CalArts Students Compete at MoMA BioDesign Challenge

CalArts Students Compete at MoMA BioDesign Challenge

This past summer, two teams of students from CalArts School of Critical Studies and the Experimental Animation Program in the School of Film/Video, competed in the BioDesign Challenge at the Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA) in New York.

The Challenge offers art and design students the opportunity to envision future applications of biotechnology. More than 400 students in 24 teams from universities around the world participated in the competition, including MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art), the Fashion Institute of Technology, The New School, Pratt, New York University, the Royal College of Art in London, and others. The students worked with art and design professors, scientists and subject-matter experts to develop their projects. 

Team CalArts/Critical Studies emerged from a new class in BioMimicry, taught by Douglas Goodwin. Students Cameron Meakin and Hunter Janos developed a piece called Microbial Gardens. "We designed an environment that makes the microbial world easy to observe, comprehend and finally to embrace the communities of microscopic interactions," said Meakin. "Guests are invited to stroll among living pavilions as they compete with one another for resources. Each host provides sustenance for the others much as grasses provide nourishment to deer. They are in turn consumed upon by predator species exactly as in microbial ecology. Microbial Gardens presents aggregates of microbial interactions at human scale." 

Microbial Gardens from Biodesign Challenge on Vimeo.

William Arthur Shirey presented PhoneGus, a cell phone case made from bacteria & fungus to protect the user from radiation. CalArts faculty member Matt Reed coordinated Team CalArts/Experimental Animation.  Scientists at CalTech and interaction designers from Google and the Outside design agency assisted the students with their projects. Mike Bryant, associate dean of Critical Studies, also provided vital guidance.  The two-day Summit, held in New York City on June 22-23, brought together artists, designers, scientists, historians and entrepreneurs to select the winning designs. 

"CalArts is not known for biology or industrial design," noted Goodwin. "But our students possess an abundance of creativity: enough to compete on a global stage with students of both disciplines." 

These projects were supported in part by a CalArts Faculty Travel & Professional Development Grant and a Course Block Travel Grant.