Engineering Life


Mon, Apr 25 at 6:30pm – 9pm.

Lights of Soho. 35 Brewer Street. City of London, United Kingdom


Life is being altered and designed by artists, scientists and technologists. Through applying engineering principles to living systems, biology has become a new material for creativity. But these practices and manipulations now challenge our understanding of life and what it means to be alive.

There are various ways in which life is being engineered: Techniques such as tissue culture allows for the growth of cells and organism in an artificial environments. Meanwhile synthetic biology allows for designers to programme material, creating new organisms that might be used for radical purposes such as in architecture, conducting electricity or emitting light. In addition, platforms such as CRISPR/Cas9 provide an increasingly inexpensive and versatile way to make changes to the genome.

Many of these biotechnologies have captured the imagination of the public and have led to assertions that we might soon be able to build or grow replacement organs. As such new new emphasis has been placed on definitions of ‘life’ that emerges through the lens of science. Which requires us to questions what might be done to life through the use of these new technologies.

What does it mean to be able to build with life? What are the philosophical and ethical issues that arise from these new approaches? What boundaries are crossed between science and design when we engage with these forms of manipulation? What are the implications of presenting living-art in this context? Where are the new boundaries between life and non-life? How are these technologies changing our understanding what it means to be alive and living?

This panel discussion will explore who gets to use life as material and to what end.