Faces of BioArt: Maja Smrekar With Biochips, Genetic Engineering and Sleepy Rats in Slovenia

Last week was the Transgenic artist, Eduardo Kac, and now we visit a Slovenian slant on the BioArt world with Maja Smrekar. Exploring multiple biotechnological techniques, Maja seems particularly versatile in her scientific, and sociological approach to BioArt.

Maja Smrekar is a Slovenian BioArtist at the Fine Art Academy in Ljubljana Sculpture Department and has had a long standing collaboration with the Kapelica Gallery and Aksioma Institute for Contemporary Art there.

In her exhibition MaSm Metatransformation (2011), Maja genetically modified the yeast MaSm Saccharomyces cerevisiae at the Medical Faculty of the University in Ljubljana to produce a lactic acid enzyme during fermentation.

Maja also demonstrated her fascination with cybernetics and digital biology by engineering a multi-electrode array biochip to stimulate neuron cells in Ion Flux / First Level (2010).

maja_smerkar_slovenia_bioart_culture

Maja Smerkar’s MaSm MetaTransformation (Source: Artist Talk / Credit: Joze Suhadolnik), Right: Ion Flux (Source: Maja Smrekar)

This was to attempt to create an artificial neural network to develop a synthetic memory as an ‘emancipated entity‘ (or cyborg). The entity’s behaviour was therefore reliant on the learning process of the cells – an increasingly relevant area of biotechnology (Read ‘To what extent are we becoming Cyborg’?)…

Finally, Maja explored the concept of the mammalian circadian rhythm in Circadian Drift (2012). Our internal body clock is of growing importance in modern medicine, as our sleep-wake cycles have been repeatedly shown to have an impact on the development of disease – from cardiovascular to cancer.

It’s interesting to hear about the growing Biotech ecosystem in Slovenia too, with companies such as IMMT, Educell and Acies Bio leading the biotechnology frontier there, whilst Artists such as Maja reduce the distance between their work and the public through her art.


The MaSm Metatransformation Project (2011)


Feature Image Credit: Maja Smrekar by Borut Perterlin (Borut PE Photography)

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