Emilia Tika, MDC Stammzell-Plattform

Resetting the Aging Clock?

The artist Emilia Tikka spent three months at MDC labs. She was curious about CRISPR and whether genetic reprogramming could enable a “rejuvenation” of human cells in the future. Now, the results of her residency called “AEON – Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR” are being shown at STATE Studio Berlin.

During her residency at the Max Delbrück Center of Molecular Medicine (MDC), Emilia Tikka intensively exchanged ideas with researchers. The Finnish artist and designer had the opportunity to explore the potential of a novel version of the gene-editing technology CRISPR called dCAS9. This molecular tool activates specific genes instead of removing others from the genome.

Tikka learned at the bench that by activating the so-called Yamanaka factors, adult cells can be turned into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) cells. These cells can potentially become any type of cell within the human body. Some scientists even claim that this process also “resets” some of the hallmarks of cellular aging. What if humanity could reprogram and fine-tune this kind of processes using novel gene-editing technologies such as dCAS9?

Drawing inspiration from her experiences in the laboratories, she developed an artwork addressing the philosophical and social dimensions of the longing for longevity. Tikka’s final design will be presented for the first time at the opening of STATE Studio on October 27 in Berlin. The artist in residence also showcased a preliminary version of AEON at Ars Electronica Festival in Linz representing STATE Studio at the Gallery Spaces.

Tikka anticipates an everyday situation in a future world

AEONTrajectories of longevity and CRISPR is a poetic and fictional scenario arising from the human desire to drastically extend lifespan. The residency project initiated by STATE Studio and MDC is concerned with human dreams driving current developments in life sciences. Tikka’s artistic concept is rooted in questioning the vision of transhumanism and eternal life. “My speculative scenario maps out a world in which ageing process can be reversed,” she says. “With my artwork I would like to invite viewers to engage in an anticipated everyday situation in such a world leaving them to decide whether this future vision would be desirable.”

While current research in life sciences is pushing the boundaries of what is technologically possible further and further, Tikka tackles philosophical questions first. In what kind of world do we want to live? What happens when we get there? What is the essence of the human wish to live forever? The conceptual aim of this speculative scenario is to engage the public in a fundamental antagonism: the constant loop of decay and rebirth as an enigmatic molecular process in all the living beings and the human drive to interfere with this processes using technical means.

Curatorial team: Dr. Christian Rauch (STATE), Stefanie Greimel (STATE), Johanna Teresa Wallenborn (STATE), Dr. Ralf Kühn (MDC), Dr. Luiza Bengtsson (MDC).

The artist residency was funded by the EU ORION Open Science Project, Grant Agreement No. 741527. The project aims to engage society in discussions of the risks and opportunities presented by disruptive technologies.

STATE Studio Field Experiments Exhibition and Berlin Science Week Event

Field Experiments Exhibition:

Tuesday - Friday 12 – 6PM

Keynotes & Panel Discussion “From Understanding to Tinkering - the Future of Genome Research”: 1 November 2018, 5 PM

Further information