Susan Broadhusrt authored an essay, Bioart: Transgenic art and recombinant theatre in 2005.
She discusses the work of Eduardo Kac and Critical Art Ensemble.
TrackBack URL: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/177504
I am pleased to see that Kac understands the complexities of the field and his art. He says that what is important is "not 'the creation of genetic objects, but the invention of transgenic social subjects'". If he were simply making a bunny that glows, the point of the project would be moot. This is particularly interesting considering the media's response, "Was Alba Art? What did she mean?", which completely misses the point that art rarely has a singular 'meaning', and that Kac's transgenic art is more an ethical discourse than it is "illustrating the world of biotech".
CAE and the second half of the article seemed overly academic. It seems to me that CAE operates without a real drive or organizing principle and that its production of art is careless and arbitrary. However, as BioArt does walk a fine ethical line, CAE did indeed get swept up in a legal debate. And although I don't find CAE's content to be particularly engaging, some good can come from the controversy surrounding Free Range Grain, most notably boosted by the support of Nature scientific journal.
What I find inspiring about the CAE is that they are calling attention to processes that our society and laws already abide by and support. They are not changing the processes at all, but rather bringing them out into the open and making viewers an intrinsic part of those processes.
During our group meeting this week we spoke about ethically questionable activities taking place in the scientific world, in this case animal testing. We had all chosen, through our career and other life choices, not to put ourselves in a situation where we had to draw that ethical line. The CAE forces participants, who have probably made very similar life choices as our group, into a line of thought that they initially taken themselves out of.
As a fan of CAE, I would recommend taking a look at the book Tactical Biopolitics: Art, Activism and Technoscience. The book is edited by Beatriz Da Costa, who has collaborated on several projects with CAE. Here's a brief overview of the book taken from Da Costa's website:
Popular culture in this "biological century" seems to feed on proliferating fears, anxieties, and hopes around the life sciences at a time when such basic concepts as scientific truth, race and gender identity, and the human itself are destabilized in the public eye. Tactical Biopolitics suggests that the political challenges at the intersection of life, science, and art are best addressed through a combination of artistic intervention, critical theorizing, and reflective practices. Transcending disciplinary boundaries, contributions to this volume focus on the political significance of recent advances in the biological sciences and explore the possibility of public participation in scientific discourse, drawing on research and practice in art, biology, critical theory, anthropology, and cultural studies.
After framing the subject in terms of both biology and art, Tactical Biopolitics discusses such topics as race and genetics (with contributions from leading biologists Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins); feminist bioscience; the politics of scientific expertise; bioart and the public sphere (with an essay by artist Claire Pentecost); activism and public health (with an essay by Treatment Action Group co-founder Mark Harrington); biosecurity after 9/11 (with essays by artists' collective Critical Art Ensemble and anthropologist Paul Rabinow); and human-animal interaction (with a framing essay by cultural theorist Donna Haraway).
The book also provides a good reference for artists working within the bioart genre and important bioart based exhibitions and projects that have taken place over the years. I was introduced to Natalie Jeremijenko's OneTrees project through this book.
I own a copy of this book and am happy to lend it out.