Visit with Joe Davis, Réseau Hexagram’s Distinguished Speaker 14

As part of Réseau Hexagram’s Distinguished Speaker Series, Joe Davis (MIT/Harvard) visited the Speculative Life Lab to meet with Concordia graduate students and affiliate researchers one-on-one and advise them on their research projects and interests.

Joe Davis spent most of his early life in the American Deep South. While earning his Creative Arts degree (1973) from Mt Angel College in Oregon, he pioneered sculptural methods in laser carving at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, University of Cincinnati Medical Center Laser Laboratory and other renowned laboratories. In 1976, Davis signed the first launch services agreement with NASA to fly a payload for the arts on Space Shuttle and in 1980, was the first non-scientist to address Goddard Spaceflight Center’s Engineering Colloquium. He joined MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies in 1981 as a Research Fellow and was appointed Lecturer in Architecture shortly thereafter. In 1986, Davis created the first genetically-engineered work of art and organized the most powerful and lengthily radar signals for extraterrestrial intelligence ever transmitted. In 1989 he created large permanent sculpture, fountain and pedestrian lighting for Kendall Sq. in Cambridge, MA. In the same year Davis joined the laboratory of Alexander Rich at MIT where he is widely regarded to have founded new fields in art and biology. He attached fishing rods and miniscule fish hooks to his microscopes and developed other whimsical instruments that could resolve audio signatures from microorganisms. His “DNA programming languages” for inserting poetic texts and graphics into living organisms are cited in scientific literature. In 2009 Davis transmitted the gene for the most abundant protein on Earth from Arecibo Radar in Puerto Rico to three sun-like stars. In 2010, he joined the laboratory of George Church at Harvard where he is designated “Artist Scientist” In 2011 Davis worked with collaborators to genetically modify silkworms to produce transgenic silks biomineralized with metallic gold. In 2012 he organized an international consortium to sequence the genome of the ancestor of all domestic apples and later, to contain a version of Wikipedia in that same genome.

This series of consultation meetings with individual student researchers was facilitated in the lab by WhiteFeather, and supported by Hexagram-UQAM.

WhiteFeather also participated in a roundtable discussion with Joe Davis at UQAM as part of the Hexagram Distinguished Speaker 14 activities. More on the Hexagram activities, facilitated by Spec Life lab affiliate and UdeM professor, François-Joseph Lapointe, here.


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