Interdisciplinary Conference


in Art & Science

27-29 September 2023, Malta Society of Arts, Valletta

DNA Nanobots and the Phallibility of Public Biosecurity
Event Hours: 29/09/2023 (14:15)
Location: Conference Room [C]
Callum Siegmund
Keywords: Pandemic, biowarfare, scientific trust, dual-use problem, nanobots, absurdity of biotechnology, amorality of technolgy

Since the mid 2000s researchers have been developing the technique of DNA origami, wherein DNA is folded into nanoscale structures. These DNA origami structures are the present and future of nanobots; the inherently modular system offers promise for therapeutic uses, such as nanobots targeting cancer cells as well as the safe delivery of gene editing tools into cells. While nanobots are being developed for utilitarian purposes, the technology itself is amoral, and could be used for a non-utilitarian purpose by someone with malicious intent. In order to protect ourselves from such threats, one must entertain them. Because of this, I began to wonder, in the age of COVID where our public biosecurity should be at an all-time high, how easily could one deliver nanobots onto/into unsuspecting targets? To explore this, an absurd penetration test was performed on our public biosecurity system using phallic DNA nanobots. Penetration tests involve analyzing systems for exploits and weaknesses which would allow an unauthorized user to bypass security measures. The results of the test were disturbing and documented in the artwork ‘Biosecurity Penetration Test’ which was developed during Callum’s residency at SymbioticA. The work explores themes of trust, safety, invisible threats, and the absurdity of biotechnology. In this presentation, Callum Siegmund will discuss the development of the project, the ethical concerns that arose, flaws in our public biosecurity system, and the futility of regulating biotechnology.

Callum Siegmund

\Callum Siegmund is an emerging bio/nano-artist who, since 2020, has been a resident at SymbioticA developing his practice of DNA nanosculptures. These nanosculptures draw on multiple different nanotechnologies (including DNA Origami) to control and sculpt DNAs form at the nanoscale; interweaving double helices into imperceptible 3D objects whose form and sequence have embedded peotics. His works reflect on the absurdity of bio and nanotechnology, expressing absurdity through humour and satire as a means of epistemologically critiquing and analysing the knowledge systems which construct our beliefs; be them scientific, religious, or conspiratorial. Prior to 2020, Callum spent 5 years studying neuroscience and skeletal muscle tissue engineering, learning the language of science with the end goal being to create biotechnological artworks. His passion and skill led to working with internationally esteemed artists such as Guy Ben-Ary and Nathan Thompson on their project Bricolage, which won an honorable mention award at the 2022 Ars Electronica.


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