James King is a British critical designer who studied Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art. As a speculative designer in the field of biotechnology and interaction design, King designs applications for innovative technologies, and in doing so examines their social, ethical and aesthetic implications.
King’s project ‘Cellularity’ will be on display in the exhibition during Alter Nature: We Can (21.11.2010-13.03.2011). This project examines questions surrounding life and death, but rather than using two contrasting, black-and-white concepts, King approaches the matter more as a sloping scale. A cell on this scale, for instance, might be 70% alive and 30% dead, depending on how many functions it has. In other words, ‘When exactly does something become a living thing?’ and ‘How many functions must it be able to carry out before we consider it “alive”?’
In his own words:
Cellularity is a design project that examines the social and technological impacts of being able to create life in the laboratory. As a designer, I have collaborated with a team of UK researchers who are attempting to build artificial chemical cells that imitate selected properties of natural cells. As well as having potential technological applications, chemical cells could lead to a new understanding of how living and nonliving things differ from one another. To explore these impacts, I have imagined how chemical cells could develop as a pharmaceutical technology and have designed The Cellularity Scale – a speculative definition of life that is applicable in a future where we no longer ask whether something is dead or alive, but instead, how alive it is.