BioQuisitive Launch Party: Art, Music, and Science

I’ve been watching the Melbourne DIY bio crowd since before they had their current name and they’ve grown so much over this year. The launch party and fundraiser for BioQuisitive on the 15th of November was a co-production with Beyond Surreal at the Railway Hotel in Brunswick, and ended up running almost twelve hours from 2pm until the wee hours of Monday morning. The space was a mix of trance and electronic music outside and science-inspired art and talks inside, and present throughout was the endlessly energetic and positive Andrew Gray, the proud dad of BioQuisitive.

A large multicoloured model of a bacteriophage in front of a brick wall
A giant phage marks the entrance to the BioQuisitive fundraiser

BioQuisitive aims to set up a citizen science laboratory in Melbourne, and have been holding fundraisers for the better part of 2015 to help achieve this. With the decreasing cost of technology and increasing accessibility to information the BioQuisitive team have seen a need they can provide for.

And they’re certainly engaging the public on science. The range of people at their launch party were completely foreign to those I had met at Future Assembly or would see at a public talk. The free drink offered if you dressed up “as a scientist” only added to the array of outfits on display. (I argued that as a working scientist, I should just be able to show up and retrieve the free drink. I was unsuccessful.)

The art installations inside included the captivating light-inspired works by Molly Patton. Molly describes her work as turning the idea of photography around, making the interactions of light and glass the subject, rather than just the medium of photography. Her photographs on display were created by refraction of light through glass and were stunning in their beauty and simplicity.

Image by Molly Patton.

There were also pieces from Martin Leipziger and Palm Tree Scipt, but more excitingly, these two artists competed in an Art Battle in two one-hour sessions. I only caught the second session, but to see science-inspired art take shape before your eyes was an amazing experience.

I wasn’t just there to admire and soak in the folk-festival-esque energy. Along with some experiments present for all to see (including a tank of spirulina), talks on the subjects of bioethics, collaboration, and DIY bio started from 6pm and continued into the evening. I was up first, opening a talk on bioethics and genetics with a beat poem. After my fifteen minutes of fame, Alicia Boyd spoke about genetically modified organisms and the capacity for citizen science to alleviate many of the social problems surrounding current implementation of genetically modified organisms. Antoinette Bode-Higgerson also talked about “Leave no Trace” and the idea of a rubbish-neutral life – particularly impressive when you note she was a lot of the organisation behind the event.

Unfortunately, I needed to leave shortly after my talk. It was excellent to see science appealing to such a diverse group of people, all of whom were excited and interested to talk to me about the latest breakthroughs. I hope they stay engaged and that BioQuisitive can help stretch their curiosity.

A crowd of people shot from above, dancing in the sun. Some of them have dreadlocks or beanies on.
Hopefully this gives you some of an idea of the range of people present at the Launch party – and how I should never be allowed to try and take a panorama shot.
Three picutres: Top left: green algae growing on fabric within a bell jar. Bottom left: two pieces of artwork, one predominatly brown, the other a pink brain surrounded by eyes. Right: Women with dreadlocks in a top hat, lab coat, black shorts and crop-top.
Top left: Spirulina in a jar. Bottom left: the end of the art battle! Martin Leipziger is on the left, Palm Tree Scipt on the right. Right: Emma Moonshine shows off her science garb and pushes the boundaries of what’s “lab-safe”…

Disappointed you missed out? Worry not, BioQuisitive are having another launch party as part of innovation week! You can also subscribe to the BioQuisitive mailing list on their website.

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