Project Description: Soiled
Soiled is the project name for the School of Visual Arts’ participation in the Art and Design track of the 2015 iGEM competition. The project consists of a speculative mobile device and a multimedia installation denoting the respective results of soil samples collected throughout the New York metropolitan area.
The installation functions as both a data representation of our sampling sites and additionally relies on aesthetic principles of investigation. Composed of computer generated cut¬outs in the shapes of the five boroughs of New York City, the works are fabricated from compressed board, lucite sheets and LED lights. As a visual representation, the installation is consistent with the scientific processes of creating chemical color reactions. Color, which crosses the boundaries between art and science as a perceptual marker, is of extreme importance in both practices, pointing at once to the ways knowledge is produced.
In February 2016 a formal art exhibition will be held at the School of Visual Arts Gallery in Chelsea (NYC) to highlight the aesthetic and conceptual aspects of the work as a whole. Various parts of the jamboree installation along with reagents, consumables, prototypes, and graphics will be displayed with descriptions about the piece and statements from the student artists who took part in the competition.
If you are what you eat, then you are what your food eats.
With the recent trend of urban gardening flourishing in metropolitan areas it may be time to evaluate what is in our plant’s soil. The five boroughs of New York City are no exception. From the backyard gardens to the rooftop farms, New Yorkers of all ages have taken up the quest for do-it-yourself edible and ornamental greenery. Many citizens assume their backyard is a “clean” place well suited for planting vegetables and flowers. This may not be the case. Soil health is important for the home gardener; however, most of the methods for determining said health use chemicals that are toxic. It is the intention of Soiled to develop an alternative non-toxic and reliable method for processing soil samples.
Microfluidic cartridge and portable compatible device
For our project we ultimately decided to work with colors of the landscape, both of which are instrumental to the fields of art and science. Color is a subjective sensation in which photons report to the brain in your visual system. Placed side by side colors are mixed by the eye itself as impression, as demonstrated in Claude Monet’s work. As artists, the notion of applying color as a means of depicting a landscape is nothing new, so naturally we were intrigued by the potential of using colorimetric analysis of soil nutrients to generate color profiles of locations sampled.
By replacing the toxic chemical based laboratory standard of soil analysis with a colorimetric biological analog we can provide a safer alternative. We will genetically engineer E.coli K-12 to express various chromoproteins in the presence of molecules that pertain to soil and plant nutrition. Our plan is to produce a microfluidic chip that will house the necessary reagents, biological or otherwise. Any harmful materials that cannot be replaced will be minimized and sequestered within the device to limit the user’s exposure to potential biological and/or chemical hazards. The microfluidic cartridge will be loaded into a portable device and integrated with compatible technologies, such as a phone and it’s case. The “color data” can be captured and measured by the phone’s camera, eliminating human error. This data will be instantly uploaded into an app that provides accurate feedback regarding what crops are ideal for the current soil conditions and what measures need to be taken to adjust soil for desired crops.