Trust Me, I’m an Artist

Trust Me, I’m an Artist

Trust Me, I’m an Artist: Towards an Ethics of Art and Science Collaboration


This series of public events, taking place in international settings, investigates the new ethical issues arising from art and science collaboration and consider the roles and responsibilities of the artists, scientists and institutions involved.


At each event (before a live audience) an internationally known artist will propose an artwork to a specially formed ethics committee (following the rules and procedures typical for the host country), the ethics committee will then debate the proposal and come to a decision, the artist will then be informed of the ethics committee’s decision and, alongside the audience, they can enter into a discussion about the result. 


The proposals have been selected as they raise interesting questions for science ethics committees and will help reveal the mechanisms that drive this usually hidden process, enabling the wider public to understand the driving forces behind ethical decisions and the role of artists working in scientific settings more deeply.


The project “Trust Me I’m an Artist: Towards an Ethics of Art/Science Collaboration” is led by artist Anna Dumitriu in collaboration with Professor Bobbie Farsides (Chair of Ethics, Brighton and Sussex Medical School) in collaboration with the Waag Society and The University of Leiden.


Event 1: “Mutate or Die” with Adam Zaretsky


Date and time: Saturday 10th December 2011 at 3pm-6pm including drinks and light refreshments


Venue: The Theatrum Anatomicum, De Waag, Nieuwmarkt 4, Amsterdam, Netherlands 


This project addresses the life sciences’ enormous investment in the illusion of objective control over the biological world, and the tag team efforts of “pan-capitalism” and the biotech industry’s privatizing of genetic research and patenting life forms. The writer William S. Burroughs' genetic material will be used in a speculative artistic experiment that will involve the creation of a transgenic mutation. The public will be invited to participate in the process, specifically within the portable lab we will build in a gallery space.


Bioart tends to use cutting edge biotechnology as an art-making device and specializes in presenting living organisms as art. In this project, a DNA sample from Burroughs has been isolated, amplified and will be shot into the nuclei of some cells. At the core of the project will be the gene gun blast that will biolistically combine tiny pieces of William S. Burroughs’ gut flora / script/ gene text with another organism’s genetic script / gene text, to produce a transgenic mutation, or put in another way, an “intentional-genetic modification orgiastic”, or “i-GMO”. After the gene gun blast sets the mutations in motion, we will invite the audience into the process as readers / interpreters of the stories embedded within the old beat writer’s gut.


The Waag's historic Theatrum Anatomicum, is a wholly appropriate venue to house such a discussion. Built in 1691 as a space dedicated to advanced experimenting, observing and learning, it was the place where leading figures of the surgeon's guild dissected the corpses of many criminals to expose the anatomy of the human body and help advance medical science. At later stages these dissections turned into events where not just medical professionals or students, but also the man in the street could have a glance at this intriguing, taboo-breaking world of new discoveries.


All welcome.