Marta de Menezes (PT), Maria Antonia Gonzalez Valerio (MX), Luis Teixeria (PT) The Origin of Species - Post Evolution - Drosophila/Wolbachia, 2018

Intertwined phylogenetic tree of Drosophila and its natural parasite (symbiont) Wolbachia.
Three different species: an artist, a philosopher and a scientist, developed a work relationship to demonstrate the limits of an interaction between two other species (symbionts): Drosophila (the fly) and Wolbachia (a bacteria that protects flies from other infections).

Artist Statements

The artist is interested in exploring the limits of identity. Is our identity partially defined by what is foreign to us? By using CRISPR-Cas9 to change genes from Drosophila that are important in Drosophila – Wolbachia interactions, are we also changing the identity of both organisms? The organism that undergoes direct genetic change, as well as the other that simply interacts with the first? This work explores how different, but interwoven organisms, and their distinct identities can be perceived by understanding their interdependence and their multigenerational coexistence in the laboratory.

Marta de Menezes

For classical philosophy the idea of origin was linked to the concept of the one. The multiplicity was something that came later – ontologically and epistemologically –, as a result of the unity. Therefore, multiplicity has a different temporality and a different status in the realm of being. The construction of the idea of unity, of entity, of determination and even of object has been more recently thought in terms of synthesis, as a result of certain movements or forces. The unity is not something that is just given and preserved through eternity, but something that is the outcome and that therefore is modifiable and dependent on circumstances. A main concern for current philosophy continues to be the relation between the One and the Many, but not like in the former days, where the One had priority, but now as an intersection and interrelation of One and Many, that is, of the many conforming limited ones that have a temporal and relative existence and that afterwards disappear. This leads to the investigation of the forces and circumstances that conform the entities, which are variable, so instead of focusing on the entities (or even on substances) it has become more important to focus on what makes the entities to be what they are, that is, the movements, the forces, the relations, the transformations, etc. Through how many relations, forces, and movements is the living entity produced? How is it possible to investigate it in theoretical and empirical ways? How is (bio)diversity gained and lost through populations and generations, and how does the direct research of it allow to investigate the concepts of the One and the Many? The interaction between Drosophila and Wolbachia puts forward many of these philosophical questions, starting with the idea of environment (being growth in the laboratory) to the very notion of identity, entity and being.

Maria Antonia Gonzalez Valerio

Animals, including humans, live in close association with multiple microbes. Most animal species are insects and most insect species live with the bacterium Wolbachia inside their cells. Sometimes Wolbachia is parasitic but other times it can protect insects from viruses. In my lab we study Wolbachia-insect interactions using Drosophila melanogaster, a fruit fly, as a model system. We want to understand how Wolbachia affects the fly and vice-versa. Our approach to the problem includes genetically manipulating Drosophila and testing which fly genes are important for the interaction. CRISPR-Cas9 is the latest addition to the genetic toolbox of this excellent model organism.

Luis Teixeira

With thanks to:

Dr. Nuno Soares, Liliana Vieira, Fly Facility at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Gulbenkian Foundation, Portugal.

The Fly facility is supported by Congento LISBOA-01-0145-FEDER-022170, co-financed by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (Portugal) and Lisboa2020, under the PORTUGAL2020 agreement (European Regional Development Fund).

Luis Teixeira is supported by an individual grant from Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia IF/00839/2015 and the European Research Council Grant 773260.

Marta de Menezes (PT)

Marta de Menezes is among the first artists to work with biotechnology, contributing to the creation of bioart. She has shown that biology research laboratories can be used as art studios. Her many artworks have incorporated materials and expertise from different disciplines (CRISPR/Cas9, MRI, structural biology, microbiology, among others). Her work has been presented throughout the globe in exhibitions, conferences, and publications. A Portuguese artist with a degree in Fine Arts by the University in Lisbon, a MSt in History of Art and Visual Culture by the University of Oxford, with a ABD from the University of Leiden. Marta has been exploring the intersection between Art and Biology, working in research laboratories demonstrating that new biological technologies can be used as a new art medium. In 1999 de Menezes created her first biological artwork (Nature?) by modifying the wing patterns of live butterflies. Since then, she has used diverse biological techniques including functional MRI of the brain to create portraits where the mind can be visualised (Functional Portraits, 2002); fluorescent DNA probes to create micro-sculptures in human cell nuclei (nucleArt, 2002); sculptures made of proteins (Proteic Portrait, 2002-2007), DNA (Innercloud, 2003; The Family, 2004) or incorporating live neurons (Tree of Knowledge, 2005) or bacteria (Decon, 2007). Her work has been presented internationally in exhibitions, articles and lectures. She is currently the Artistic Director of Ectopia, an experimental art laboratory in Lisbon, and Director of Cultivamos Cultura in the South of Portugal.;

Maria Antonia Gonzalez Valerio (MX)

María Antonia González Valerio earned a PhD in Philosophy from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) with postdoctoral studies in the area of aesthetics. Full-time professor of the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature and of the postgraduate programs in Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Art History and Fine Arts UNAM. She works within the research line of ontology-aesthetics and the interdisciplinary line of arts, sciences and humanities, specifically in the field of art that uses bio-media. Head of the research group Arte+Ciencia (Art+Science) which gathers artists, scholars and scientists in an interdisciplinary work that produces education at an under and postgraduate level, specialized theoretical research, artistic creation and exhibitions. Leader of the research project Complexity and natural philosophy at the intersection of art and science, linked to the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature UNAM.

Luis Teixeria (PT)

Luis Teixeria studied Microbiology and Genetics at the School of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. After the Licentiate degree, in 1999, he entered the Gulbenkian PhD programme, performed research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in Heidelberg, and obtained a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Medical School of the University of Lisbon, in 2005. From 2005 to 2009. Luis was a postdoctoral fellow working on the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster anti-viral defense and the bacterium Wolbachia, at the Department of Genetics of the University of Cambridge. In 2009, Luis started a research group at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal, where he has worked since. The group works on host-microbe interactions, using Drosophila as model system. Besides doing research, Luis is also involved in teaching. He is an invited Assistant Professor at the Medical School of the University of Lisbon, and organizes an annual Summer School for Undergrads and a biannual Summer School for PhD students on Host-Microbe Symbiosis at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência.