The Mirror of Faith


Boryana Rossa, Oleg Mavromatti, Michael Edel

1.Artists: Boryana Rossa PhD, Assistant professor in Transmedia at the department of Visual and Performing Arts at the Syracuse University, NY. Oleg Mavromatti is an interdisciplinary artist and award winning filmmaker. 
2. Dr. Michael Edel, Control of Pluripotency Laboratory, Department of Physiological Sciences I, Faculty of Medicine, University of Barcelona, Hospital Clinic, Casanova 143, 08036, Barcelona, Spain.


“Science is the religion of our time” is a common saying that no longer provokes any critical thought in the general public neither about science, nor about religion. Important for us as artists however, is that although seemingly deprived of meaning, this statement refers to a high authority associated with the role that both religion and science play in society.

“The Mirror of Faith” is bio-art project, meant to provoke critical public dialogue about genetic research, exposing some issues this technology and its political and commercial promotion creates. The project is related to the research of the molecular biologist Dean Hamer on genetic predisposition of human spirituality. In his book, “The God Gene,” (1) Hamer claims that the VMAT2 gene encodes for a protein (brain chemical) that affects self-transcendence, spirituality or faith. A specific mutation in the DNA of intron 7 upstream of the VMAT2 gene coding sequence is thought to be related to people who have faith or spirituality.

Initial attention was caught by the media representation of this research and the controversies it contained (2). To reflect the central issue of embodiment and the harsh juxtaposition within nature/nurture argument, presented in media, we decided to create a literal illustration of these controversies. We decided to produce a genetically modified Transcendental Bacteria of Faith. We thought that by genetically modifying the two basic organisms in life, bacteria and yeast, with the god gene (science), that is associated with high levels of spirituality and faith (religion) we could create the perfect juxtaposition to spotlight the controversies and ignite discussion and critical thought once again. Involvement with this “absurd scenario” is a re-thinking of the notion of “genetically predisposed faith,” but also “faith” or “belief” in the media representation of science and religion.

For that purposes during the residency at Hangar centre, Barcelona (3), Boryana Rossa worked with Dr. Michael Edel and Dr. John Gibling in the facilities of the Pluripotency Laboratory at the University of Barcelona. Rossa and Edel and presented results of their work at Hangar. Rossa  also demonstrated models of future gallery display of the work.

“The Mirror of Faith” is a project developed in the framework of Hangar’ Spring Session #2 – Grid Spinoza programme and the project Soft Control, which has the support of the European Commission.

Isart Roca, Boryana Rossa, Michael Edel at the lab University of Barcelona, 2014.














Ana Belen Alvarez Palomo and Boryana Rossa, University of Barcelona, 2014.













The first model of the reliquarium















“The Yeast of Faith”





[1]     Dean Hamer, The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes  (New York: Anchor Books A Divisoon of Random House, Inc., 2005).

[2]     The following link is a resource of critical publications about “gay gene”: (Dec 30, 2010). The Gay Gene Debate on PBS : (Dec 30, 2010).

[3]  The project was initially started by B. Rossa and Oleg Mavromatti, together with Kathy High and Chris Bjornsson (at RPI, Troy, NY)

First display at Corpus Extremus (Life+) Exit Art, 2009

For the first display of the work we have done some preliminary lab work, that showed expression of the VMAT2 (but not necessarily its mutation, which makes it “god gene”) in rat brain tissue. We have documented this process, as leading to the creation of the Transcedental Bacteria of Faith. People were suggested to touch the petri dish with bacteria in it, situated in a flying golden cabinet. Like the Doubting Thomas they had to believe this is the bacteria that will be genetically modified by us in the future, what we finally did in Barcelona.  We played with aesthetics of religious objects, containers of relics in Orthodox Christian temples that are sometimes made not by artists, but by people who visit particular temple.