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Exhibition: THRIVE – A Biodesign Challenge Retrospective

Text by CLOT Magazine

details from CACTUS | FLEA from the HOST – for your living things series, Elaine Young (2008)

Biodesign Challenge (BDC) is an education program and competition that is shaping the first generation of biodesigners. As it becomes ubiquitous, society needs interdisciplinary thinkers to understand biotech’s impact and to come up with the next solutions. BDC bridges art, design, and biotech to develop the first generation of professionals who cross disciplines, anticipate promises and pitfalls, and engage the public in dialogue about the broader implications of emerging biotech.

On April 14, 2022, in collaboration with Philadelphia’s University City Science Center and Esther Klein Gallery, BDC are presenting THRIVE: A Biodesign Challenge Retrospective.

The exhibition will open on April 14 2022, showcasing recent pieces by eminent bioart and biodesign practitioners and BDC alumni, such as Suzanne Anker, Ani Liu, Orkan Telhan and Elaine Young. These new works that exist at the convergence of art, design, and biology will interrogate how biotech impacts current and future cultures and ecosystems.

Some pieces in the show take a hands-on approach by developing solutions to current-day concerns like fast fashion. Others tell stories about what our world might look like if the public engages in discussions around the use, ethics, and accessibility of today’s technologies. All of our projects have one thing in common: they aim to elicit hope in the viewer for a more equitable and sustainable future, Veena Vijayakumar, BDC’s Program Director, comments.

Angela Mcquillan, Program Manager and Experience Designer at University City Science Center and the in-house curator at Esther Klein Gallery, also shares that Since the day she discovered Biodesign Challenge she’s been fascinated with their community of creative students and professionals:

The Annual BDC Summit is an impressive convening of innovators from all over the world who have the same goal in mind–to collaborate and use their creative skills to make the world a better place. All the BDC students have worked closely with mentors to create inspiring work, and this exhibition is just a small sampling of what BDC has accomplished over the past 7 years. This exhibit features a wide range of mediums, working processes, and subject matter, showcasing the myriad ways biology can be used to propose new and exciting futures.

The emerging field of biodesign is becoming more and more relevant as we seek new answers for global health, climate, and sustainability challenges. We must find alternative modes of production and fabrication of materials inspired by biology and living processes to achieve more balance with nature. The intersection of biology and technology is the way of the future, and I am honoured to have the opportunity to feature the amazing.

Pieces in this show will be highlighted in BDC’s forthcoming book, Grow the Future: Visions of Biodesign, which features essays by leaders in biodesign and a foreword by Paola Antonelli.

(Media courtesy of the artist and BDC)
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