Genetic modification is a controversial subject. We’ve got corporations promising to reduce world hunger by introducing badly needed nutrients into staple food crops. The same companies sue farmers over ownership of corn whose seedlings were dropped by birds. Such omniscience is both awe-striking and highly suspect given the short past and unpredictable future of biotechnology.
In an artistic response to the advancement of biotech, Biopresence has become its own godlike entity. Biopresence is an art venture currently based in the UK, which, in short, aims to preserve human genetic material by inserting it into living trees. The trees thus become “living memorials” or “transgenic tombstones” for the humans whose DNA they contain. This may top cryogenics for unusual final resting options.
Founders Shiho Fukuhara and Georg Tremmel established the venture “with the purpose of exploring, participating and ultimately defining the most relevant playing field of the 21st century: the impact of biotechnologies on society and the human perception of these coming changes.”
The creators of Biopresence emphasize that their procedure does not result in a genetically-modified organism (GMO). Their method, which comes from collaborating artist/scientist Joe Davis’s DNA Manifold Algorithm, allows human genetic information to be stored without affecting the genes of the tree. The “physical essence of the human body” is produced in the tissue of the tree. As it decays, it releases its decomposition products in order to nurture new plants. Biopresence suggests that the method offers a desireable alternative in countries that have anti-burial laws.
Suffice it to say, Biopresence offers a fascinating new twist on biotechnical experimentation. It’s a complex collision of genetics, art and ecology, with a touch of social commentary. And given that the future of genetic modification is as mysterious as life after death, it might be a perfect pairing.