Abstract

Whether “biomimetic” or “bioinspired,” the projects of bioengineering tend to refer their devices or inventions to the biological systems that provide models or originals for detachable functionalities. And yet, they do not satisfy the picturing relation of original and copy. They are mimetic or imitative in the sense of reenacting a function in a different setting with its own principles of composition or its own parameters that select for salience. The taking up of salient features for the purposes of producing a performance of functionality results not in the copy of an original but in its parody. Parodies are not judged for their veracity but for their effectiveness. They have a heuristic value in the context of design and for knowing the world through making and building. In somewhat experimental fashion, this paper seeks to develop a vocabulary for the parodistic qualities of Synthetic Biology, genome editing, or other bioengineering practices. In order to do so, it introduces categories from aesthetics to qualify modeling relations, one of these categories being the notion of “parody” itself.

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