2022: Play

How can we create playful encounters in and out of the lab to reveal alternative possibilities for synthetic biology that nurture community, resilience, and hope?

A photo collage of people interacting with nature in a wooded setting.

The Brief

“To play is to be in the world.” It is to be open to surprise, contingency, and improvisation—a critical skill for our combined future. Play might mean something different for all of us, but it will always evoke joy and learning; for many, it makes life worth living. Play allows us to experiment freely. It carves the time and space to help us imagine an alternative way of being in the world. It allows us to learn not only what is useful, but what is possible.

We believe synthetic biology has the potential to playfully disrupt traditional ways of thinking. For this year’s Ginkgo Creative Residency, we invite submissions that engage with synthetic biology through play. Can a playful application build new relations between humans and nature that cultivate comfort, joy, and dignity?

From the outside, the lab may look like a serious space where precision, efficiency, and certainty dominate, but we’ve found that when we approach science with a playful attitude, it can be vastly revealing. Take, for example, a record player that translates bacteria into hip hop beats, or an investigation into the complexity in beings previously thought to be too simple to warrant attention—revealing even further possibilities into understanding foundational principles that govern the logic of life. Taking play more literally, games are being successfully used to imagine the unimaginable, such as a world without oil, where an alternate reality game simulates the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis.

Playing is powerful and we want to play even more. Instead of ‘working’ with biology, we want you to use your creative discipline to play with it instead. In doing so, we can reveal possibilities and solutions that nurture community, resilience, joy, and hope, and build a better world.






Through an international open call process, we invite you to submit a project proposal in response to the theme PLAY.

Applications close on July 30th, 2022 at 11:59pm (GMT-04:00). The residency will start October 12th, 2022, and run through January 27th, 2023.

Residents will retain copyright and ownership over work created at Ginkgo during their residency. 
Residents will receive a $5000 monthly stipend.
Project development budget will be based on project scope.

Whether your practice centers art, design, performance and/or community engagement, we invite you to submit a project proposal for a project based in our labs that engages with this years’ theme on PLAY. You’re someone who is able to bring a creative and critical lens to the brief, has experience building relationships and collaborating outside of your field, and is able to adapt in a new setting.


We want to hear from you if you are a futures-oriented practitioner of materials, processes, products, interactions or systems.

We welcome creative perspectives across analog, digital, and biological realms. If you find it difficult to define your practice, we get it, so don’t be afraid to apply!

A well-developed understanding of the intersections of design and science is essential. Experience with biology and laboratory tools and processes is not required but is advantageous depending on what you hope to achieve during your time at Ginkgo.

This year the residency will be hosted at Ginkgo Bioworks’ HQ in Boston, MA, USA. We will continue to monitor circumstances surrounding COVID-19, but at this time are planning on moving forward with an in-person residency.

You must be available to participate in the program from October 12th, 2022 to January 27th, 2023.

International applicants are welcome, and we will work with you to secure a visa if necessary, although we cannot offer any guarantees that it will be approved.

If you are shortlisted for an interview, we ask that you are available in the first half of August for a remote interview with the team and our external jurors.

We also feel it’s important to point out the obvious here. There’s a serious lack of diversity in our industry, and that needs to change. Our goal is to help drive that change. We hope to continue to build an industry whose culture promotes inclusion and embraces how rewarding it is to work with people from all walks of life. We welcome proposals from people of all backgrounds, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, or ability.

A portrait photo of Christina Agapakis.
Christina Agapakis
Creative Director
Ginkgo Bioworks
Curator & Mentor
A portrait photo of Natsai Audrey Chieza.
Natsai Audrey Chieza
Founder & Director
Faber Futures
Curator & Mentor
A portrait photo of Joshua Dunn.
Joshua Dunn
Head of Design
Ginkgo Bioworks
A portrait photo of Grace Chuang.
Grace Chuang
Creative Consultant
Ginkgo Bioworks
A portrait photo of Ioana Man.
Ioana Man
Design Lead
Faber Futures

The Team

Your application will be evaluated by our core GCR team. If you are shortlisted you will be interviewed by the whole team. Each member of our team will provide mentorship during the residency, and interact with you by way of crits and weekly check-ins throughout your time at Ginkgo. The GCR team is here to help you successfully develop and execute your design brief.


We have invited a panel of external jurors to contribute to the program. The jurors will offer critical perspectives on the complex and multifaceted topic of play. Each member will take part in our shortlist evaluation process and provide mentorship during your residency.

A portrait photo of Shira Chess.
Shira Chess
Associate Professor,
Entertainment & Media Studies
University of Georgia
A portrait photo of Latasha Wright.
Latasha Wright
Chief Scientific Officer
A portrait photo of Knowledge Chikundi.
Knowledge Chikundi
Founder and Director
Zimbabwe Science Fair, Africa Science Buskers Festival
A portrait photo of Karen Feder.
Karen Feder
Assistant Professor,
Head of MA Programme in Design for Play
Design School Kolding