On the future of life forms.. an ArtSci Salon discussion – Thu Oct 17 & Nov 21 – 6:00-8:00 – The Fields Institute

“…now they were perfecting a pigoon that could grow five or six kidneys at a time. Such a host animal could be reaped of its extra kidneys; then, rather than being destroyed, it could keep on living and grow more organs, much as a lobster could grow another claw to replace a missing one. That would be less wasteful, as it took a lot of food and care to grow a pigoon. A great deal of investment money had gone into OrganInc Farms…” (Margaret Atwood – Oryx & Crake 2003)

In Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood describes a not-too-distant future where humans have perfected the art of fabricating and modifying a variety of creatures to improve and prolong their own lives and wellbeing.

As Atwood has stated in various occasions, this is not science fiction.

It is in fact already happening. New forms of life appear not only as  the product of lab fabrication or gene editing, but also as the result of toxic pollutants and climate change induced adaptation.

what to make of them?

how to cope with a world where extinction, adaptation and mutation risk to make traditional categories and taxonomies obsolete?

or not?

Join us to this two-parts series  to discuss the ethics and implications of these transformations with artists, scientists and bioethicists.

this is a “double date”! Please, note the two dates

RSVP here

Part 1

Thursday, October 17,
6:00-8:00 pm
The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences
Altered Inheritance: extinction, recreation or transformation?

a dialogue and discussion on the implications of genome editing on humans and other organisms


Françoise Baylis – Research Professor, Bioethicist, Dalhousie University

Karen Maxwell – Dept. of Biochemistry, Maxwell Lab, University of Toronto

emergent artists from OCADU and YorkU


Part 2

Thursday, November 21,
6:00-8:00 pm
The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences

Classifying the new?

why do we classify? what is it good for? what is the limit of taxonomy and classification in a transforming world?


Richard Pell – Centre for PostNatural History, Pittsburgh, PA

Laurence Packer – Mellitologist, Professor of biology and environmental studies, York University

Stefan Herda – earth science artist

Cole Swanson – artist and educator (Art Foundation and Visual and Digital Arts, Humber college)

Anna Marie O’Brien – Frederickson, Rochman, and Sinton labs, University of Toronto


Françoise Baylis is University Research Professor at Dalhousie University. She is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Baylis was one of the organizers of, and a key participant in, the 2015 International Summit on Human Gene Editing. She is a member of the WHO expert advisory committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing. Her new book “Altered Inheritance. CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Genome Editing” is published by Harvard University Press

Karen Maxwell is a research professor in the dept of biochemistry at the university of toronto, where she runs the Maxwell Lab.  Among other topics, the lab’s three branches “Anti-CRISPR”, “Phage morons” and “Anti-Phage defences” study the interplay of phages with their bacterial hosts, with a focus on phage mediated bacterial virulence mechanisms and inhibitors of anti-phage bacterial defenses.

Richard Pell works at the intersections of science, engineering, and culture. He has worked in a variety of electronic media from documentary video to robotics to bioart to museum exhibition. He is the founder and director of the Center for PostNatural History (CPNH), an organization dedicated to the collection and exposition of life-forms that have been intentionally and heritably altered through domestication, selective breeding, tissue culture or genetic engineering. The CPNH operates a permanent museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and produces traveling exhibitions that have appeared in science and art museums throughout Europe and the United States, including being the subject of a major exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London.

Laurence Packer is a mellitologist, ie a scholar whose main subject of study is wild bees. his research primarily involves the systematics of the bee subfamily Xeromelissinae – an obscure, but fascinating group of bees, restricted to the New World south of central Mexico. he has also expended considerable energy leading the global campaign to barcode the bees of the world. his work is concerned with  promulgating the importance of bees: for genetic reasons, it seems that bees are more extinction prone than are almost all other organisms

Stefan Herda‘s practice explores our troubling relationship to the natural world through drawing, sculpture and video. Inspired by the earth sciences, Herda’s work navigates the space between truth and fiction. His material and process-based investigations fuse elements of authenticity, façade, the natural and the manufactured together. He received his BAH from the University of Guelph in 2010. His work in both sculpture and video has been included in exhibitions nationally and has been featured by CBC Arts and Daily VICE. Recently, Stefan has held solo shows at Patel Projects (Toronto) and Wil Kucey Gallery (Toronto), participated in group shows such as Cultivars: Possible Worlds at InterAccess (Toronto) and was featured as one of 12 artists in the Cabinet Project at the University of Toronto

Cole Swanson is an artist and educator based in Toronto, Canada. He has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across Canada and throughout international venues in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. At the heart of recent work is a cross-disciplinary exploration of materials and their sociocultural and biological histories. Embedded within art media and commonplace resources are complex relations between nature and culture, humans and other agents, consumers and the consumed. Swanson has engaged in a broad material practice using sound, installation, painting, and sculpture to explore interspecies relationships.

Anna Marie O’Brien is a post doc in the Frederickson, Rochman, and Sinton labs at University of Toronto, working on duckweeds, microbes, urban contaminants, and phenotypes.Her PhD work was at Davis, with thesis advisors Dr. Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra and Dr. Sharon Strauss. she also collaborated closely with Dr. Ruairidh Sawers at LANGEBIO-CINVESTAV in Guanajuato, Mexico.

Comments are closed