Howard Boland, UoA 34, MAD

test tubes in dim lighting

Howard Boland is co-founder and artistic director of C-LAB and an artist working with Synthetic Biology. His research focuses the use of standardised genetic parts using the MIT-based biobricks library through a laboratory-based practice. He has degrees in Mathematics (University of Oslo), Software Systems for the Arts & Media and has a Master’s in Digital Practices with Distinction (University of Hertfordshire). Howard has taught and worked extensively with award winning interactive productions for clients such as HSBC, Vodafone, Sony, V&A and Microsoft. His strong professional involvement with the creative industry includes heading up interactive digital teams for major agencies. He is also UK partner and curator for the EU funded European Public Art Centre – EPAC (2010 – 2012), a European wide collaboration between organisations exhibiting public artworks focusing on art, science and society. Upcoming events include IMAC (Copenhagen). His artworks have been exhibited and presented internationally at venues such as the Dana Centre, Science Museum (London), Subtle Technologies (Toronto), TechFest 2012 (Mumbai), Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris), Microwave International New Media Arts Festival (Hong Kong), Göteborg New Media Art Festival (Röda Sten), International Astronautical Congress, Less Remote (Glasgow), Mutamorphosis: Challenging Arts and Sciences (Prague), Arts and Genomic Centre (Amsterdam) and Edinburgh International Science Festival. Publications, interviews and features on his artworks include: Resonance FM, Leonardo, Wired Science, USA Today and Ceska Televise Port TV (Czech Television).

‘Art from Synthetic Biology’ is a practice-based research that combines innovative approaches in the arts with the biological sciences to develop and display living artworks.

The research is situated between the Faculty of Media, Art and Design and the Faculty of Science and Technology. It employs novel standardisation processes in genetic engineering such as synthetic biology to develop genetic characteristics in bacteria that can expand language and boundary conditions of art. As an immersive practice, it reflects on how artists may come to assimilate recombinant affordances of bioscience towards art production and critical issues that are thrown up through such approaches. The research addresses how art may help broker understandings of non-human biological systems and what sort of interfaces we can build to enable such access.

Endorsed by the University ethics committee, the research seeks to establish a framework to publicly stage genetically modified living artworks in the UK. In 2012, the research exhibited living synthetic biology artworks in India for the first time. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the University of Westminster, the research has been presented in several contexts including, Science Museum’s DANA Centre, The Two Cultures: Visual Art and Science c.1800 – 2011 (University of York), Subtle Technologies Festival (Toronto, Canada) and Resonance 104.4 FM. Upcoming presentations and papers include The Thirteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (Michigan State University), The Interactive Media Arts Conference (Copenhagen, Denmark) and Leonardo Journal (MIT Press). I have taken part in a series of competitions including Yes Biotechnology (BBSRC & UNIEI) and as advisor for the international Genetic Machine Competition (UCL 2011, 2012 and University of Westminster 2012).

Group of students in classroom

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