The use of biology as an art medium is not a recent phenomenon. It is likely that ever since early humans have started domestication, animals and plants have been selected, and consequently modified, based on aesthetic values. Modern biology made possible the modification of life in an extremely controlled way, but also offered access to many other techniques: from protein structure analysis to direct visualization of neurons in the living brain.
Biotechnology was born to explore these new tools for the benefit of humankind. It is becoming possible to develop new therapies for incurable diseases, but at the same time the public fears misuse of this powerful technology. As society becomes aware of biotechnology, with all its hopes and fears, artists have started to include references to biotechnology in their works. Furthermore, modern biology and biotechnology offer the opportunity to create art using biology as a new medium. We are witnessing the birth of a new form of art: art created in test-tubes, using laboratories as art studios.
My work focuses on the possibilities that modern biology offers to artists. I have been working in research laboratories, alongside scientists, creating artworks exploring the possibilities of different biology methods from fields as diverse as neurosciences, developmental biology, genomics, protein structure, or cell biology. I have been trying not only to portray the recent advances of biological sciences, but to incorporate biological material as new art media: DNA, proteins, cells and organisms offer an opportunity to explore novel ways of representation and communication. Thus, although lacking formal scientific training, my recent artistic activity has been conducted in research laboratories. As a consequence, the resulting artworks are influenced with inputs from the artist and from collaborative scientists. Such artworks can be seen as the outcome of interactions across borders.
- Marta de Menezes is a Portuguese artist (b. Lisbon, 1975) with a degree in Fine Arts by the University in Lisbon, a MSt in History of Art and Visual Culture by the University of Oxford, UK, and a PhD candidate at the University of Leiden, NL. martademenezes.com