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Joe Davis: In Search of Paradoxes

Just recently, Joe Davis and Sarah Khan stored 2,417 quintillion angels on the head of a pin. Reason enough to talk to the BioArt pioneer about the connection between art and science.

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He is considered one of the pioneers of BioArt – an art movement that focuses on the connection with scientific findings from biotechnology and genetic engineering. Joe Davis attracted attention as early as the 1980s with his artwork “Microvenus”. He used a resistant microorganism that can survive in space to permanently store information about us humans and thus send it to the most distant places and possible other intelligences in the universe. Thanks to his artistic work, George Church, co-founder of the Human Genome Project, also became aware of him – and was thus also able to use his laboratory. In 2012, Joe Davis received a Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica for the project “Bacterial Radio”, and in 2021 he was once again a welcome guest at the Ars Electronica Festival with “Baitul Ma’mur: House of Angels“.

In this interview with Gerfried Stocker, the artistic director of Ars Electronica, Joe Davis tells us how art and science came together in his life. Was his father, a scientist, happy that he had become an artist? And how did he come up with these unusual connections between art and science? It was not only the inspiring colleagues and the infrastructure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But above all, it was his thirst for knowledge that helped him find these extraordinary stories.