Human germline gene editing is bioart: an open letter to Lulu and Nana
Published 1 September 2021 by Adam Zaretsky
Adam Zaretsky is an American Wet-Lab Art Practitioner mixing Ecology, Biotechnology, Non-human Relations, Body Performance and Gastronomy. In his last contribution of his summer series of speculative texts, he proposes a letter to Lulu and Nana, the controversial “CRISPR babies” born in November 2018. The fœtuses genomes were edited to prevent HIV by Chinese scientist He Jiankui, an act for which he was found guilty of forging documents and unethical conduct in 2019 and sentenced to three years in prison with a three-million-yuan fine (400,000€).
Dr. He Jiankui led a research project to use CRISPR technology to add human enhancement gene CCR5-Δ32 into the genome of the zygotes of 露露 and 娜娜 (Lulu and Nana). This letter is meant to help the twins understand their cultural importance and explore lines of quandary they may not be privy to otherwise. This letter is to Lulu and Nana from the Bioarts Ethical Advisory Komission (BEAK). It pertains to the cultural aesthetics of germline human gene editing. Exploring the role of aesthetic breadth in manufacturing of transgenic humans, this letter utilizes art history and cultural criticism to review the Legal, Ethical, Societal and Libidinal implications (LESLi) of human genetic engineering as bioart. It calls for restrictions against the knocking-in of human gene edits that have been convincingly demonstrated to cause, or to strongly predispose, kindred to the diseases of cultural banality, naïve human enhancement style, or adverse normalization. Beyond offering an artistic regulatory framework for human mutant creativity in vivo, this letter offers clarification, redefinition and contestational advice directly to Lulu and Nana.
Adam Zaretsky, Ph.D., BioArtist, Principal at Bioarts Ethical Advisory Komission (BEAK) Invited Guest, International Summit, The Human Gene Editing Initiative, National Academy of Science, Washington D.C. 2012 in conversation with moderator Hank Greely:
“We are actually talking about programming our own future genome and the concept of the human is less queer than the technology. This is where the artists sometimes come in. I’m looking at health or health betterment, which is optimization. Enhancement falls under optimization of the human genome. But that would be us making ourselves into a monoculture based on traditional humans. It’s really strange but we would be heirloom GMO humans or organic GMO humans. Without looking at alternative aesthetics, we are falling into the problem of disability studies for transgenic humans. Psychosocial problems of transgenic humans might be because anything but traditional human form is perceived as monstrous. And yet, we are actually altering form to a great degree and it is under the aegis of health itself. And that is not enough.”
Hank Greely, Law and Bioscience, Stanford University:
“Responses? Thoughts?” After a brief pregnant silence, Hank himself responds:
“I do think that civilization, or whatever you call what humans have been doing for the last 10,000 years has made huge changes in who we are, what we look like and what our allele frequencies are. So there is some continuity at least, in our discontinuity.”
Dr. He Jankiui presents the new born Lulu and Nana in 2018:
An Open Letter to 露露 and 娜娜 (Lulu and Nana): Gene Editing of Human Embryos and the Biological Arts
sent From: Adam Zaretsky
Date: Fri, Aug 30, 2019 at 6:02 PM
Dear Lulu and Nana, and the parents of 露露 and 娜娜,
Wow, 露露 and 娜娜, welcome to our world. You were born under the aegis of health itself but you were also born in the river of queer that flows through all time. At the advent of the Second International Summit on Human gene editing, news of your birth was intentionally leaked to the press. You and your parents were given pseudonyms/anonymity. There is controversy surrounding your existence. You are the first officially designed, engineered, or creatively transformed transgenic people on earth. By no choice of your own, you have been born as an example of reprogenetic biopower. You are already a technological fascination and you might as well enjoy it.
I am writing you to let you know that despite the many attempts to define your futures, there are many ways for you to interpret your lives as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Your animal familiars have punk/generic kitsch stage names like yours: OncoMouse, Brainbow Mouse, GloFish, AquaBounty Salmon, Herman the Bull and Schwarzenegger Sheep. One possibility for interpreting your GMO identities is to consider yourselves art! The role of the arts is underrated in the supposed reasoning behind the global push toward normalizing Human Gene Editing. But your genes have not been merely designed, tailored or engineered. You are the sculptural results of a maudlin minimalism built from a conceptual arts practice into a biomedium as altered life itself. Since you are currently ripening for real television, you might consider how to not become merely child stars destroyed by fame. Your very existence and any of your future inborn germline relations are actually time-based, new media.
Lulu and Nana, I have some bad news and I have some good news. The bad news is, you are just the art, you are not the artists. If you are used as milk carton kids, both for and against Human Germline Genetic Modification (IGM), then you were born of the parent-scientists and, through the deliberate use of the Yellow Light of Bioethics, the parent-voices of the Human Gene Editing Initiative as well. The Yellow Light of Bioethics refers to the stalling of and threatening moratorium as a way of both representing caution for the cautious while sending a signal to speed up and make those GMO babies before the light turns red. Implicit in yellow-light ethics is that the light can turn red at any moment but hardly ever does. This is a threat/hint to scientists who work in controversial areas: edit a bit for the public, as the yellow light only turns red when public relations go sour. While the yellow light is a warning light, it also implies to researchers that the window of going forward may close if they don’t rush through the yellow light as fast as possible.
In the world of university and corporate research, ethicists on funded ESLI committees are for shills for hire or Rent-a-Priests if not entirely private and in-house affairs. Replacing religion with secular (legal) judgments on appropriate utilization of new technical potentials for tweaking life, the job of the applied bioethicist is to allow voice to all concerns, weigh the benefits (often the retirement benefits) and nearly always advise moving forward with caution as fast as possible. This is the economy of responsible legal oversight in a culture of innovation, futurism, competition and dynamistic speed: the usury of the concept of caution. And this is the impetus, spurred the wild technophiliac futurists and their investment groups in the lab bench to bedside pipeline.
Your actual father’s sperm, mother’s eggs and womb were predominantly tools or hosts for a special research project of techno-parenting. Your parents actually include Dr. He Jiankui, his collaborators and confidantes including but not limited to: Lin Zhitong, Shenzhen HarMoniCare Women and Children’s Hospital Ethics review board, Stephen Quake, Bill Efcavitch, Yu Jun, Michael W. Deem, Shenzhen’s Peacock Plan, Xie Bingwen, John Zhang, Pei Duanqing, Baihualin, George Church, Mark Dewitt, Craig Mello, Qin Jinzhou, Renli Zhang, William Hurlbut, Ben Hurlbut, Ryan Ferrell, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Rice University, Stanford University, Matthew Porteus, Qin Jinzhou, Putian Group (8000+ Private Hospitals), China’s Thousand Talents Plan (TTP), South University of Science and Technology of China, International Investors, multiple National Governments, as well as David Baltimore and the Human Gene Editing Initiative body in its entirety. These are the people and institutions that as a whole allowed for your existence and afterwards most feigned repulsion so they might be considered the overly permissive yet kvetching ethic-yentas of this whole kerfuffle. They are your hive of autochthonic, reprogenetic breeders.
On a brighter note, you are your own agitprop, tactical media. You are readymades with open reading frames. You are open to future interpretations, some of which are yours to decide. In a general welcoming disclaimer, you are not alone in being born without being asked. All of us have wondered at times what the reasoning behind our parents’ choices to conceiving us was. No one consents to be born and, often, we were the result of the blindness caused by love, lust, greed, inebriation, arranged marriages or other banal utilitarian practicalities. The genetic shuffle caused by conception is based on chance, random permutation, jazz. Even in the arts, this does not always connote excellence, novelty, iconoclasm or even baseline banality. Your signature genetic event occurred in a prepersonal moment during the shuffle of zygotic chromosomal interpretation. And you were born into a global society with influential ethical and practical control issues that are very hard to unclench or get beyond.
This letter is to help you understand the role of the arts in your embodied alterity and how the arts might help interpret the world for you both. Just as the human body is not merely décor, the arts do not merely dress up debate. You may be experimental human subjects to some, but in art as art you carry the strong ability to make your markedness into your own kind of remarkable. I hope the following alternative assessment helps you both eventually find some modicum of identity interpretation, both public and private, which will offer you more fulfillment than being merely a publicity stunt for scientism.
Bioart-based genetically modified human build projection
Lulu and Nana, you should not be overly worried about germline human gene editing. You were simply born with “added value” from New Reproductive techniques. The off-target mutations and downstream metabolic abnormalities that can be expected might be novel knowledge for future clinical trials or just novel. Retrospectively, our misplaced worries stemmed from the fact that a large percentage of human genetic breeder assistance providers may not have had the Art Historical schooling that most creatives of Future Genetic Aesthetics will have had. Right now, the only type of ‘taste’ we can see publically embedded in IGM in your Human Germlines is CCR5-Δ32. As interventionist babies, I fear your inborn aesthetics are based on ramping up health production. Yes, the plan is to spend millions of proprietary research dollars on making copies of human sires/sows whose profitability is based on medical tropes of health as beauty alone. Yes, we are missing much of what contemporary art can lend to the contemporary breeding of posthuman novelty.
What are the cultural aesthetics of our ecological future?
露露 and 娜娜, you were bred by industry. Decisions were made for you. You are babies, designed along a weak plurality of aesthetic lineages. The broadening of the diverse human palette is important globally. As new transgenic lines, your altered metabolisms may have an impact on the future of ecology and diversity of our planet. As competitively designed meat puppets take up more and more of the terrestrial grazing land, we have come to understand that we live on a planet dominated by humans and their quest for autochthonic control. Designed and cloned transgenic humans like you are limited editions, but it is my hope that you can reproduce and stabilize independently. As Transgen[ic].people, you may be proud, differently abled persons. By some, you may be treated as an alien/foreign species (or at least non-native, postnatural, bioengineered genus), brought forth from technological sites and going free range into our international interiors. But, are you and your mutant sibling capable of initiating enough gene expression pattern dissonance for us to want to live with y’all for generations to come? Sometimes, real-time congenital health cures are not enough. There is an economy of aesthetics, which will drive the ecological effect of our engineered future.
How do we decide who is worth engineering for which conceptual dalliances?
Transgenic Human Genetic Modification Babies can be designed along a wide variety of Aesthetic gene expression action plans. Considering the true range of germline expressionism possible in a collage of multiple genomic palettes, and considering the span that time-based, new-media sculptures like you might carry on for, we should critically question the use of health, enhancement, economic efficiency or even popular (domestic) culture to drive acceptable GMO baby design. Culture, health, enhancement and profitability are neither simple concepts nor should they be our only deciding forces for future embodied design. What lies beyond public acceptance of the technology? Have your lives been offered up in order to ameliorate the leveling influences of public trend, medical bias and marketing anti-diversity? Are you the novelty Transgenic Human production schemas in this regulatory framework? Are you the human beta tests, barely modified yet proof of concept for even more radical tailoring, as if you were genetic placeholders for a burgeoning cloud? How can niche power be brokered in this global competition for more unusual kindred? Lulu and Nana, what sort of engineered babies do you want to produce, and would you like to produce them as artists or scientists?
What can an understanding of the arts bring to human design?
Thanks to the social acceptance that your embodied process helps to foster, the history of art may finally come to some use for humanity! The pipeline runs free expression through fertility brokers into CRISPR Shacks hanging up their shingles and into all sorts of novel replicant applications for public purview. Implicitly, there is an aesthetic hazard of breeding without a proper understanding of global creative culture. I hope that a working knowledge of our shared species-based artistic heritage will be taken into account when your brothers and sisters of the transgenic fold are sculpted in the future. The arts represent a great asset for IGM design and a great way to insure that the future isn’t born looking dull, retrograde, healthy-ish and a bit too sketchy.
Without a firm grasp of Art History, you, 露露 and 娜娜, as spokes-children for the cloned and genome-tweaked denizens of this earth, may never rise above representing our national and international goals as G20 food producers, drug pushers and global consumer designers. The admixture of biologically exuberant interspecies variety through genetic engineering and the cloning of spectacular hereditary cascades should only be approved through an aesthetic advisory commission made up of artists, art historians, off-the-locus aesthetics specialists and subaltern bioethical tangentialists. The future of style and the avoidance of populous birthings of any aesthetic hazards are dependent on collaboration between new reproductive biotechnology and the arts. It is for this reason that the Bioart Ethical Advisory Kommission (BEAK) was established.
Bioart Ethical Advisory Kommission
The BEAK was established to provide artistic oversight and ethical assessment for bioart applications. Covering such things as biosafety, recombinant safety, animal and other non-human or semi-human care and use as well as housing and enrichment for bioart projects. BEAK reviews legal, ethical, societal and libidinal implications (LESLI) of bioartistic production. This includes research and development as well as issues in installation, exhibition and humane sacrifice. Assessments are made on a product, process and project basis through artistic risk versus artistic benefit analysis. The following two sections are BEAK Art and Ethics white papers for public discussion.
BEAK LESLI transgenic human arts review
Scientism’s busiest artists are off FACS sorting germline-altered human reproductive hESC tissue into clean and well-fed culture flasks. The experimental designs of your birthright included a performance of species widening art criticism. Whether it is in the Germline, Whole Organisms, Somatic bodies or Tissue-Cultured Cell Therapeutics (CT), Human Gene Editing is an ART of forming an unlimited edition (multiple multigenerational originals as opposed to one of a kind genus/species) of a novel altered human trajectory. Were these protocols used to refabricate your heredity an esoteric, abject and non-utilitarian breeding project? Perhaps, unintentionally, as Science is a Subset of Conceptual Minimalist Arts Practice. But there are many other art movements, i.e. Ancient art, Modernist art, Contemporary and postContemporary art. It is the range of emotive contortionism that the arts provide that gives artists and arts reviewers a special Human Gene Editing advisory role to play in this debate on the future of GMO Humanity. Some examples for the future of art history and anatomy:
– Rococo Biolistic Transgenic Arts
– Synchromism Electroporation Germline Arts
– DNA Op Art Stemcell Microinjection Arts
– Constructed Painting Lipofection Genetic Art
– Practitioners of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Domestic Genetic Art
– Kitsch Art-Brut Garage Outsider Punk Artificial Womb HESc Arts
– The Inherited ‘Case Against Art’ Living Antiart Engineered Arts
For the Science Technology community that needs and art and biotech primer here is a short lexicon:
1. Rococo is a form of art that started in the late baroque of the 1700s emphasizing a madness for detailed elaboration and ornate, asymmetrical flourishes leading to a conspicuous consumption of the senses. The florid details stand as monuments in direct opposition to the pared down Minimalism of the Protestant Reformation. In the case of applied sculptural benefits to the future of engineered babies, this would be a good bet for a movement dedicated to battling the obsessive compulsive urge to defragment and minimalize the future of human form in the name of elegant purity and plainness that seems to be a goal of many a transhumanist idealist.
2. Biolistic technology utilizes viral vector soaked transgene infection construct soaked nanoparticle as projectiles. Nanoparticles can be shot using the pressure of an air pistol. This ‘gene gun’ mechanism is used to literally blast novel genetic traits into living nuclei and hence aid the proximity toward a proliferation of sci-desire into the genome of choice.
3. Synchronism is an art movement that pandered to synesthesia, attempting to make paintings with color arrangements the viewer can feel as audible orchestrations. Abstract and gaudy, this might correspond to future humans with squid color communication abilities or just gaudy, abstract, orchestrated posthumans of a forgettable nature.
4. Electroporation is a method of gene transfer that uses high voltage pulses to get heritable plasmids inside the nuclear membrane and in touch with the genome to be impregnated with the genetic alteration payload.
5. Op Art is a genre of art that specializes in optical illusion. Popular during the postwave of 1960s psychedelic art. OpArt claims non-objectivity and entertains through cognitive perceptual limits and headache producing moiré patterns. This could certainly be applied to making people that appear the opposite of camouflaged, twenty-four-hour party people and parents in need of an Austin Powers styled kin for talking points or easy recognition in a crowd.
6. Microinjection is a process of injection transgene introducing products into the nucleus of individual cells or recent zygotes one at a time to induce genetic difference engines into the genome of that cell.
7. Constructed Painting is a process of dimension in painting often through cutting up a painting and raising and lowering portions as well as making a painting non-rectangular or of amorphous shape. In the case of transgenic art, it would pertain to adding extra dimensionality to a person’s anatomical development through genetic cuts and non-intuitive, hox/pax segmentation repatterning.
8. Lipofection is a fat-soluble transport mechanism of transfecting cellular genomes with transgenic constructs. Immersion or topical applications can have a non-invasive entrance to the proximal genomic payload though what appears to be a slightly irritating massage oil.
9. Domestic art is a term coined by Crosley Bendix: Cultural Reviewer and Director of Stylistic Premonitions, World Media Net Web, 2016. Domestic Art is a form of suburbanite art-brut challenging the creative use of household products like marshmallow fluff, sofas and the tearing of wallpaper as well as juice sponge blotting of said torn wallpaper in the process of art production. This could crossover with some of the DIY-Bio protocols using household products to achieve a demystified protocol for biotechnological feats.
10. Art-Brut is autodidactic art, art of the insane, the untrained and the illiterate (preferably all three.) Art-Brut in the human germline is akin to the sort of ‘bull in a china shop’ current passages of genes into the human gonads, germlines and genealogies. Though technically less than perfect, the general appreciation for transgenic humanity nets a mere untrained eye plodding along to form a charismatically unprofessional, rugged and paranoid embodiment.
11. Kitsch Art is art that strives for the lowest common denominator at any cost, a sort of mix between Hello Kitty and Fascism that is popular culture in all its well-researched commodity forms. Most pop designer babies will generally fall into this genre of aesthetics by the time they get to mass markets. This is one of the major reasons that artistic breadth is so important in the target group diversification of offered baby style in the future. In order to reconcile human kitschification, art diversification needs to be a part of the equation. Even Pop Art has second or even third-level irony to keep it from total kitschification.
12. HESc is Human Embryonic Stem Cells, each of which can be formed into implantable embryonic bodies. A single flask or frozen aliquot represents millions of potential clones or transgenic clones for mass marketing.
13. Antiart goes back to Dadaism, and it is Art that destroys the deification of art and in some ways destroys itself. This seems to be the probably net result of our meddling in the human germline and in that sense germline human genome editing has a friend in Dadaism.
BEAK LESLI aesthetic oversite: artistic regulatory restrictions and structures
The Organizing Committee for the BEAK Clinical has reached the following conclusions. Trials using heritable germline editing should be permitted only after Aesthetic review in an Artistic Regulatory framework that includes the following criteria, restrictions and structures:
– restriction against the knocking-in of gene edits that have been convincingly demonstrated to cause or to strongly predispose kindred to the disease of cultural banality, the condition of esoteric-lessness showing evidence of adverse normalizing;
– comprehensive plans for long-term, multigenerational follow-up, mating schemas, entertainment contracting and pornographic options, all the while still respecting personal autonomy;
– restrictions in place preventing naïve enhancement optimism aesthetics in the human genome as pragmatic and utilitarian arguments are not enough to insure contemporary artistic standards (unless level of Hyperrealism meets peer practitioner standards);
– maximum arty opacity while still being consistent with the legal invasion of patient privacy;
– emotional alternatives informing editing structures and goals have been formed in the aesthetic absence of reason;
– restrictions to allowing a serious kitsch disease or poor aesthetic conditioning respected (unless level of irony meets Contemporary standards);
– ongoing, rigorous oversight during clinical trials of the aesthetics of the procedure and the exhibition and documentation of the research participants;
– continued reassessment of je ne sais quoi in terms of both artistic and aesthetic benefits and risks, with broad ongoing participation and input by the artists, art historians and art critics on gene constructs of mutagenic choice;
– reliable subaltern insight oversight mechanisms to prevent extension of technology to uses other than creating serious art or novel and iconoclastic conditions; and
– availability of incredible or even unbelievable pre-clinical and/or clinical data on risks and potential contemporary time-based, new media bioart benefits due to successful indoctrination, infiltration and transgene infection of multigenerational procedures.
Even those who will support this recommendation are unlikely to arrive at it by the same guarantee of lack of reasoning that the arts are honed to provide. For those who find the esoteric sufficiently compelling, the above criteria represent a commitment to promoting queer being and alternative-beings within a framework of informed consent and freedom of expression.
Beyond health and beauty lies a glut of diverse industrial beings, born with positive anomalous security for the sake of the widest range of diverse and divergent feelings that action/reaction/abreaction can attain. Consider what a gifted retro-garde cubist could bring to the table. Lulu and Nana, are your mosacisms a form of Humanity Plus (H+) cubism beyond any chance of prepersonal agency?
DNA ID DECON – Problems in Techno-Ancestry in the 1000 Vaginas Project, Ancestry DNA Debate Remash Video, Part of Popu Popu: Power to the Populations, Ars Bioarctica Residency, Kilpisjärvi biological, hosted by Bioart society, Finland, July 2018:
Human gene editing initiative: oversight or mission creep?
The Human Gene Editing Initiative pits raw research against consumer rights and always (p)references industrial interests. Propaganda in the media has been thoroughly against any real talk of a Human Gene Editing moratorium. For these reasons, it was only after your announced births that the popularization of stigma toward the voice of prevention temporarily waned. Before your actual dreamy birthrights, most of the talking points focused on the improved health of the unborn (also read as curing infertility). Your parents and you, as their germline-altered kin, are now both registered as key to both opening and closing the regulatory approval pipeline meant to revamp our genetic commons.
According to Dr. Marcie Donovsky, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics in Society (CGS), You, Lulu and Nana are radical experiments! Dr. Donovsky announces that you are part of a sort of remastered race for niche markets, a sort of techno founder effect, test subjects for future presales. Speaking to the Food and Drug Administration Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Dr. Donovsky states:
“The elephant in the room of course is inheritable genetic modification…possibly putting in motion a regime of high tech consumer eugenics…. Think about mission creep…. These manipulations are not meant to treat people who are sick and suffering, … what we’re talking about is radical experiments on future children and future generations.”
The Human Gene Editing Initiative continues to be a test of public reaction to future coordinated FDA rubber stamp oversight for rarified posthuman genome productions. But, for your sake露露 and 娜娜, I hope these staged debates will not be limited to policy wonks assuaging industry and science. There are other ways to read into this project of making our world into a transgenic world, of making our species into a transgenic species. There are debates and research trajectories that take us further than any informed but placid debate built on keeping legislation to a minimum and autonomy in the hands of the practitioners.
露露 and 娜娜, you are beings in the world: posthumans, transhumans and transgenic humans. Your entitiness, your existence was a grand festival of techno-celebration for some and horror for others. You are the start of a new kind of human breed marketing. The ritual welcoming of you into the world is an ecstatic, global cultural event. Please make yourselves at home!
HGEI/EPA/CDC/(ELSI)/ATF/GMO-VD.STD/DOI/NEA: regulatory Hurdles or Hurdling regulations?
Just so you know, you are listed on the trait exchange as ‘derived from bioengineering’. The big debates leading up to you were certainly forms of human desire. Cloned transgenic meat and milk-producing mutant livestock are not in existence for industry and consumers alone. They represent Radical Food Science for gastronomical wonders: a connoisseur’s cow, an epicurean gourmet goat. Oocyte transplant technique, our so-called three parent babies, which could be thought of as born of mitochondrial swapping or hot mess ovum techno clone juggled lab kin, are also organisms groomed by repro-genetic germline stylists. Perhaps, we could say that you are trending both as genetic memes and memetic genes.
Dr. He Jiankui (or JK, his preferred nickname) and many others are now the parent-curators of novel versions of new human form, consciousness, constitution and temperament. The scientists and technicians who altered genomes and ovum of the zygote are now a formal human sexual selection pressure. These skill sets happen to hover over a Bermuda triangle of current legal streams. Who or what are cloned, transgenic humans? Is it up to the doctors, lawyers, politicians and executives to decide this question? Lulu and Nana your voices may not carry much weight in this world of doublespeak and business as usual, but it’s important that you head off any zombie living death slavery expectations that your maker culture might have for your social media personas.
In the USA, the FDA currently regulates knock-in gene pool additives. Nana and Lulu, are you a form of new livestock, a food or a drug? What is your regulated use for governments or science in general? Are you proprietary, are you cosmetic, are you medical devices, are you tissue cellular and gene therapy (GT) products? Are you legally human, sub-human, superhuman, posthuman or non-human? Are you true to type future replicant sister minions built for free market parental investment and performance enhanced expectations? Are you just literary clichés from Frankensteinian literature or are you the actualization of these Pygmalian agalmatophilian dreams?
We can agree, you are GMOs capable of ecological diaspora. Instead of the FDA, do you think you should be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? As whole organisms, are you not foreign species or a potentially invasive alien family of semi-humans? Perhaps, all our future Lulus and Nanas should then be registered and monitored under the National Invasive Species Management Plan through the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)? “The threats posed by invasive species cannot be confined by geographic boundaries; given this, Federal leadership is necessary.”
On the other hand, perhaps your global potential to transmit radically novel traits to your offspring makes your existence a form of congenital venereal disease (VD) or a technologically assisted sexually transmitted disease (TA-STD)? In that case perhaps you would be regulated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? As a proponent of your free, global reign, I would simply remind your critics that it is not just transgenes, but all of humanity and all of life is a communicable infestation. Life is a sexually transmitted disease.
Sure, you and all the Lulus and Nanas of the present and the future are the remashes that most resemble vaporwave in semi-human form. Stolen loops of retro banality have been mined from the memories of biodiversity and juxtaposed into your particulate heredity cascade through your carnal flesh, carnal gonads and carnal kindred. The flat affect of these acts of frenzied lust arrives from the traumas of being out of control and command as recomposed through wry objectivism.
On yet another hand, perhaps, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF or BATF) should have oversight on methods of transgenesis (i.e. microinjection, electroporation, lipofection and biolistics) and the viral vectors they disseminate? These technologies are both congenital firearms and anatomical explosives. I wonder if transgens are covered under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction also known as the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)? There are questions of viral load, shedding and potentials for going airborne even for somatic GT. Phobic kneejerk fears of latently contagious droplets and contact precautions are not usually required beyond a few hours after the time of transmission of the infectious gene agent.
On the fourth hand, if we want affirmative overcoming of bioethical guilt in the shadow of utilitarian pragmatism, we can proceed without the work of the negative, following the artistic logic of this open letter. For instance, the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) might be the proper regulatory oversight bureaucracy for approving transgenic human reprotech kid production. Nana and Lulu, you are the most important sculptural, time-based, new media arts project of the century! Yet, your conception had no arts oversight.
Semi-identical lifespan predictions: nana heterozygote for the CCR5-∆32 mutation, Lulu Mosaic for the CCR5-∆32 mutation
Some bad news just in from Nature Magazine, the CCR5-∆32 mutation you were made homozygote mutants from will shorten your lifespan average. According to Emma Yasinski of The Scientist:
“Using genetic sequences and vital statistics from hundreds of thousands of people, the team finds that people with two copies of the mutation had a 21 percent higher likelihood of dying by age 76 than those with only one copy or no copies.”
Oops, JK just shortened your general mortal lifetime by one-fifth. This is merely a statistic but your immunity against other diseases, including the common flu and West Nile Virus may find you more incapacitated (including spiked mortality rates) than most, so take care.
On a brighter note, only one of you has both genes.
Thus, Nana would still be susceptible to HIV infection. Although He demonstrated that Lulu was homozygous for the disrupted CCR5-Δ32 gene, this child may also be genetically mosaic, which means that Lulu may carry some edited cells and some unedited cells.
So, Nana, you are not enhanced, but you may have a longer life expectancy; Sorry about the lack of super memory and analytical skills, sorry about your non-resistance to AIDS. And may you live long and prosper. You are the control, also known as the wild type. You are actually less life threateningly susceptible to West Nile Virus or the flu than Lulu.
And Lulu, some added difficulties. Along with added functions, you are potentially more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and strokes. Watch your RHOA: Transforming protein RhoA levels; MAPK: Mitogen-activated protein kinase levels; GM-CSF: Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor levels; BMP-2: Bone morphogenetic protein two levels; BMP-4: Bone morphogenetic protein four levels; BMSCs: Bone marrow stromal cells levels. Pay attention to loose connective tissue, floppy joints and take your PTK2B: Protein-tyrosine kinase 2-beta pills. Sorry for helicopter parenting.
There is some other obscure news in for you Lulu. You are mosaic in your sculptural, metabolic, cognitive decals. This means that some of your cells may be modified, and some of them may be heirloom human. The tangible hybrid patterning of your body plan may be of a wide variety. Your mix of transgenic and original, heirloom human genome may have been expressed as left side-right side, upper body-lower body or even diagonally. There is also the potential that you are genetically modified in a motley patter of random cell types. It is even possible that you have merely one pinky finger of genetic insert legible in your bodily form. Check out the developmental biology of gynandromorphy, and you will see that is at times downright palomino. You may be a chimera, a mix of two genetic identities, a multimodal plurality, a remix, even a moiré patterned behavioral and metabolic op art success story!
The direction of multifactorial gene action is reverberatory. So, knowing what scientific acts you are performing at the molecular level is still hard. My artistic suggestion is to own the complexities of the actual experience of your differences as genetic interventions. Again, there is no normal, and being wild type is no better in terms of managing difference. Random shuffling through sexual attraction alone does not a clean house keep. Honestly, we have yet to figure out the complete metabolism of even Escherichia coli bacteria, and gene expression’s role in life’s forming is, let’s just call it, complicated.
The experiment continues…
I have seen that your parents signed an informed and consenting release form to allow you to be guinea pigs in the most important twin study since Josef Mengele’s stint. That deal should only last until you are adults and can negotiate your own terms. I would consider lawyering up! If there are physical or emotional complications or your PR team needs some gossip during a lull period, you can always sue for wrongful life. Talk to the legal team that represents the family survivors of Henrietta Lacks (mother of the HeLa cells) or one of the lawyers who filed civil suits against the estate of Jeffery Epstein. After all, He Jiankui is the Jeffery Epstein of Biotech.
In your case, 露露 and 娜娜, the choice of Shenzhen for the actuation of the Human Gene Editing proponents was actually a case of biotech neocolonialism. By positioning certain protocols in technical feats through US and UK universities and hospitals, the birthing was requisitioned, possibly even fielded out to the Silicon Valley of China, the ‘wild west’ of the east, the center of Chinese innovation and container ports for distribution. The lack of subtlety in the choice of China to give you life was in no way accidental. Racism and traditional eugenic history informed who and where this type of public outing of an oft repeated experiment was actuated. Having witnessed the first International Summit of the Human Gene Editing Initiative, my artistic intuition picked up a global plan between collaborative science foundations. The labs broke the process into parts to conform to multinational legal loopholes. It was imperative to stay legalish and it was decided to let China do the dirty work of going full term. Global working groups at the Human Gene Editing Initiative allowed China to take the prize of being first and were pleased to see you, Lulu and Nana, come to fruition as a controversial twin study in a non-US or EU context simply for the sake of protestant propriety.
Meanwhile, please excuse all the poking and prodding, scanning and samples. Medical culture has a scopic tendency, and hospitals are sort of just lab experiments with closed-circuit TV and bad food. Your blood and tissues are historic, so you may see a lot of doctors. Eventually, scientists, governments and renegades will want your eggs. More than likely, someone has already sampled your ovaries and sequenced your ovum payload. This is more about your grandkids than you alone. What can I say optimistically? The proof is in the pudding, but Life is resilient and keeps going. It is bigger than science and a strange cavalcade, and mutations happen all the time. The deleterious and the enhanced are intermingled, and we all go with what we’ve got. So, Lulu and Nana, make the best of life. You are not just tools for a global lab experiment. There is a lot to enjoy, and you should find your own ways.
The Libidinal Economy of Aseptic Containment, Interpersonal Protective Equipment (IPE), presented at TTT “Taboo – Transgression – Transcendence in Art & Science” 2020, Session – “NSP16 / Allure”:
Iconoclasm as biosecurity and BioPorn
露露 and 娜娜, just so you know, long before your very secret and then very public birth, actual experiments in germline genetic engineering of the human genome have been going on covertly for quite some time, including live births, particularly in private hospitals, farms and labs. In the US, no one has been granted any public funding for these projects (except the Pentagon), but private collectors can make any human breeds they design as corporate IVF+. Furthermore, human trials worldwide have been developing lines of humans with both human and non-human properties. This is all unverifiable hearsay of high probability correctness. So, there are potentially tons of Lulus and Nanas currently growing as NextGEN™ CRISPr transgenhuman beings.
They are queer like all of us, multiplying like clockwork oranges and they are your seestras. The nuclear membrane of the ovum is now ground zero for an inward blebbing space race of competing transgenic futures. The ironing out of inherited mistakes is a gateway drug to the baroque of inherited Genetic Modification Orgiastics (i-GMO) potentials. In some ways, you were both born as a PR stunt to perpetuate the practice of germline genetic gonad tweaking. Your very existence is meant to aid and abed the supposed defragmenting and optimization of the species’ genome through heavy-handed meddling. Your lives, as experimental beings, are a gateway drug, mainlining into the mainstream as poster children of the Human Gene Editing movement. But from a ritual process standpoint, you are the world’s totem germline initiation transgens.
Nana and Lulu, I truly hope the CRISPR constructs don’t cause you to die early of cancer, chromosomal breakage or CCR5-∆32 mutation complications and you live long enough to reach a mature enough phase to be able to read a version of this letter. You are unique life forms who should be seen for who you are and not for your public difference. I respect your anonymity, but it will probably not hold. At an age where you can be exposed to adult topics, I hope you will receive well the following comments on the charismatic attraction of your otherness as outputs of experiments in art and science.
I am worried that your biopop infamy will potentially find you caught between smothering worship and xenophobic death threats. It is well known that drives drive drives in the vital splay of life forming, and Eros has a penchant for the mesmerism of obsession. Therefore, if you are the product of obsession, it would behoove you to have some understanding of the economies of desire and the role of excess as an investment in proudly aberrant foci. Understanding the specific gravity of the seductive potential of your sexual selectivity is important for your development, as you have been made as objects of heritable curiosity. In other words, you have been born to be bred as research subjects heralded by the worst of scientism, but you may usurp expectations and allow your anomalousness to be libidinally empowering. Nothing could belittle or objectify you more than to be pimped out through clinical partnering as part of a rational breeding program based on heritage alone.
To put it country simple, human genome editing and the concept of human enhancement might be multi-generational eugenics, but it is also based on a fetish of control. It may be unsafe, insane and beyond any prepersonal potential for consent, but it is a form of repro-gonad fucking. In utero, tailoring is a sort of genome bondage and you are in it. Someone else had a little genetic foreplay with your hereditary cascade. You are bioart, a sadomasochistic vision of nature in shibari. This is the vamping of nature’s love of mutation, a sort of drag mocking of nature and a freak show to be sure. These biologists put you in a zendai suit of permanent multigenerational cosplay to mock actual ecologies. The obsessing and compulsive monomanias that you are subjects in are sadistic, but you are also inborn kinky, differently abled transgressions. No one but an artist dares to voice it, but this is a form of mesmerizing charisma and can work in your favor.
Toward posthuman rights
Lulu and Nana, it is my honor to support you as free range and internationally migratory beings. Even those who will agree with this recommendation are unlikely to arrive at it by the same guarantee of lack of reasoning that the arts are honed to provide. For those who find the esoteric sufficiently compelling, the above criteria represent a commitment to promoting queer being and alternative-beings within a framework of informed consent and freedom of expression. Those not completely persuaded that the aesthetics outweigh the social concerns may nonetheless conclude that even the anti-aesthetic as criteria for human gene editing, if properly implemented, should allow free range toward a harassment-free global citizenship climate for our trending difference populations.
The Human Gene Editing Initiative is simply a quorum of voices and collaborative, coordinated global actions that is responsible for grooming the public into tacit acceptance of the process of making you. It comes as no surprise that global bioethics would be found wanting, predatorily leading the witnesses into social acceptance, as a way to keep up the veneer of responsible, ethical, rational proGMO Human Germline genomic technology. Beyond asking which branch of Government should have regulatory oversight, please ask the Lulus and the Nanas – is the military health consumerism industry, with its use of rubber-stamp oversight as publicity, going to bring us through the lines of flight away from Version 1.0 common human form and out into the biodiverse posthuman fields of potential that only open, free-range ideation can provide? I know your existence depended on this ruse, but I wonder if actual diversity (of crafting, roaming and ideation) will be respected in the forms to come?
There are many potential effects of the CCR2 aesthetic you have been chosen to be born with. The choice was an HIV resistance health aesthetic as subterfuge for a naive aesthetic based on trending brain enhancement conceptual art theory. This is science leading the way not only in the creative arts but also in the realm of high satire and irony. The specters and hauntologies of remix humans are just what is expected from humans. We are the most neurotic, lurching, lurking species on planet. We are the most gullible family. It is this naive reading of the genetic effects of CCR2 that most encapsulates the problems of labeling cognition through cognitive bias in enhancement presuppositions. Perhaps, you, 露露 and 娜娜 with your enhanced Ashkenazi/MidNorth European AIDS resistant, memory and learning, CCR5-Δ32 gene knock-ins will have to deal with enhanced cortical plasticity and hippocampus-dependent emotional breadth as merely enhanced trippy analogical neurosis, but that’s what it takes to be a good screenplay writer or borscht belt geneart comedian. So, welcome to the slapstick dome.
As we build a canal full of love into the safe harbors of our genomic USB ports. Let us continue to question and be inclusive as to what styles we should stockpile in our GT LentiViral knock-in libraries to midwife our targeted, CRISPR-cas9 cassette inserted, mutant human zoo. Signature transgene infections into human ovum, sperm, zygote or hESC should always include a premonitory cultural spinoff. That is the nature of free-living prophecy and the reason for the arts as foreign generalities.
It is for these reasons that I invite you both, Lulu and Nana, to consider becoming leading voices in the BEAK and practicing the aesthetic sculpting of new human life utilizing the media of biotechnology as transgenic on transgenic future human builds. You are already here, you are going public and you are humans.
Consider bioart as a venue to return the gifts you were given!
Dr. Adam Zaretsky
Principal, Bioart Ethical Advisory Kommission (BEAK)
Excerpt from ‘Human Germline Gene Editing is Bioart: An open letter to Lulu and Nana’, Routledge Handbook of Art, Science, and Technology Studies, Edited By Hannah Star Rogers, Megan K Halpern, Dehlia Hannah and Kathryn de Ridder-Vignone, 2021.
Since the initial authoring of the Letter to Lulu and Nana (above), a third child of the Dr. He Jiankui Family Affair has been born. The child’s birthday is unknown. In the literature ‘it’ is known only as P3. There is knowledge that P3 was born a natural birth and was not subject to premature birth or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay like Lulu and Nana. P3 has no known name or gender. P3 is just P3. But, if P3 is born of a male sex then ‘it’ was probably cooked-up purposefully to breed with Nana and Lulu (i.e. P3 sperm injected into Lulu and Nana ovum) in order breed-stabilize proprietary double recessive mutations in a multi-generational twin study that could have lasting multi-generational effects on art history.
In response to live birth of Lulu, Nana and their potential spouse, P3, and the potential arranged marriage of prepared genomes offspring: #P3/Lulu, #P3/Nana pundit squares, three Hackteria public labs were held in Zurich this summer. Dr. Adam Zaretsky in collaboration with Marc Dusseiller Dusjagr, Cristian Delgado, Jelly Pin, Mary Maggic, Zohar Messeca-Fara, Larval Rock Stars and many more… We set up a continuing global outpost at Hackteria ZED beginning with bioart labs to skill-share and mind the Transgenic Human Genome Alternatives Project (THGAP).
To honor Lulu, Nana and P3, we created an open source database called the Creative Germline Constructs Bank (CGCB) and we have begun to upload open source, DIWO human germline genetic editing options for novel human heredity alteration builds. Aided by our non-propietory, creative commons Generic Open-Source Plasmid for Human Arts (GOSPHA) with bioart ethics oversight by Bioarts Ethical Advisory Komission (BEAK), novel genetic modification cassettes are currently in release. thGAP is now organizing the first World Congress on New Reproductive Technology Arts. We are exploring OpenDrop liquid handling platform for digital fertility, postHuman ‘singles, couples and more’ genetic counseling and behavioral testing & conditioning nursery for the planetary architectural biomass deformation of the future. thGAP is teaching public bioinformatics and techniques for garage reprotech and emutagen Mutagenic Arts.
If you would like to be involved with thGAP as a bioart postSpecies developer, a bioart BEAK LESLI transgenic human arts reviewer/advisor a surrogate/germ/gonad/embryo donor deliverable, a financial donor, a people’s postPorn star or an open revolving door in our mutant family-house global network, if you re repro-technician, embryologist or developmental biologist open to skill-sharing ovum management, sperm sorting/washing, implantation specialization, or if you are just new-repro curious, feel free to contact Adam Zaretsky or insta: andi_wallwhore or get in touch through the Hackteria Global Network.
Read the summer series of Adam Zaretsky.