Transposon Painting with B~globin intron sequence and GFP 2013
Shown in CODE 2012 Exhibition
Swinburne University of Technology.
Curator Dean Keep
Acknowledgements Dr Ian Grainge UoN
Dr Andre Brodyk
This paper is founded on an important emergent conceptual premise within contemporary painting discourses. This is the idea that painting is not a fixed or traditionally circumscribed form of visual philosophy but rather is an incessantly transposable genre. What is significant about this paper is that it presents a unique critique on the contemporary transposable position of painting through an innovative interdisciplinary frame of reference known as ‘Bioart’. This involves a novel interpretation of Bioart processes as agency of extended painting. Understanding the transformative properties of Bioart mediation in painting through recombinance using transgenic protocols as transposable painting events is the central tenant of my idea of expanded painting. Adapting recombinant strategies and molecular substrates for expanded painting via Bioart applications changes the Bioart genotype to an instance of expanded painting medium as a transgenic and transposable idea.
So the argument advanced in this paper is a novel notion of expanded painting in terms of medium specificity towards the ‘idea’ of painting as a transposable medium through the agency of Bioart. This has been realized as a literal transposon event using molecular biology rather than an asomatous idea. As such this interpretation is divergent to any extant notion of medium specificity in painting. As I have reasoned, what this translates into in terms of transposon painting as idea is a transposable event, instantiated aesthetically, conceptually, philosophically and in practice.
Transposon, Bioart, expanded painting, transposable medium idea
Transposons have a restless lifestyle, often shuttling themselves from one chromosome to another. It is now clear that in their travels, they are disseminating crucial genetic innovations around the genome.[i] (Mikkelsen 2007)
This paper presents a novel philosophical argument on painting in the expanded field. Firstly I outline the contextual basis for the discussion and what I mean by expanded painting as idea with reference to Krauss’ theoretical precedent on the expanded field (Krauss 2000). This essentially involves my adaptation of her redefinition of medium specificity in her concept of the “Post-Medium Condition”. [ii]
I then put forward my novel proposition of expanded painting called Transposon Painting which I have developed using a practice-based approach to the argument. I argue how the transposable idea of expanded painting is demonstrated specifically in relation to process-based biotechnological art using an actual biological molecular transposable element. So throughout the discussion I show how this conceptually interconnects the idea of an expanded field, painting, biotechnological art and molecular biology instantiating a new transposable painting medium.
The scientific premise embedded in my novel concept of expanded painting is introduced. This involves presenting the literal transposable molecular element with its associated properties.
I conclude this discussion with one translation of expanded painting as transposable painting using a Bioart adaptation applied in practice. This is realized as a transposable event, painting as idea aesthetically, conceptually and practically determined by this painter at the molecular level.
Expanded field Context
One of the fundamental characteristics of the contemporary discourse that is painting is the idea that painting is and has demonstrably always been unstable. Academic, writer and artist Mark Titmarsh has provided convincing and fecund argument on how this can be understood in relation to conceptualizing colour. This was evidenced in this same conference with his paper entitled, “The Autopoiesis of Colour in the Age of Machinic Shine”. This condition of instability drawn out in my paper however specifically assumes a transposable guise as explained in the context of expanded painting.
Krauss’ critical writing on the “Post-Medium Condition” provides context for the idea of the expanded field for any media. My interpretation of this is confined to what I consider to be itinerant properties found in her argument. These are emergent, unfolding, interconnected properties involving the productive space between and over different media, which are characteristic of a trans-media. For me this is transposable media as idea. So the ambulant quality of these has been used to contextualize and establish connectivity to my own expanded media painting position as transposable idea. Krauss’ notion of an expanded field becomes something, which has enabled the material and ideological basis of my interpretation of expanded painting as idea. In terms of Krauss’ thinking, this has been adapted for my argument here rather than used as an illustration of hers.
The Post-Medium Condition
In her concept of the Post-Medium Condition, Krauss argues that the specificity of any medium can never be simply collapsed into the physicality of their support. She does so in reflection on the modernist position established by Greenberg in relation to his seminal discourses on media specificity.
Choosing to eschew Greenberg’s terminal trope of material specificity i.e. painting equals oil on canvas, Krauss sets about reasserting the value of medium speciﬁcity as rooted in difference but in a different way including the importance of a notion of medium. She does so by essentially re-conceptualising medium as a positional idea. As has been noted by many, Krauss therefore identifies what can be considered as the productive space between media difference centering questions of medium. For example, Mary Ann Doane (2007) observes Krauss’ position as,
A medium is a medium by virtue of its positive qualities (visibility, color, texture of paint, for instance) and also its limitations, gaps, incompletions (the ﬂatness of the canvas, the ﬁnite enclosure insured by the frame). [iii]
Rosemary Hawker (2009) also notes,
Krauss avoids any direct association between the medium and its physical characteristics, and instead highlights the significance of certain artistic expressions, which call into question the effect of a medium’s constraints and thereby reconfigure it as an open field for the interplay of ‘conventions’ and ‘possibilities’.[iv]
Hawker (2009) adds,
Hence Krauss’ notion of a medium as a ‘supporting structure’ reconciles the requirement for the material and technical specificity of a distinct medium with the formal and conceptual diversity of artistic creation.’[v]
So these aspects of Krauss are essentially what I have taken as a point of creative departure for my adaptation of the medium as transposable idea. This is located within and between media and not in a void. It is the interplay of the relational position of layers of media i.e. painting within painting and to other media, which sets up a peculiar type of medium as idea which I have modified relative to Kraus.
Here I have adapted the ‘divergent specificity’ situated by Krauss (2000) as the supporting structure medium form, which she finds in the manifold interacting, layers within and between media reclamations works by Broodthaers for example. Instead for me this notion of divergent specificity is specifically re-imagined as process based ambulant idea interactions within and between particular media. [vi]
I argue this idea of a transposable medium idea is a transposable event wherein this equates to a supporting structure medium, which is called into question in each relational instance. This is because it is a divergent specificity. Here this is reconfigured for the interactions in painting relational to particular Bioart based iterations, which I call Transposable Paintingideas.
In such a context I propose that Bioartists work, namely technologically mediated art undertaken via any number of biotechnologies, can be considered to be more than just ‘Bioart’.[vii]
Bioart as a trans-media is a methodologically divergent but process-based art/science vector. In being a process-based vector, it accommodates the notion of specificity of medium as being a process-based event as idea. In the space of activity relative to Bioart then, the Bio-medium is the agency of painting as idea in the expanded field. i.e. a Transposable Painting.
As evidence of the plausibility of this interpretation of Krauss I point out that Hawker (2009) also observes,
In searching for the differences separating the medium from itself, Krauss’s focus on a differential specificity links it more generally to a shift in the experience of the medium as medium support whereby works share a conceptual attitude based on a reflective distance to the medium underpinning them.[viii]
So the transposable argument adaptation I develop, connects to an emergent predisposition of Bioart and painting process relations as Krauss suggests, is an interplay of possibilities as the medium. While Krauss may not say that this means medium equates to idea, for me this idea raises the question and relational position of the medium thereby separating it out as a specific medium to become the idea instantiated between each . This is a specificity of media as transposable idea as painting event which must specifically be material and process based so as not to be just a conceptual premise.
The relationship of media as based on differences a relational differentiation that as Krauss (2000) says, ’heightens, rather than reduces, the importance of the concept of the media.’ ‘the medium as an aggregative ‘network’ or ‘complex’ of media.’[ix]
Adapting Krauss argument, the trans-medium here is the reconfigured transposable molecular genetic compositional complex of Bioart as painting as a positional idea of medium.
A novel proposition of Expanded painting
So the argument advanced in this idea called Transposon Painting adapting from Krauss, suggests that painting can and should be considered more in terms of activity and process of intervention in any given media context or discourse. For me this approximates rather than describes what Krauss explains as the supporting structure, her notion of medium. So to recap at this juncture, in this paper it instantiates the new transposable medium idea of expanded painting as event because it is a transposable medium, a positional idea of medium i.e a supportive structure.
So these are the performative determinants of the permutable forms that painting assumes as a trans-medium critical practice as ‘idea’. Seen, as an expanded genealogy comprised of a transposable specifically recombinant genomic constitution is the transposable idea of painting. Fundamentally therefore, this proposition of expanded painting as transposable idea offers a novel biotechnological conceptual and theoretical framework and set of principles explaining transposable appearance, structure, function and significance. Structurally, functionally and in terms of significance, this transposable idea is never other than a recombinant attitude and process. I discuss the scientific premise of this lab-based practice in the next section. This includes how media as positional idea relative to the biotechnology activity of recombinance in Transposon Painting. [x]
I propose that Bioart can be considered to be a new instance of the transposable idea of expanded painting. However as suggested above , this is a positional i.e performative idea and not merely a conceptual premise.
As academic artist and musician Sean Lowry (2011) has stated,
This idea of painting is now potentially instantiated as a structural place, a performative action, a remediated form or even as anti-formations containing no independent essence other than being ‘not painting. [xi]
Here Lowry is referring to his perspective on media specificity in painting in the expanded field.
However this is unlike Morgan Falconer (2003) who earlier observed, “Side by side with the notion of painting’s expansion has been the idea that it is a mode of thought,
rather than simply a medium of art practice”.[xii]
This is different because Lowry’s argument indicates painting as idea, is a medium.
Significantly my transposable idea has, as has Lowry’s been developed in and through painting practice and not just as a theoretical argument. In my case this is specifically within the biological sciences laboratory. So from the perspective of this author, I shall emphasize this importance further as it amounts to my interpretation of a peculiar medium specificity. My interpretation aligns with Krauss in that medium specificity cannot exist only as a disembodied philosophical proposition. Rather, it needs the self-reflexive relational position of being a process-based infrastructure activity, a trans-medium. In this case involving relational processes of Bioart and painting.
More specifically I argue that through experiences and practice in painting and in molecular biology processes i.e both at a molecular recombinant elemental compositional level, this material spatial reconfiguration idea is the medium. It is a supportive structure that is the idea of medium as a positional medium involving divergent media manifestations adapted as a specific painting medium. Bioart is now proposed to be a new bio-transposable modulator and positional instance idea of expanded painting called Transposon Painting. To assist in understanding this novel idea it is necessary to introduce some basic artist’s understanding behind the science I have used for my novel interpretation.
So I now introduce the scientific premise concerning transposable elements for the argument of expanded painting as a transposable idea. This posits the idea as a biological instance of the expanded medium for painting through practice.
Biotechnology based Bioart involves working with certain forms of developmental biotechnology protocols. In Transposon Painting these are undertaken at the molecular genetic level dealing with the structure and activity of genetic material.[xiii]
Bioart as expanded idea of painting here focused on the molecular level is with particular reference to two types of transposable recombinant DNA media and processes. The first is a called molecular DNA ‘transposon’. The second is another type of ambulant molecule called an‘intron’ which are explained below.
Transformative notions of biotechnology mediation on living materials specifically at the molecular level including using transposons involve protocols collectively called recombinance. Recombinance means recombining molecular elements including DNA transposons in a given gene sequence of interest from either different parts of a genome or from another genome outside. Later recombinations entail transgenic protocols but either can effect changes in both phenotype i.e. appearance and in genotype i.e. genetic composition within living material In this transposable event as idea, my molecular expanded painting specifically involves using an actual transposable molecule called a transposon. In Transposon Painting it also is a novel recombinant molecule because it is recombined in conjunction with another ambulant material called an ‘intron’. Recombinance is therefore intrinsic to transposon protocols in the lab.
The defining property of transposable elements is their mobility. They are genetic constructs ofDNA/RNA sequences that can move i.e. self-transpose from one position to another in the genome. Beyond the common property of mobility, transposable elements show considerable diversity. Some move by DNA intermediaries and others move by RNA intermediaries. “Some transposable elements move in a replicative manner, whereas others are nonreplicative, i.e. they move without making a copy of themselves.”[xiv]
Transposable elements can influence gene expression in many ways. The affects can be positive or negative by causing deletions or inversions of DNA and also in causing mutations for example. Humans are products of transposon mutations. They also can encode for drug resistance i.e. antibioticused as amarker, which is helpful as a selective tool for genes of interest in genetic research.
According to molecular geneticist Dr Ian Grainge my current scientific collaborator, approximately 15-16% of the human DNA is currently comprised of transposable elements such as transposons. Transposable elements have constituted as much as around 40% of genomic material during the overarching passage of human evolution meaning they embody much of the transposable complexity that is Homo sapiens. I propose therefore that Humans for one are transposable events.
Transposons ability to copy and propagate themselves has evolved over long periods and most transposons are short in length, which facilitates their mobility. Relative to human genome 3 billion base pairs they range in size from 2500 to 21,000 base pairs.
Different transposons move around chromosomes to new locations with different specificity as they look for certain chemical bases or preferred sites. How they do this is essentially by the transposon DNA sequence encoding an enzyme that catalyzes what constitutes a transposition event. So because they have naturally occurring ambulant properties sometimes they randomly insert themselves into different locations in vivo. [xv]
The mechanism of transposition can be either “copy and paste” or “cut and paste” in order to self-relocate. Therefore there are essentially two kinds of transposon mechanisms, which can be orchestrated by an organism.
In the first kind, transposons copy themselves in two stages, first from DNA to RNA by transcription, then from RNA back to DNA by reverse transcription. The DNA copy construct is then inserted into the genome in a new position. These are called retro-transposons, which act like a virus, and because they are copied they amplify their number.
The second method is a cut-and-paste transposition mechanism. It does not involve an RNA intermediary. Various types of transposase enzymes catalyze the transpositions. Some transposases can bind non-specifically to any target site, while others bind to specific sequence targets. These are called DNA transposons.
Furthermore there are essentially two main protocols for working with transposons, either in vivo and in vitro as is described simply here.
The in vivo protocol entails the transposon being inserted into the cell’s membrane and this is taken up by the nucleus in a random manner. This is preferable for larger quantities of transposon material to be realized but is less accurate for specific transposon events according to Dr Grainge.
The in vitro protocol essentially entails the transposon construct all being assembled outside of the cell. Stated very approximately, the transposon was cut by a purified enzyme called a transposase and for my protocol it also involved pasting an intron into the transposon construct. This was cut into a DNA plasmid by further enzymes at another stage. This is subsequently introduced into the cell membrane by means of a massive electric shock to the cell.
So transposition can create sensory evident changes i.e. phenotypic as well as significant changes in a genome composition i.e. genotype as just described. This is what makes these transposition events a pertinent adaptation for a transposable idea of expanded painting in practice.
Transposon Painting Adaptation
As such I used the second method for my transposon painting adaptation in the lab. This entailed painting in, i.e. literally adding additional genetic material namely intron sequences from the Beta globin gene (B~globin), into my DNA transposon. This formed the main part of a novel transposon construct executed in vivo cloned and engineered into a plasmid and into the cell where it was expressed in the nucleus. Validation of this was by visual means i.e the familiar banding patterns arrived at via auto-radiographs to be followed by international data-based (BLAST) cross-references.
So in terms of creative transposable agenda beyond the DNA transposon I also used another type of transposable element called an intron incorporated inside the transposon.
Introns are not coding genes so have been assumed to be inactive. However their performative functions reveal that they also undertake feats of transposable creativity in the genome. The affect is an altered chromosome genetic complexity i.e. genotype.
The fact that introns have been used during evolution to evolve alternatively as a process to regulate gene expression has made it possible to build new genes in different combinations. These are creative transposable medium specific events within the biological canon. Hence my Bioart interpretations are a transposable creative idea of painting as medium specific event used for the expanded field of painting.
So the particular translation of the transposon protocol as painting idea was unique through its incorporation of a B~globin gene intron. This was 200 bases long and derived from the from human blood cells which are collectively an ambulant medium in the expanded corpus that are living entities. This was the essential material substance of transposable expression in this instance of Transposon Painting. This constitutes the idea of a novel layered transposable process as expanded painting event because this DNA transposon is comprised of another novel type of transposable element the intron. Used in the context of my argument this is the medium specific bio-layered painting event, an interpretation of a positional medium or supportive structure. This was expressed both as a science event and art event occupying a new position in the composition of the gene of a living organism, i.e. E.coli. That is as part of the larger medium specific complexity idea for an expanded field painting.
Understanding the transformative properties of Bioart mediation in painting through recombinance using transgenic protocols as transposable painting events is the central tenant of my idea of expanded painting. Adapting recombinant strategies and molecular substrates for expanded painting via Bioart applications changes the Bioart genotype to an instance of expanded painting medium as a transgenic and transposable idea. The transposable bio-agency event as idea is an intrinsically recombinant and layered specific medium.
In terms of the expanded field, painting like DNA is always emerging from any extant configuration or molecular constituency at any given time as medium transposer of new means of its construction. It is a re-positional medium.
What has been advanced in this paper is a novel notion of expanded painting in terms of medium specificity towards the ‘idea’ of painting as a transposable medium through the agency of Bio-art. This has been realized as a literal transposon event using molecular biology materiality rather than an asomatous idea. As such this interpretation is divergent to any extant notion of medium specificity in painting. As I have also reasoned, what this translates into in terms of transposon painting as idea is a transposable event, incorporating a type of re-positional medium incorporating a type of ‘divergent specificity’.16 This is a peculiar medium specific adaptation rather than adoption, referencing Krauss’ expanded field and her idea of a ‘supporting structure. This interpretation is instantiated aesthetically, conceptually, philosophically and in practice as expanded painting.17
Dr Ian Grainge, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, (SELS) University of Newcastle (UoN)
Ms Stephanie Boer (SELS)
Faculty of Education and Arts UoN
School of Drama Fine Art and Music UoN
Media: Hybrid transgenic,including, degenerating living transgenic Arabidopsis Thaliana modified with, Agrobacterium tumefaciens Ti plasmids and RNAi induced silencing complex, reflections, Perspex, soil,vermiculite, fluro lighting, electric cables, stainless steel, acrylic, vynal, White board, Whiteboard markers,water vapor condensation, plaster board,(in collaboration with Dr Mark Shorter).
Dimensions: Variable and changing/deteriorating.
Date/s: September 2010 – February 2012
Acknowledgements: Associate Professor Bernie Carroll, University of Queensland, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.
Dr Michael Christie, University of Queensland, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Professor Chris Grof, School of Environmental & Life Sciences UoN.
Joseph Enright, School of Environmental & Life Sciences UoN.