Issue 18.2-3 cover image by © Ioanna Logaki, Synthesis (2020)
** The editorial is available for free via Ingentaconnect.
Demonological re-enchantments: Or how to contaminate through
intimate stories of commons without consensus
AGNIESZKA ANNA WOŁODŹKO
Through weaving the intimate stories of an encounter, possibilities of shared but not unified forms of resistance against powers of identification between life, art, science and philosophy will hopefully emerge. In the time of exhaustion of narratives, there is a growing need of telling stories despite capture – stories that would escape control and commodification, that would induce change, reenchant and give caring conditions for multiple human and nonhuman bodies. It is thus not about fetishization of an individual who tells, who reassures the value and importance of the subject. Rather, it is about stories that, as Isabelle Stengers argues, call for the transformation of an individual story based on given norms and ideas into demonological because collective dynamic and experimental imaginings. But how to think with demonological relations of transformations together without the constrains of morals and given models that tend to govern and exclude what disagrees? The present article, focuses on a particular re-enchantment through the stories of vegetariat – the contemporary matters of resistance through the plants’ resilience inspired-by and becoming-with the work of Špela Petrič and our field-mothers.
Notes for a manifesto: Singular creatures/grafts and soil
MAYRA CITLALLI ROJO GÓMEZ
This text is an artistic political friction and therefore its intention is to be a manifesto. It follows Donna Haraway’s thought in its character of situated experience and knowledge, the narrative voice is of the singular creatures that question the interactions with the earth as soil and the plants, as well as the hybrids and the grafts in their contradictions and liminal character in the history of agricultural technology and of the domestication of the earth/soil. It is an approach to the notion nosótrica of the earth/soil, coming from the language Tojol’ab’al of the Indigenous people of Mexico and the meaning of knowing how to listen, studied by Carlos Lenkersdorf.
Junk art: The art that needs to be understood – Autoethnographic perspective
Thierry Bardini, in his book titled Junkware, proposed that the apt name for contemporary art would be junk art. He stressed the significant change taking place in art: that the narration and explanatory discourse run by an artist is more important than the visual outcome of the project. According to the knowledge from STS (especially Bruno Latour’s writing), knowledge production is based on multilevel translations. Art based on science can be seen as a kind of translation as well. The production of biological knowledge and bio art creation looks pretty similar, being based on the same laboratory protocols. However, something interesting is happening regarding bio art’s presentations in galleries or museums. The audience is usually unfamiliar with the laboratory work process, which results in something akin to getting just one layer of that translation cake. What is the role of an institution in making junk art readable? What does being lost in translation mean in this context? To work on the questions, I use my autoethnographic notes from the performative killing of my cells (immortalized B lymphocytes), which took place at the opening of an exhibition titled Beyond Borders: Processed Body – Expanded Brain – Distributed Agency at Gallery Łaźnia in Gdańsk (18 December 2019).
A brief constellation towards a ruderal futurism
This article serves as a brief constellation of thought working towards a ruderal futurism. Proposed as an alternative of the granary logic of state and capital, the ruderal is positioned as a force functioning in the aftermath of – and in opposition to – the composite human/state/cereal-turned-capitalist ordering of nature. The role of agriculture and cereal crop production in early states as well as its exalted status within modern nation state and attendant culture is examined as a departure point for experimental approaches to their negation.
Algae Mask: Multidisciplinary exploration on material speculation
KWAN QUEENIE LI AND MICHELLE JINGMIN LAI
We live in a time where masks are rewriting wearable protocol. It is critical to understand entwining narratives around masks from the notion of health and safety to a wider discourse between the masked and the mask, including opportunistic capitalism and climatic implications. How about a mask that breathes, that is made by organic raw materials? As we confront and question narratives of the new normalcy in the year of pandemic and hindsight, these frames have coalesced in a vision of the mask as an emblem for open-source eco-consciousness-functional, accessible DIY living wearables made with biomaterials. ‘Algae Mask’ explores the symbiosis between humans and other beings, layered as second skins; this project is driven by an ardent group of art and design practitioners across the Asia-Pacific and European regions with ongoing satellite collaborations. A related film Algae Dream, on the other hand, speculates on the prototyping process and the sleek languages of market economy to smudge the fine line between fiction and reality. Within the bricolage of source videos and original footages, motivational video mock-up and authentic presentation documentation, the video essay intends to challenge audience in a multiplicity of narrations stemming from discourses of business and science.
More-than-human world? A posthumanist critique of anthropocentrism in the art of Olga Tokarczuk and Patricia Piccinini
NATALIA ANNA MICHNA
The aim of the article is to analyse selected threads of Olga Tokarczuk’s literary work and selected artworks of Patricia Piccinini as a posthumanist critique of anthropocentrism. My analysis will be guided by the question of how art clarifies and helps us to understand a world in which boundaries between species are crossed and dualistic divisions – nature/culture, human/animal, human/machine – no longer apply. I will show that art is a space of expression in which the subjectivity of posthumanist hybrids is given the chance to infiltrate universal consciousness and break down the anthropocentric monolith of western European culture. The article will also cite the posthumanist postulate of decentralization of the human subject, as implemented artistically by Tokarczuk and Piccinini in their works. This postulate signifies the need to accept the new responsibility a human being bears as part of a larger, heterogeneous whole (Donna Haraway), as well as to develop a posthumanist ethics (Rosi Braidotti). With reference to one of Tokarczuk’s essays, I propose to describe this new ethics as ‘sensitive ethics’.
Co-composition and de-composition: Biological agency as a compositional tool
GeneMusiK is an artistic project that puts into play ideas about the capacity of physical morphologies to act as mnemonic systems by using DNA to transcode and remix musical structures. The project suggests that both biological and cultural information can function as both macro- and micro-scale structures arrayed at physical loci to create topologies which function as keys to the mapping of memory.
Science at the Club: Putrefaction as an artistic medium
Science at the Club explores the architecture of the nightclub space as a nucleus for queer testimony, relating it to a judiciary courtroom. This performance challenges legal doctrines of forensic identification and the binary of life and death, by transforming biological and forensic material into ephemeral essences within the performance of the dance floor. Divided into a case study surrounding my performances at nightclubs, research courses taken in human remains recovery and visits to various burial sites of South Texas, I pull from a variety of interdisciplinary studies relating to queer death theory, building on José Esteban Muñoz’s notion of ‘disidentification’ in relation to the human corpse, racial politics in science and the biological arts in a nightclub context. Science at the Club creates a catalyst platform challenging racial and scientific histories of the body and land within the current US political climate, while exploring questions of resurrection and disintegration with a focus on the language of forensics and identity.
Creating sex/gender ecologies: Quimera Rosa’s Trans*Plant
In this article, I advance how the work of transfeminist artistic collective Quimera Rosa formulates new understandings of gender and sexuality in the attempt of ‘becoming plant’. I will first analyse their earlier post-porn work and the use of hacked devices for the formulation of human/nonhuman erotic connections. I will then move to their most recent Trans*Plant project, which involves a human-plant transition. In relation and comparison to the notion of ‘ecosexuality’, I will finally draw an anti-capitalist, posthuman sex/gender practice that radically escapes legibility and identity formulations to create open-ended planetary erotic alliances.
Offering the Body: Performing proximity in the use of cellular material
Cellular and sub-cellular material becomes creative medium across a range of disciplines that engage with biotechnology, from medicine to art practice. Historically, these practices complicate the boundaries of the body through patriarchal and colonial narratives of abstraction and extraction. In contrast to the ethical requirements of anonymity in medical research, this article suggests that material culture has a duty to know the body it works with. Three brief histories of bodily donation are recounted and aspects of these are contrasted with contemporary approaches to the use of bodily material within art practice. The developing project, Offering the Body, is offered as an example of performative practice that reintroduces a proximity to the body in biotechnological practices and begins to question whether through art practice, the biological body can move from commodity to be considered as a more-than-human resource.
The calamitous warnings of climate science have been latched onto by a growing roster of biotech start-up companies who propose to invent lab-generated meat alternatives to the ecologically disastrous livestock industry. They use solutionist hype to promote ‘sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘cruelty-free’, ‘clean meat’. This moralized marketing, however, masks a continued reliance on animal agriculture. The fact remains that mammalian cells and tissues are grown in vitro using foetal calf serum, a bloodderived nutrient. Is it really possible to grow meat without banking on the bodies of nonhuman others? Might there be more tasteful material? In Bioart Kitchen: Art, Feminism and Technoscience, Lindsay Kelley asks, ‘[h] ow do technologies taste?’ This article proposes one answer to her prompt, centred on a technofeminist contextualization of the research-creation project, Mooncalf (2019–present). Mooncalf is a series of wet lab experiments and artistic outputs that showcase the potential viability of human menstrual serum for culturing mammalian tissue. These experiments present a direct provocation that problematizes the cellular agriculture industry as it pertains to the production of ‘clean meat’ and instead works towards a proof-ofconcept ‘unclean’ meat prototype. Mooncalf is a symbolic precursor or speculative promise meant to facilitate a ‘cultural taste’ for feminist biotechnologies.
Rendering life: Transgressive affinities between bio art and generative art
DEJAN GRBA AND VLADIMIR TODOROVIĆ
In this article, we trace the analogies, parallels and affinities between bio-inspired generative art and bio art practices with strong generative flavour. We look at the creative and expressive features in these two fields, compare their shared interests in the design and development of life, and discuss the strategies they apply to communicate and engage the audience. With respect to the existing literature, which relates bio and generative art primarily within a historical context, we compare these two fields focusing on generativity as their common poetic driver. We indicate their shared impetus for rendering distinctive visions of nature in order to identify, contemplate or provoke dramatic changes in the era when biological processes become programmable and living matter can be instrumentalized for various forms of labour. We also examine the epistemological and practical effectiveness of the two fields within a broader socio-technical perspective, which leads us to their constructive critique.
Aesthetics and the semblance of the real in terroristic gameplay
‘Aesthetics and the semblance of the real in terroristic gameplay’ explores the recreation of terrorism and terrorist role-playing in gaming in a post 9/11 context. Drawing examples from contemporary games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, ARMA 3: Takistan, Insurgency: Sandstorm and SQUAD, games provide for surprisingly subjective explorations of terrorist role-playing and image-making. What does it mean to recreate these images of terrorism, so closely associated with propaganda from the War on Terror? This article looks at the phenomenon through the Lacanian notion of the real: that which cannot be reduced to the symbolic or semiotic. In particular, it looks at the aesthetic appeal of terroristic images and how these lead to their recreation. The article suggests that the virtual world of gaming provides a risk-free space to explore the taboo of terrorism while participating in the recreation of aesthetic media tropes. It further explores the idea of terrorism as the return of the Lacanian real and how terrorist gameplay can be understood as the re-enactment of the semblance of the real. This article draws from the author’s 2019 short film, Aim Down Sights.
Taboo and capitalism: Of incest, YouTube and profanation in contemporary capitalism
Taboo, as a space where the prohibited resides, delimits the form of the thinkable in a society. Freud, in Totem and Taboo, attempted to trace an explanation beyond the ‘categorical imperative’ of morality and custom. A century later the YouTuber PrankInvasion (Chris Monroe) seems to continue Freud’s account to his advantage. Through ‘Kissing my actual sister prank’, one of his most controversial videos, he challenged his own followers to fulfil an especially controversial challenge: kiss his own stepsister. It is through these contacts with the limits of the moral, of the acceptable, that capitalism expands the colonized territory, absorbing the profane under its new exposure value. The unthinkable, the purported profanation of dogma (in this case, taboo of incest), disappears under the standardization of all rites as standardized consumable objects. But as Agamben warns about the nature of desecration it can not be related, in its new use, with the consumption realm. And that is not the case with PrankInvasion. Through the apparent absence of ordinary moral limits, Chris Monroe expresses his heartfelt attachment to the most extraordinary limit of capitalism: economic growth.
The gendered AI in Her (2013): Sound, synchresis and disconnection in filmic representations
Motivated by the issues raised by the merging of women and machines in science fiction, this article explores gender representations in Spike Jonze's 2013 film Her that discusses the interaction between a male human and a disembodied female whose consciousness is held in an artificial intelligence (AI) operating system. One of the primary questions regarding the representation of the female AI is whether the film encourages a feminist perspective, that promotes female subjectivity in the era of the post-human, or it ends up perpetuating visions of women’s oppression and objectification. Visual representations are important when discussing gender binaries, as they can be related to the image and the physical sexual differences. However, the role of sound is also crucial, as it contributes to different readings. In my analysis, I examine the merging and unmerging of audio and visual in thefilm. The female voice is the focal point of the analysis.
CLEA T. WAITE
This article considers scientific data and methods taken as a vocabulary for a visual language of poetics, shaping an artistic practice exploring the liminal poetics of space, time, science and mythology, equally considered. These artworks focus on the moving image as an immersive, architectonic construct, one that makes it possible to blur the boundary between space and time. They are cinematic environments that create a space of spatial and temporal ambiguity, open to the performative role of the viewer in composing the unfolding narrative. The artworks presented here began in the crossover between art and science, technology and anthropology, exploring topics and incorporating methods from each area. Transdisciplinary processes play a critical role in this artistic research. These works reflect cinema approached as a multimodal field of possibilities in which montage motivates movement and focus through this field, creating a participatory composition of sight, sound, movement and memory that immerses viewers by actuating somatic perception. Shape, scale, immersion, interactivity, simultaneity, embodiment, implementation and the manipulation of time create concrete metaphors that echo the multivalent content of the works: a collaboration with 300 tropical spiders to create a Kino, then letting the audience walk freely among them (or the spiders freely among the audience); an immersive environment enacting the space-time of glacial ice to experience the time of a different form of matter as somatosensory experience; a journey through the human history of the Moon, transcending time, political ideologies, realities and cultures as an encompassing field of simultaneous views and sounds; performing a 2000-year-old act of Thessalian magic on the skyline of Hong Kong. Combining the technological tools available to cinema and science, contrasting magnifications and speeds of observation reveal a material poetics beyond appearance. The artworks presented here elaborate the details of cardinal subjects, diving deep into fundamental domains to unravel the cultural implications embedded within the aesthetics of their data artefacts.
Body shopping: Challenging convention in the donation and use of bodily materials through art practice
LOUISE MACKENZIE, ILKE TURKMENDAG, ISABEL BURR-RATY, WHITEFEATHER HUNTER, CHARLOTTE JARVIS, MIRIAM SIMUN, HEGE TAPIO AND ADAM ZARETSKY
The historical context of body and tissue donation is deeply problematic, with patriarchal and colonial narratives. The contemporary context of molecular and genetic biology further complicates issues of bodily donation through narratives of abstraction and extraction. As practitioners working outside the conventional boundaries of scientific study learn the tools and techniques to extract and use bodily materials, they are also learning and challenging the procedures and processes. This article approaches questions of bodily donation through the edited transcript of a conversation between artists who regularly use body fluids and cellular bodily materials in their practice, moderated by Louise Mackenzie and Ilke Turkmendag as part of the Taboo–Transgression–Transcendence in Art & Science Conference held online with the support of the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, 2020. The panel challenged the ethical and conceptual assumptions made in biotechnological research and reconsidered where the boundaries of the body lie, what ‘authority’ research carries and what choices researchers make when using the bodies of others. The transcribed conversation addresses taboos of the female body, specifically menstruation, the commodification of tissue from female human bodies, human milk politics and questions biopolitical treatment of the female body. The full, unedited panel conversation, including questions from the audience, and an accompanying video of edited interviews with panellists, is available online at https://www.loumackenzie.com/offering-the-body.
||| Founding Editor: Roy Ascott Issue 18.2-3 Editor: Dalila Honorato Editorial Organism: Tom Ascott, John Bardakos, Dalila Honorato, Hu Yong, Claudia Jacques, Claudia Westermann Production Manager: Faith Newcombe
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