How long can great art live on? That thought inspired musician Etsuko Yakushimaru to create a multimedia project that saw one of her tracks translated into a nucleotide sequence and injected into a group of microscopic organisms.
These creatures, a type of cyanobacteria called Synechococcus, self-replicate and absorb energy through photosynthesis. So even if mankind becomes extinct they'll carry her musical message in their genetic code, perhaps to be decrypted by future lifeforms.
Yakushimaru will present this ambitious collaboration, which she calls "I'm Humanity", on October 9 at the National Science Museum with her band, Soutaiseiriron, as part of the Red Bull Music Festival Tokyo.
"I'm Humanity," a philosophical J-pop bopper, is the first song in history to be released via genetically modified microorganism. Most formats only last decades before degrading, but DNA's lifespan as a recording medium is in the order of 500,000 years, physicochemically speaking.
Of course, with the track attached to a living organism, there's every chance Yakushimaru's composition will evolve beyond her original design.
"It means the stored information is subject to mutation, to evolutionary change," says Gerfried Stocker of Ars Electronica, which awarded Yakushimaru the STARTS Prize for artistic exploration in 2017. "We know how this music evolves, [even as] its core remains unchanged."
At a ceremony in Linz, Austria, last year, Stocker compared Yakushimaru to another groundbreaking artist.
"It's not surprising she is compared in Europe to Bjork," he said. "Not just because she is a very successful musician but because she is an artist who is also active in museums and cultural institutions. She has developed new instruments with engineers, scientists and artists to give her more realms of expression on stage.
Watch "I'm Humanity" below