Saturday, 2 June 2007

Regine Debatty - We Make Money Not Art

Regine Debatty stepped onstage looking breezily stylish and was soon taking us down the path of biotechnology and art related projects. I've been meaning to check out her blog, We make money not art for some time now but within a few seconds of her presentation I'd resolved to add her RSS feed to my daily intake. Regina conveyed the importance of understanding what biotechnology really means and its impact on the human race. Examples given such as the victim less leather jacket grown from a combination of mice and human cells really got me thinking about what we define as norms and how science can make the mundane and inhumane (killing animals for their skin) appear to be more digestible than artificially growing biological organs such as skin. Regine asked us if this was the future of farming and its a good question for us to consider. Up next, Regina highlighted the potential for growing human hair from a deceased person as a way of drawing comfort from those we were close too and if that seems disjointed, as was later brought up, why would we not draw a parallel with the business of renting pets.

I thought that Regine made the point that scientists are now much more creative than the artists when it comes to biotechnology related disciplines although I'd like to double check this point as it seemed to me that the art collectives can't wait to get their hands on the laboratory test tubes and petri dishes. Other topics covered were the potential for biotechnology created armies, replacement kidney supermarkets which are already a reality and being harvested from prisoners in China for wealthy people. Coincidentally the day before the conference, China's leading kidney transplant expert in Shanghai accused of organ harvesting from the outlawed Falun Gong, committed suicide by jumping out of a hospital window. On the subject of mass harvesting take a look at this to see how mechanization of biological processes is already taking place.

Regine also covered the idea of rapid prototyping, which is a concept I'd come across before in a Poptech podcast by Neil Gershenfeld of MIT about the Fablab which uses incredible technology in ways which can dramatically change the lives of people through concepts like making perfect stuff out of imperfect stuff.

Other topics covered were Spimes, which will challenge our definition of what an object really is once it can be tracked before development and after manufacture. One amusing anecdote that Regine related was a tale of a friend whose luggage was on the wrong plane and that it was the passenger who had to disembark and follow the luggage on the wrong plane even though or possibly because it had radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging which is a technology that will intervene in our lives and is already making headway in Prada's 40 million Dollar flagship store in Manhatten. RFID is a technology that like barcodes is going to become ubiquitous due to the falling cost of technology. If you can imagine what the falling cost of processors and storage has done for computing than take some time out to imagine a world where everything ever made and those that use them can be tracked.


  1. Wasn't Regine's talk ace? I think perhaps it was my favourite, certainly the one that most effectively provoked me.

  2. Hi Helen. It certainly was the most futuristic talk. Good to see you here :)