Cooper Hewitt

Today I went by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to see Ginkgo Bioworks’ most recent art project, Resurrecting the Sublime. Ginkgo presented this work at SEED 2019, so I had to see it before I left. Ginkgo currently has a push to make GMOs more widely understood and thus hopefully more accepted. The purpose of this art project was to share synthetic biology with the broader public outside the context of research (which can be esoteric & difficult to understand) and consumer products (which can have negative connotations).

Cooper Hewitt was having an exhibition titled Nature focused on understanding and using natural elements in design. The drawings are by Plate, Odontoglossum Grande, Paxton’s Magazine of Botany, and Register of Flowering Plants, vol. 8, 1841. This reminded me of Ernst Haeckel’s Art Forms in Nature which I almost bought at the Met. There was a dress designed by AnotherFarm and made from silk genetically engineered to contain a green fluorescent protein. Textured concrete panels to encourage the growth of moss and lichen designed by Marcos Cruz, Richard Beckett and Javier Ruiz. The building was Andrew Carnegie’s Mansion on Fifth Avenue and the chandelier is original, from Tiffanys and made with turtle shells. There were other tortoise shells and products on display. These reminded me of Pembient’s effort to 3D print keratin to make artificial rhino horns to meet demand without harming rhinos. Now, all ‘tortoise shell’ sunglasses are now made with cellulose acetate. Is there space to make an artificial, but chemically identical, tortoise shell products?

Along the theme of nature inspired products I tried an Impossible Taco for lunch. It is a plant based meat alternative, and it tasted just like meat. Though one of the things I like about meat alternatives, like bean burgers, is that they can have their own more varied flavors.