Illustration and Speculative Future




“Proficiency in art and illustration was once considered an essential skill for biologists, because text alone often could not suffice to describe observations of biological systems. With modern imaging technology, it is no longer necessary to illustrate what we can see by eye. ” / Janet H Iwasa

“ ‘Animation allows scientists to envision a hypothesis and come up with new ideas based on what they are seeing,’ says Iwasa. And isn’t that, after all, a lot like drawing pictures.” / Peta Owens-Liston

  • Synthetic Biology

Rather than the traditional paradigm of considering biological weapons as weapons of mass destruction, DiEuliis highlighted that synthetic biology may be leveraged as a weapon of mass disruption. /  Yong-Bee Lim


The true horror of Resident Evil, buried deep beneath the corpses of Umbrella employees and civilians who’ve been turned into flesh-eating zombies, is in the games’ parallels to real-world events. After all, zombies are entirely fictional, but government-backed scientific divisions willing to experiment on unwilling employees or citizens are not. /Kazuma Hashimoto

  • Synthetic Biology

“Genetic modification has barely been touched in the Sci-Fi genre and when it is featured, it is usually portrayed in a very negative light. I wanted to explore an alternative future where the outcome of DNA modification can be beneficial to us as well as aesthetically beautiful.” / Vasil Hnatiuk

“...what will humankind be growing in the next century?

I came across a magical video that I think helps to show this. This two-minute Synthetic Biology video is a far-out vision of the future."/ John Cumbers

"Are far-out animated visions of the future useful? Stanford bioengineer Drew Endy, one of the founders of the field of synthetic biology, believes such work is 'absolutely essential.' Depicting technology as it might be, rather than simply how it is today, offers a chance to reassess what is considered possible. Visions of the future can inspire long before they ever have a chance of becoming true."/ John Cumbers 

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“These images, animations and interactives allow students and the public to understand the connections between different disciplines—how study of an individual protein can give us insights into our own health and welfare. Mesoscale imagery, such as the popular ‘Inner Life of the Cell’ movie, are inspiring a new generation of scientists to explore the mesoscale mysteries of life.” / David S Goodsell, Margaret A Franzen and Tim Herman

"The history of artificial selection is a powerful thing, and human behavior is not always kind...What is a species, and what are the boundaries of that?" / Alexis Rockman

“One of the most fundamental and powerful data sets for human health is the human genome.”

“Genomic sequencing involves mapping the complete set, or part of individual’s DNA code. Being able to detect unwanted changes in DNA not only provides powerful insight to understand disease but can also lead to new diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.” 

“Our understanding of genetic data continues to lead to new and exciting technologies with the potential to revolutionize and improve our health outcomes.”/Daniel Heath,Elizabeth Baca and Elizabeth O'Day

”The microbiome is sometimes referred to as the 'essential organ', the 'forgotten organ', our 'second genome' or even our 'second brain'.”

“By continuing to build the microbiome dataset and expand our knowledge of host-microbiome interactions, we may be able correct various states of disease and improve human health.”/Elizabeth O’Day & Elizabeth Baca

  • Gene

“Rockman’s art background is as a naturalist illustrator. He takes scientific fact or well-informed speculation regarding biological engineering and displays them in a way for everyone to see and digest. They are funny and scary at the same time.” /Arius Elvikis

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“There is something horrifying about the future farm animals but there is something beguiling too.  The genetically modified creatures might be meant as a warning against future dystopia...It captures some of the promise and excitement of biotech as well as the danger.”/ Wayne Ferrebee

“Another argument proposed that even if the initial uses of stem cells were acceptable, the ‘slippery slope’ of technology would seduce society into going places it shouldn’t. One of the key dystopian tropes involved chimeras  – creatures that are a mix of more than one animal – just the sort of idea Piccinini had given form to with her ‘young family’.”/Elizabeth Finkel

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“Piccinini’s body of work addresses the profound question of what it means to be human. It also explores the boundaries of human-ness – the otherness of animals, of cyber-forms, and of humans who don’t resemble ‘the norm’.” / Elizabeth Finkel 

  • Baroque Biology

“Baroque Biology presents a feminist science-fiction where biotechnology manifests interspecies collaboration, reproduction, theatre and storytelling as a means to re-imagine our shared biotech future. ”

“Baroque Biology (Paper Theatre) is a series of LB Agar petri dishes containing imaginary biological vignettes where non-human organisms teach humans complex biotechnological processes.”

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“Baroque Biology (Paper Theatre) is a series of LB Agar petri dishes containing imaginary biological vignettes where non-human organisms teach humans complex biotechnological processes."

“Like fairy tales from a biotech future, each allegory focuses on a microbe or fungi, who tries to communicate with humans in a helpful manner about the biological processes they employ for survival, for reproduction, and/or aesthetic pleasure. ”/Jennifer Willet

“The artist reimagines laboratory aesthetics as feminine, gaudy, and fantastical in direct contradiction to the norms of contemporary laboratory design. ”

“Baroque Biology critiques institutional hierarchies by encouraging unconventional daydreaming and welcoming new models of participation in the laboratory.”/ Jennifer Willet

  • Life Span

People (myself included) have made the argument that life extension is foolish at best and immoral at worst; that a pursuit of the life eternal (or at least a life lot-longer) is downright inhuman. The world has only so many resources. If we were to add another 20 to 40 years to the lifespans of every person on Earth, it could have cataclysmic global consequence. For the foreseeable future, life extension will be just a wonderfully shiny bauble of luxury far beyond most of our reach. /W. Harry Fortuna

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  • Immortal 

“Even the dead may be resuscitated if they have undergone the process of cryonics—preserving organisms at very low temperatures in glass-like states. Ideally these clinically dead would be brought back to life when future technology was sufficiently advanced. In addition to biological strategies for eliminating death, there are a number of technological scenarios for immortality which utilize advanced brain scanning techniques, artificial intelligence, and robotics.” /John Messerly

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How to get cryonically frozen and await reanimation in 12 easy steps /Unknown

“Henrietta Lacks is dead, but her cancer cells live today and are found in medical and biological laboratories around the world. They all have her DNA in them, so some people think that she was, in a sense, immortalized.”/ Rebecca Skloot

By keeping your intergalactic explorers in stasis, it helps to conserve vital resources such as food and oxygen during space travel. /Stonemason

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 “Type-1 vulnerability: There is some technology which is so destructive and so easy to use that, given the semi-anarchic default condition, the actions of actors in the apocalyptic residual make civilizational devastation extremely likely.”

/ Nick Bostrom

  • Nuclear Power and Eco-systems

A major environmental concern related to nuclear power is the creation of radioactive wastes such as uranium mill tailings, spent (used) reactor fuel, and other radioactive wastes. These materials can remain radioactive and dangerous to human health for thousands of years. /U.S. Energy Information Administration

All life on Earth and in the oceans lives with exposure to natural levels of ionizing radiation—high-frequency radiation with enough energy to change DNA. Most such genetic damage heals, but the addition of human-made radiation can make it harder for the body to repair broken genes. /CHRISTINE DELL'AMORE

“Hesse-Honegger's paintings are intended to show visually, and thus emotionally, the effect of nuclear plants on their environment. People looking at the paintings must inevitably ask: 'If that's the effect it's having on insects, what is it doing to humans?'”/Geraldine Norman


“Exhibitions such as last year’s ‘The Radiants’, at Bortolami Gallery in New York, has shown how visualisations of nuclear power and its associated risks have emerged from a tradition stretching back to the contact prints executed by Henri Bécquerel and Marie Curie.” /James Purdon

  • Renewable Energy

The 2020s will be the decade in which the planet finally closes the chapter on destruction and pollution by fossil fuels and enters a new realm of clean and nearly free energy. And this changes everything./ Vivek Wadhwa

“Public art can contribute to the solutions we need to steer us away from the effects of climate change,” Monoian said at October’s SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas./ Kristine Wong

“The intention is to change the conversation around climate change from one that focuses on the quite real, scary aspects to one that is more positive, that allows people to be inspired about the beauty of our post-carbon future,” says Robert Ferry, one of LAGI’s founding directors alongside Elizabeth Monoian./ Colleen Powers


“During the 1960s, the Cold War and prospect of nuclear weapons being deployed served as alarming inspiration for artists and writers. Plots in science fiction and artistic renderings featured post-nuclear apocalyptic universes, emulating real fears within society.” /Lauren Young

“Interstellar travel and exploration is technically possible. There's no law of physics that outright forbids it.” /Paul Sutter


“Interstellar travel is therefore an enterprise for post-humans. They could be organic creatures (or cyborgs) who had won the battle with death, or perfected the techniques of hibernation or suspended animation. A journey lasting thousands of years is a doddle if you are near-immortal and not constrained to a human lifespan.”  /Erin Blakemore

  • Under The Ground


Oscar Newman's Plan for an underground nuclear shelter featured in You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City

“...the opportunity to explore the notion of living in this entirely different environment...,” /Katharine Harmon


“Newman did not detail what exactly the cities would be used for: alleviating overcrowding; alternative space in the event of nuclear war; or luxury futuristic get-away.” /Lauren Young

  • In The Sky

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“Alejandro Burdisio exchanges the past for the future almost like a child’s game: an empathic memory of a future civilization lost in the aesthetic melancholy of the first half of the twentieth century. A succession of historical ‘layers’ mirroring the economic and socio-political meanings.”

/ Pedro Boaventura

  • Under the sea

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“Cause the technical improvement, rising sea level, and lack of residential space, living in the deep sea become a normal way of life”/ SHERRY YEH

  • Space Asteroids

“Because in the vast realm of outer space, accidents happen all the time. Things bump into other things. Stars blow up. Black holes snack on anything that crosses their paths. Space rocks the size of soccer fields smash into planets. Many of these events could change or eliminate all life on a world like Earth.” /David A. Aguilar


“A critical role some astronomers play today is the detection of asteroids long before they get here, so that something might be done to prevent a collision. For example, if we had a few years to respond, we might send a robotic spacecraft to gently nudge the asteroid onto another course so it would miss Earth completely.” /David A. Aguilar 

  • The Future of Humanity in Space


“Ron Miller believes it is the space artist’s remit not only to reveal science’s discoveries to the world but also to build enthusiasm for it.”/ GEORGE PENDLE

“I think that the general dream of humanity migrating into space, it is strong, it is continuing, and I think that the paintings I did back then continue to embody something of that ideal, something of that aspiration that people have had, ever since the space age has began.” / Donald Davis


“The great Russian pioneer of theoretical rocket studies Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said in 1905, ‘First, inevitably, comes the idea, the fantasy, the fairy tale. Then, scientific calculation. Ultimately, fulfillment crowns the dream.’” Illustrations and art works are an essential aid to dreaming about future space projects, and ultimately, fulfilling at least some of those dreams.”

“In the Collier’s articles, Bonestell’s visions of space travel were painstakingly realistic and scientifically accurate, but no less jaw-dropping... Bonestell’s paintings, combined with fascinatingly detailed cut-away illustrations by Freeman and Klep showing how a space station and several spacecraft would function, made space exploration seem palpably real—as though the blueprints were ready.”/ Charley Parker


“They captured the imagination of the public... It has also been suggested that seeing the images directly helped convince members of Congress, not generally noted for their visionary imaginations, that manned space flight was indeed doable.”/ Charley Parker

“From space races, colonising missions and fantastical space adventures, towards a fascination with dystopian political climates and explorations of psychological depth and complexity; the development of T-M magazine tells a more general story about the scope, potential and function of science fiction.” / author unknown


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"For the most-part, sci-fi illustrators of the period had an engendering background that helped them to develop detailed and captivating images of the socialist future. Their main concern was on futuristic technologies which would help the Soviet Union to take control of the Earth’s natural riches and resources and to build colonies on other planets.” / author unknown