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Berggruen Institute Salon at Honor Fraser Gallery

The Berggruen Institute is pleased to present a Salon featuring the work of filmmaker and body architect Lucy McRae at Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles.

McRae’s solo show, through film, fashion, and other media, suggests that we propose radical new modes of kin-making. Babies that can be designed and grown, CRISPR technology that can edit genes, and off-Earth environments are future-facing phenomena that are challenging previous concepts of family, gender, and the body. She will be in conversation with Northwestern Assistant Professor of computer science, chemical & biological engineering, and mechanical engineering Sam Kriegman whose lab evolves, builds, grows, develops, breeds, trains, and teaches robots. Associate Director of the Future Humans theme Claire Isabel Webb will moderate a discussion of how scientific and artistic questions about what counts as “life” are remaking the category of “the human.”

About the Speakers

Lucy McRae, Science Fiction Artist
A world-acclaimed science fiction artist and body architect, Lucy McRae considers how human biology might be augmented by a mixture of physical design, modification of genes, and emotions –– technology transforming the body. Lucy McRae leads a multi-disciplinary, artist-research studio investigating the impact future technologies have on human evolution. Boldly staring down the status quo, the studio pioneers a new story for how future technologies will fundamentally alter human intimacy, reproduction, spirituality, biology, and wellness culture — shining a light on the ethical implications of genetic engineering. Based in Los Angeles, Lucy is a visiting professor at the architecture school SCI_Arc, and a World Economic Forum, Young Global Leader, and TED Fellow.

Sam Kriegman, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Chemical & Biological Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University
Sam Kriegman is an assistant professor of computer science, chemical and biological engineering, and mechanical engineering at Northwestern University. His research seeks general theories of life, in which the details of carbon-based organisms would represent a special case. As we have yet to invent a time machine or the means of interstellar travel, Sam and his students design, build and breed robotic lifeforms to catch a glimpse of life as it may have arisen here on Earth or as it might exist elsewhere in the universe. Most recently, this led to the discovery of a previously unknown (kinematic) form of biological reproduction.

Sam received his PhD in computer science and the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award from the University of Vermont in 2020. He conducted postdoctoral research in the biology department at Tufts University and Harvard University. An AI2050 Fellow and Cozzarelli Prize recipient, his creation of the world’s first computer-designed organisms (the “xenobots”; together with his three co-authors) has enjoyed widespread media attention, added a new word to the dictionary, and was displayed as an exhibit at the Design Museum in London.

Claire Webb, Associate Director, Future Humans, Berggruen Institute
Claire Isabell Webb, Ph.D. is a historian and anthropologist of science and the Associate Director of the Future Humans Theme at the Berggruen Institute. Webb researches the history of the search for life beyond Earth beginning in the late 1950s, and how that quest has shifted the boundaries, conditions, and thresholds of concepts we call liveliness, intelligence, species, and consciousness. Her work asks, how do technologies of perception of the extraterrestrial— space telescopes that by which scientists seek to apprehend biosignatures of exoplanetary atmospheres, radio telescopes that might be tools to detect evidence of alien technology — inflect what it means to be human, on Earth? At the Berggruen Institute, Webb is developing experimental initiatives around the futures of life, mind, and outer space. These initiatives convene philosophers, scientists, and artists to collaborate on projects that tug together current knowledge about life to speculative philosophies of what life will become.

About the Berggruen Institute

The Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop foundational ideas and shape political, economic, and social institutions for the 21st century. Providing critical analysis using an outwardly expansive and purposeful network, we bring together some of the best minds and most authoritative voices from across cultural and political boundaries to explore fundamental questions of our time. Our objective is enduring impact on the progress and direction of societies around the world. To date, projects inaugurated at the Berggruen Institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe, fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West, strengthened the ballot initiative process in California, and launched Noema, a new publication that brings thought leaders from around the world together to share ideas. In addition, the Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award, is conferred annually by an independent jury to a thinker whose ideas are shaping human self-understanding to advance humankind.