Art and Design in Biology

During last week’s lecture the sub-topic of art and design in the history of biology came up. It was eye opening to see the illustration, “ Drama of Life before Birth”, on the cover of Life magazine in 1965. Knowing it has only been exactly half a century ago, I was in awe to imagine people’s reaction to the ability to see life inside the womb during that time, where imaging previously was only through cadavers.


The advanced technology allows us to see what was beyond our limitation and imagination, those invisibilities through our eyes. The modern techniques such as bioinformatics and bioengineering also call our attention to the disappearance of the organism, since the organism has been translated into problems of genetic coding and read- out. (Wilson, p76) As it is both fascinating and intimidating, the advanced technology inevitably comes to the point of where should we draw the line in between the urge to develop the unknown world and our moral belief.

In the film Gattaca, the world is run by the eugenics. The main character, Vincent, was born naturally without any genetic modification, which made him the minority. Due to his genetic heart condition and health condition, no matter how hard he tried, he cannot escape his fate that is encoded in his genes. The issue of genetic modification is unraveled in the film but even as the product of being a successful eugenic person, Eugene, whom Vincent exchanged his identity with to reach his dream as a astronaut, lives a sad life for he is also imperfect in that perfect world.

As we know genetic modification often comes with –isms and we know it is unfair to discriminate so ethically everyone agree we should all have equal chances. Therefore, speaking of the chances, art and technology create all living possible to have equal chances because the collision is so creative and practical. The question would be where is the limit again if we can argue for both sides. In the eugenic world, if everyone follows the rule to select the best genes for the children, then Vincent would not exist and chances are equal. But, there are always lawbreakers exist or in another point of view, what is best for one person is not always the best for another. Logically, there are no problems in that eugenic world as today, when we think about genetic modification in all kind of cases, such as food, animals, and etc. As human we  pursuit the best for ourselves and as we get to the point, we settle and make rules to maintain what we think is the best. The miseries that we created from the collision of art and technology are often due to what we forget as the basic rules, the justice that the product should bring for everyone.

We see genetic modification in a lot of sci-fi movies, especially those with super heroes, which reminds me of the Spiderman’s motto “With Great Power comes Greater Responsibility.” We as artist should always  keep that in mind as we, in modern day, have greater access to tools to make art.

Annie WeiYin, Cheng

Presenting in Week 5


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