Optogenetics is a set of biological techniques that proposes a future where many neurological diseases in humans could one day be treated with light. It also gives way to the idea that humans can control other organisms, such as light-responsive algae, through genetic modification techniques. These techniques have the potential to be utilized to alter the behaviors of light-responsive algae for the production of bio-fuel, food, and other biological materials and products. However, these techniques open the door for many bioethical issues and concerns about genetic modifications and the agency of both human and non-human cells. Inspired by the ecofeminist philosophy of Donna Haraway’s “making kin”, (R)EVOLUTION is an artistic attempt to rearticulate the relationship between algal visual perception and human technoscientific desires through performance-based approaches associated with dance and gameplay. Using the aesthetic framing of Dance Dance Revolution, (R)EVOLUTION seeks to provide a satirical exploration of human and non-human relationships using light-based choreography and gameplay while simultaneously reflecting on ethical dimensions of research in the growing field of Optogenetics and the ethical issues involved in artistic works that are created out of the bodies, lives, and liveliness of microscopic organisms. This paper explores these ethical dilemmas, the work’s uses of microperformativity, and the cultural connotations of (R)EVOLUTION while providing critical analysis as context for the transdisciplinary approaches undertaken by the artist in collaboration with Humboldt Universität zu Berlin’s Department of Experimental Biophysics.
T Bates (2011) in vitero, Tumblr, http://invitero.tumblr.com .
T Bates (2014) Performance, bioscience, care: exploring interspecies alterity. International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, 10(2), pp. 216–231.
B.G Behrenshausen. (2007) Toward a (kin) aesthetic of video gaming: The case of Dance Dance Revolution . Games and Culture, 2(4), pp. 335–354.
I Chien (2006) This is not a dance. Film Quarterly, 59(3), 22–34.
A Guru, R.J Post, Y.Y Ho and M.R Warden (2015) Making sense of optogenetics. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 18(11), pyv. 079.
D.J Haraway (2016) Staying with the Trouble. Duke University Press.
J.T Harwood (1989) Rhetoric and graphics in Micrographia. Robert Hooke: new studies, pp. 119–147.
H Harz and P Hegemann (1991) Rhodopsin-regulated calcium currents in Chlamydomonas. Nature, 351(6326), pp. 489–491.
J Hauser (2006) Biotechnology as Mediality: Strategies of organic media art. Performance Research, 11(4), pp. 129–136.
J Hauser and L Strecker (2020) On Microperformativity.
P Hegemann and G Nagel (2013) From channelrhodopsins to optogenetics. EMBO molecular medicine, 5(2), pp. 173–176.
R Hooke (2019) Micrographia: Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries Thereupon. Good Press.
L Kelley and E Hayward (2013) Carnal Light. parallax, 19(1), pp. 114–127.
L Kronemyer, 2012. Myriad. [Paper, pheromones, ants].
LABcrabs (2019) DanceDanceRevolution White Machine with DDR A installed, Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DanceDanceRevolution_White_Machine_with_DDR_A_installed.png .
G Nagel, D Ollig, M Fuhrmann, S Kateriya, A.M Musti, E Bamberg and P Hegemann (2002) Channelrhodopsin-1: a light-gated proton channel in green algae. Science, 296(5577), pp. 2395–2398.
G Nagel, T Szellas, W Huhn, S Kateriya, N Adeishvili, P Berthold, D Ollig, P Hegemann and E Bamberg (2003) Channelrhodopsin-2, a directly light-gated cation-selective membrane channel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(24), pp. 13940–13945.
G Peers and K.K Niyogi, 2008. Pond scum genomics: the genomes of Chlamydomonas and Ostreococcus. The Plant Cell, 20(3), pp. 502–507.
Š Petrič 2010. Cladocera. [Daphnia magna (Cladocera), poetry instrument].
J Smith (2004) I can see tomorrow in your dance: A study of Dance Dance Revolution and music video games. Journal of Popular Music Studies, 16(1), 58–84.
L Walsh (2018) Return of the Teratoma, Exhibitied Fremantle, WA, AUS: The Moores Building. Mixed Media and Video.