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BioArt Project Examines Religion, Science and Identity in NYC

SVA continues its series highlighting some of the many outstanding projects by 2016 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Next up is BFA Fine Arts student Andrew Joseph Cziraki on his Bornless One project, for which he’s collected holy water from churches in New York City in an attempt to find connections between science, religion and the identities of local communities.

Tell us about your project.
Bornless One is a project in which I gather holy water from the fonts of churches located in New York City and test for metagenomic information located in it. By doing these tests, I am trying to convey a connection between the communities and the churches. Using molecular biology, I am finding remnants of DNA strands left in the fonts and piecing together a picture of the microbiomes and of the users of the fonts. Religion has been and will continue to be a powerful force in humanity. I am using science and art to create a bridge between science and religion.

What inspired the idea?
The power of religion over humanity and the ability religion has to create, destroy and inspire. I am curious to find associations between religion and nature that I can quantify using science.

What most surprised you once you started working on the project?
The level of complexity surprised me. Using molecular biology to process the samples is difficult. I am using a scientific advisor who helps me with the process. It is time consuming. The scope of the project is large and the sensitivity of the public to the subject matter is surprising. Most people I speak with about the project think I am being subversive, but I am just trying to create a visual/quantifiable association between the church and humanity.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?
Produce art, take chances, explore your surroundings and use as many resources and contacts that are given. In order to become successful, one has to step out of the boundaries of normality.

What is something you learned at SVA that you’ll always take with you?
I have learned to sacrifice in order to succeed and to take part in every opportunity, no matter how difficult it might be.

What was a highlight of living and studying in New York City?
The resources of the city—and the diverse nature of the city allows for more abstract thinking.

This year, a record 67 students were chosen from a pool of over 300 applicants, and were awarded Alumni Scholarship Awards from the SVA Alumni Society worth more than $80,000 for thesis and final projects as varied as narrative film, etching, animation, painting and sculpture. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of this year's recipients, click here.

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