We went to the TransArt Festival at the stunning ‘Dome of Visions‘ in Copenhagen on Friday. There, we met loads of scientists and members of the public who were just as entranced as us by the home-grown BioArt.
After our blogger Julie covered the Fab Foundation’s ‘Biohacking’ movement last Monday, I was really intrigued by the idea of community projects involving Biotech. How exactly does one conduct DIY biotechnology experiments to create art pieces…that actually look good? Because let’s be honest – Biotech is rarely described as beautiful…
In particular, I was taken by the idea of the ‘Algae Bar‘ by the Fugt team – especially seeing as we’ve written so much about Algae and its crazy applications recently…
So, Will and I left the office early on Friday to fly out to Denmark. It was a misty evening across the Danish capital, with fog rolling up off the roads…and naturally we were a little apprehensive by the description (particularly given all the Danish). However, that all changed when we arrived at the Dome of Visions (a small illuminated oasis on the water front – akin to a mini Eden Project from England’s Cornwall).
I must admit though, when we saw the Algae Bar swarming with people I realised I had slightly misunderstood the concept. The ‘Algae beer’ isn’t actually brewed from Algae, but in fact normal beer (for example we ordered Tuborg and an India Pale Ale).
A cyanobacteria and algae mix is then dropped into your beer by the FUGT team’s barman for the night, Stefan. You then swirl the cup to mix it in…turning the beer a livid and murky green (hmm).
Despite appearances, the beer didn’t taste too bad at all! It had more of an earthy flavor, and naturally the dilution of the beer meant it tasted a little flatter…but not in a bad way. The FUGT team explained that this ‘dropper version’ of the Algae is actually sterile – which was necessary to be granted FDA/EMA approval for its serving to the public.
Non-alcoholic ‘brews’ of different shades were also available to taste as shots (to be clear though, these were made using only natural cultures of different algae strains – all GMO free). These were meant to be for a much stronger palate, with one vial being described as ‘apple and ginger’ flavor. Keenan (one of the project members) explained that most of the apparatus was actually shop bought, with Algal cultures being sourced from local Asian supermarkets.
As a Plant Geneticist (having studied at the University of Nottingham in the UK), Keenan Pinto told us that Fugt was a project made possible through the community lab Biologigaragen. He is also part of another hacker labspace (for biotech and general engineering projects) in Copenhagen called ‘Labitat‘, which were invited to the next day.
Other art installations included a microbial skin grown from probiotic bacterial and yeast symbiosis (suspended in jars) by Naja Ryde Ankerfelt, a transgenic flower which expresses short repeats of the artist’s DNA (Eduardo Kac) in the petals, and a Drosophila fly printer called the ‘Danish Crown’ by Laura Beloff. Feeding different fly colonies different foods meant over-time they printed the corresponding color on the paper below.
This biohacking and DIY bioscience movement is now so popular it is being accessed by artists too, and as a result is coming up with increasingly inventive creations. Weird but wonderful!
Our tour of Labitat by Keenan and an interview on his other biotech projects (some with much more of an industrial application) will be published shortly.