We’ve taken the installation Biohacking: Do-It-Yourself! down, and replaced it with some much needed wardrobe space for our guests. Both uses of the room unite the inside and outside of the university – allowing people and ideas to move in and out. And although the biohacking lab has gone we want to keep in mind the lessons with regard to the importance of craft and openness in science.
Here’re some words from the opening on togas, lab coats and open science in the academy:
Biohacking – Do-It-Yourself! is an exhibition about biohacking. Its also an exhibition about bringing hacking into the museum – in particular into this very building. The auditorium around us has a handsome classical ceiling in the style of Pantheon in Rome and busts of toga-clad 18th century gentlemen. This impressive setting was built in 1787 as home to the newly formed Academy of Surgeons. It was part of the successful attempt of surgeons to gain academic status.
Previously “barber-surgeons” were part of a trade. They were responsible for pulling out teeth, re-setting broken bones, removing warts and other treatments grappling directly with the patients. The word surgeon says it all: It derives from Greek cheir “hand” + ergon “work” – literally “work of the hand”. But handy-work was seen as lowly in comparison with the book-learning. Surgeons therefore sought to hide their tradesman credentials behind the togas of classical learning.
In the process of building the biohacking laboratory at Medical Museion we were putting up hooks for lab coats. But our biohackers, Rüdiger and Malthe, said “no!” – they hardly ever used lab coats. They’d rather use an apron. Lab coats demonstrate a difference in status between scientists and others, aprons don’t. So instead of dressing up in academic shrouds, biohackers take the lab coats off! They eliminate the distance between academic learning the work of the hand.
In this way biohackers are doing the exact opposite of the surgeons. Where the surgeons brought the work of the hand under the aegis of the academy, the biohackers try to set science free again. Instead of playing down that handiwork is an important part of biomedical science, biohackers and DIY-biologists emphasize the connection with slogans such as “get your hands dirty”.
The installation Biohacking: Do-It-Yourself! aims to demonstrate the work of the hand in scientific work and the joy of engaging with the sticky stuff of science. Handiwork is being brought back into the museum and the Academy.
Now, with the lab coats and togas taken off and the hackerlab replaced by the overcoats of our visitors, we still aim to shed togas, lab coats and overcoats to share thoughts, knowledge and techniques.
See a video on biohacking and the project here
See the exhibition web-page here
See an article on the development of the hacker-space: Co-curation as Hacking