Luis Teixeira (IGC-Portugal), Truly Natural – using genome editing of GMO organisms through CRISPR-Cas9 leading to removal of transgenes, Immortality for Two– where the author and her collaborator (her partner), Luís Graça, immortalize each other immune cells, achieved by introducing cancer-inducing genes in the cells with a viral vector, and the most recent project, Anti-Marta: self and non-self, looking at antibodies between parents, in collaboration with her partner, immunologist Luís Graça (UNICEL Group, Intituto de Medicina Molecular – Portugal). For more information, please visit  http:

NATURE Lab [North Troy Art Technology and Urban Research in Ecology] is the Sanctuary’s resident ecological education program. NATURE Lab promotes sustainability, and urban research in ecology using art, technology and science. Programming is open to novices and experts alike. We are currently in development of the NATURE Lab Urban Environmental Center, a resource for community science.

Pictures from the Event:

Menezes standing in front of a projector giving a presentation.
Two lab participants wearing blue gloves and engaging in the activities.
Two lab participants wearing blue gloves and engaging in the activities.
several lab participants wearing blue gloves and engaging in the activities.
A video projected of someone presumably adding more information to the workshop.
a group lab participants engaging in the activities as one man shows them how to do it.
An action-shot of someone holding a dropper above their tongue as if they are going to squeeze it into their mouth, wearing glasses and a beanie.
People engaged in the lab activity analyzing their work.
A petri dish held above the camera.
A closer shot on one of the participants who is placing their sample into a petri dish.
A person wearing a lab coat and protective gear seemingly sorting petri dishes to be used in research.

The event is co-sponsored by the Vollmer Fries Lecture series, the Arts Department and the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Rensselaer.

We are committed to lowering the barriers to access for events at The Sanctuary for Independent Media. For people who are hard of hearing or deaf, blind or low-vision, or whose physical limitations can interfere with a satisfying experience, let us know two weeks in advance so we can make appropriate arrangements.

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