The DIY Body Project 

The DIY Body Project is a participatory art project inspired by DIY approaches to biology and crafting that takes place online as well as in the !dea Gallery at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, Canada. It has been curated as part of the Spark – The Heart of Art and Science exhibition happening from March 3 – Aug 12, 2012.

How can you take part? 

DNA is often referred to as the “genetic blueprint of life” that directs the growth of an organism. For sewers, the pattern is the blueprint that guides their creations.

You are welcome to download free sewing patterns by clicking on the download link (to the above right) that you can craft your own “synthetic” body parts from. Please scroll down for more info on synthetic biology, or visit the resources tab at the top of this page.

These sewing patterns, a metaphor for the “genetic blueprint” or DNA of an organism are made by Britt Wray. From these patterns, you are invited to make your own body parts out of materials you may have at home like fabric, plastic and polyester stuffing (or anything else you have handy), as well as to alter the patterns to include your own imaginative visualizations. Instructions are provided in the kit.

You’re encouraged to upload photos of what you make to www.diybody.tumblr.com. You can also upload your own altered or all together new sewing patterns to the same website so that a catalogue of diverse, DIY, community-generated body parts are archived and shared in this evolving online platform.

Added fun for local Torontonians!!!!

If you are in the Toronto area, you are encouraged to bring your sewn body parts to the Ontario Science Centre and add them to the installation. From March 3 – August 12, 2012, The “synthetic” DIY body will change on a daily basis. Much like a real organism that evolves in relation to its surrounding environmental pressures, gallery visitors can rearrange and add to the body parts in the show, bringing the body to life as imagined through a collective, playful, DIY effort.

If you are bringing in a sewn body part, please poke a small hole in it and string a piece of yarn, wool, twine or whatever else you have through it so that when you come to the Ontario Science Centre you can tie it on to the installation. You can think of it much like adding ornaments to a tree. Make sure to ask a Science Centre host where the Idea Gallery is so that you can find this specific installation (it is next to the Hot Zone). 

Food for thought:

Do you usually think of humans when you hear the word body? Do plants and microbiological entities have bodies?

What might synthetic biology offer us in terms of new types of bodies?

Should everyday citizens have a say in this, or should it be left to the scientists?

Synthetic Biology

We live in an age when genetic engineering is an old technology, and the boundaries between categories, whether they are species or disciplines, are increasingly blurred.

Transgenics have made the chimera a reality, where two genetically distinct organisms get recombined in the lab to create a new hybrid life form made from both genomes.

Photo cred. Field Test Independent Film Corps

Photo cred. Field Test Independent Film Corps

Already it’s old news that there are goats whose genomes have been transgenically spliced with the genes of spiders so that we can spin spider silk from their goat milk.

Now we have synthetic biology: an approach to genetic engineering that brings the logic of computer science and engineering into the biology lab. In most of its forms, it aims to program and make synthetic organisms in similar ways to how we program and make computers. With it we are designing organisms to make products for us that only our machines could before, like renewable energy or drugs. However, considered more generally, synthetic biology means the human-generated fabrication of life through artificial processes.

What types of synthetic organisms excite or concern you?

What do their bodies look like and how do they function?

Are they made from real or imagined human, animal, plant or microbiological body parts?

The list of synthetically modified organisms entering the world is growing each year. At the same time, the shaping of our synthetic future is becoming a more interdisciplinary endeavour as artistsdesigners, and citizen scientists suggest alternative ways to approach it to how institutional science does itself.  What do you want it to be like? 

Synthetic biology in its contemporary form is just one among several new approaches to how we use biotechnology.  In our increasingly distributed knowledge economy where we share information freely online, people are getting the tools they need to do research and make their own lab equipment who never before would have been able to. As a result, international communities of citizen scientists have recently emerged. They are curious to learn and practice science non-professionally, and through their activities they too are gradually changing the way that biotech is used.

DIY and Biology

For example, in 2008, an organization called DIY (“do it yourself”) bio was created with the aim of turning biotech into an accessible hobby for the everyday enthusiast. Tinkering away in community labs with hacked or donated lab equipment, DIY biologists are inventing open-source tools that may eventually make experimenting with synthetic life possible in your own home. What do you think of this idea?

DIY and Craft

Extending far beyond the laboratory, DIY is an approach to making that has been widely celebrated in craft. Textiles in particular are a popular area of crafting where fabric artists often label their works as DIY projectsEveryone is a DIY artist if they want to be.

  1. C said:

    I could use a tail or two

  2. ZP said:

    This looks fantastic Britt! Congrats on it all coming together. I will fashion a kidney or two after I hand in my docs at the end of the month :D

    • Britt Wray said:

      Thank you so much Zach! That would be an amazing addition, plus I know you are great at sewing from all those hand warmers you’ve made.

  3. CHomann said:

    After sewing pillows this sounds like a great project for family night. Have to give it a try.

  4. Family craft nights are pretty much the best. Very happy to hear you’ll give this a go! :)

  5. Also, if you are able to upload a photo of what you make to the tumblr, linked to above in the menu bar, that would be really fantastic.

  6. synbiota said:

    This looks pretty cool! I love the DIY approach. I hope there will be more DIY Bio in Toronto’s future. Awesome work!

  7. Hello there, my sister loves to sew, I will share this with her

    • Britt Wray said:

      great! if you or your sister ever want to attend a hands on workshop at the Ontario Science Centre where we make some parts together, they’ll be starting on Sept 26th :)

      • Britt Wray said:

        I mean Aug 26th whoops

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.