timelapse :: bioluminescent bactieria


Hunter Cole defines her work as "reinterpreting science as art". This raises a host of questions about the relationship of science and art, the long history of artists whose work engages science and its processes, technologies, insights, theories, histories, and cultural critique.

How do you view her work in the context of contemporary art?


The word collaboration keeps coming up again and again in the genre of bioart. Whether it's Edwardo Kac who collaborated with scientists to create Alba, artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey who collaborate together using biological organisms, or Hunter Cole who describes the bacteria she uses as "collaborators in the art as it grows." With Cole's statement, however, I feel that calling a bacteria a collaborator isn't entirely an accurate statement. In my sense of what collaboration truly means, there needs to be dialog on both ends. I feel that Cole, like many other bioartists, is primarily harnessing the bacteria in an attempt to make it do something very specific. There is definitely an amount of manipulation involved, and not necessarily in a negative way, but just in the fact that this bacteria would have to be under controlled environments and careful supervision to create these drawings. To me this doesn't indicate a collaboration, but more so one organism directing another to do something, one organism trying to exert control.

In the context of contemporary art, there's so many interesting projects out there reinterpreting science as art as a tool to question and create dialog. I'm not sure what these drawings are really doing outside of being visually interesting. We're also seeing photographs of the bacteria and not the piece in real time. In a way the project seems to remove us one step further from the bacteria and the fact that these drawings are ephemeral ("First appearing with bright light, bacteria in the drawing are photographed as it uses up available nutrients, gradually dying-off over a two-week period.") I don't feel that they're necessarily reinterpreting science as art beyond a visual novelty.


"Reinterpreting science as art" does seem a stretch. To me, she is creating drawings with a material "borrowed' from science. I agree with Terez' comments, particularly about the dialog being a two-way interaction. The bacteria here are forced into the artist's configuration, then left to live and die out demonstrating the artist's particular image. While this seems very critical, I wonder how we can avoid the conquest mentality so in-grained in our society?
I challenge us as a class to think how we can go beyond the "novelty" of new material, and truly collaborate with biology.

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