Andy Gracie: Breeding Space Bugs
2 December 2011
Artist Andy Gracie has an interest in Titan, the largest Moon on Saturn which also has the most Earth-like atmosphere in our solar system. (Though here's a space fact for you… Titan has a "methane cycle" which is similar to Earth's water cycle. When it rains, it rains methane...Ew) Methane aside, Gracie states that if there is no life there, it does allow us to study a live environment very close to the probiotic Earth.
For the exhibition Republic of the Moon which opens at FACT on 17 December, Gracie has undertaken an astrobiological experiment which involved him developing a new type of drosophila (a type of fruit fly) which would be able to survive on Titan. This type of fly was an obvious choice for Gracie as since the early 1960s drosophila have been regularly used in experiments on the International Space Station.
Like the work of, Semiconductor, who had their first solo show at FACT this summer, Gracie works very closely with scientists to develop his work. For this project he worked with an expert in ant art, a synthetic biology theorist and a drosophila expert so all in all, a pretty impressive line up. The team worked together to firstly develop a pure breed of drosophila which meant that they had to ensure that the flies were virgins and they had to identify their sex (an interesting day job!). The drosophila were then subjective to a series of experiments which exposed them to various environmental conditions which are found on Titan. The strongest flies from each experiment were selected to form a breeding colony who would become the ancestors of the new Titan-proof drosophila...Drosophila Titanus.
If you want to find out more about Andy Gracie, there's an interesting interview with him here.
You can see the results of Gracie's experiments in The Quest for Drosophilia Titanus as part of Republic of the Moon which opens on the 16 December until the 26 February. Entry is free and the galleries are open from 12 until 6pm Sunday - Thursday and 11am - 6pm Saturday.