This week, the freshly developed research studio ‘Designing Life/Designing Dialogue’ started with six enthusiastic students at iArts. In the next 10 weeks, these brave students will explore ways to create an artistic space in scientific and societal debates around an emerging development in the life sciences: the yet mysterious microbe P. Putida.
As a designed living organism, the of P.putidais an example application of the emerging field of the life sciences: it holds a lot of promises (of more efficiency and commercial value in bio-industrial engineering for example), but also entails some risks (safety, health, environmental). All too often, debates about the promises and risks of technological applications of the life sciences remain somewhat frugal in nature – limited to a Formica table in a back room of closed university campuses. Imagining the potential societal implications of an application such as the P.putida is even more difficult. Increasingly, ethicists and others make an appeal to artists and other creative thinkers to contribute to these debates, by imagining potential risks, opportunities and other societal effects of emerging science and technologies. But how could and should artists contribute to such discussions?
Building upon our tradition of artistic research, and using methods of theatre and skills of artistic engagement, students are invited to engage with the P.putida in order to explore together what an artistic voice in such scientific issue could look like.
This project is a collaboration between iArts and the research centre for Arts, Autonomy and the Public Sphere. A research studio is an educational intervention and a site for practice-based research at the same time. This hybrid learning environment has three characteristics: it is interdisciplinary, it is problem-based, and it is rooted in the research centre’s experience in artistic research and engagement in the arts.