Boryana Rossa (b. 1972, Sofia) and Oleg Mavromatti (b. 1965, Volgograd). Live and work in USA and Bulgaria

The Mirror of Faith, 2006–ongoing
Bio-art installation, performance, video 12’ 55”, dimensions variable
Courtesy Boryana Rossa

Shown for the first time at The Coming World, the installation by art collective ULTRAFUTURO examines the turbulent relationship of science and religion throughout history, something which is further complicated by the rise of mass media. The Mirror of Faith takes as its point of departure the much-debated discovery of the “God gene” as a result of research conducted by molecular biologist Dean Hamer and published in his eponymous book in 2004. According to Hamer’s theory, humans with a specific mutation in Intron 7 of the VMAT2 gene (Vesicular monoamine transporter 2) are predisposed to spirituality. The idea that faith in God can be “programmed” in people provoked heated discussions and debates, and The Mirror of Faith is an artistic representation of this concept. It comprises a mural, video documentation, a performance, and a reliquary containing yeast cells—an organic fungus that has no consciousness—which have been injected with the God gene obtained from a human volunteer. If we believe the theory, the genetically modified yeast should be considered a holy relic.

In 2014, as a resident at Hangar in Barcelona, Rossa worked with Dr. Michael Edel and Dr. John Gibling in the Pluripotency Laboratory at the University of Barcelona. They collected and isolated DNA samples from volunteers, including artists, scientists, and religious practitioners, exploring the subject with a good dose of humor. The isolated VMAT2 with mutation in Intron 7 (or the God gene) was transfected into a primary organism—yeast cells—in order to question both what defines spirituality and the technique of genetic engineering. Alluding to the story of Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas), who did not believe in Jesus’ resurrection, the artists give the audience the opportunity to touch a new relic and find out for themselves whether it works.