IN VIVO - IN VITRO
Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) | Eduardo Kac | Stelarc | Joe Davis | Karl Sims | Eva Sutton | Daniel Lee | Susan Alexjander | Polona Tratnik | IN VIVO - IN VITRO
BIO ART AS TACTICAL MEDIA
by CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE (CAE)
Multimedia interactive installation in four parts, combined from digital artworks, banners, and objects from CAE’s performances (courtesy of Wignall Museum, Seattle)
1. Cult of the New Eve, 2000
To the philosopher of skepticism, David Hume, a miracle is "a violation of the laws of nature." In Hume's day one of these laws was that only members of the same species could breed via gendered pairing. This is no longer true. Is the new biology a miracle in this sense, or is it that there is no nature left whose laws can be violated? Is all that is left a collection of resources to be managed for the generation of profits?
The Human Genome Project has one last Eve for science to offer us. She is the one who will help the public understand the beginning of a second genesis-one that is not beholden to any reproductive boundaries that once separated the species-and to understand it as a good thing. She is Eve without the fall-an Eve of perpetual grace, but most amusingly, she is a random Eve.
2. GenTerra, 2001
by CAE + Beatriz Da Costa
GenTerra is the name used by the artists to represent a company dealing with "transgenics". Products created through this process—-for example, transgenically modified foods—-have often caused controversy. GenTerra claims to produce organisms that help solve ecological or social problems
GenTerra started essentially in real space, as a participatory "theater" where the public was invited to discuss the facts and issues surrounding transgenics with the artists and scientists. Materials were then provided to allow people to make and store their own transgenic bacteria in the GenTerra tent. Visitors become actively involved in the area of risk assessment by deciding whether or not to release bacteria from one of the twelve petri dishes of the release machine. (Participants are informed that the transgenic bacteria they may be releasing was a benign, crippled lab strain that was released in laboratories on a routine basis.)
The project aims to make the general public more aware of transgenics, and the facts and fictions that surround it.
GenTerra has been performed at Magasin, National Center for Contemporary Art, Grenoble, France (2001), twice in Winnipeg, Canada: at St. Norbert Center for the Arts and a farmer’s market (2001) at the 2002 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, and at the Henry Art Gallery in April 2002.
3. Flesh Machine, 1998
Philosophers may speculate on what it means to be a human being but today's geneticists will bring us a lot closer to the answer. Their studies yield important clues almost daily - about our intelligence and behavior, but especially about human diseases, from rare cancers to mental illness. It may take time, but science will develop reliable medical tests for detecting these genes early enough to intervene.
The researchers here at BioCom have two primary goals - to completely invade the flesh with vision and mapping technologies (initiating a program of total body control from its wholistic, exterior configuration to its microscopic constellations), and to develop the political and economic frontiers of flesh products and services.
4. Society for Reproductive Anachronisms, 1999
Over the past 20 years, doctors have begun to notice an alarming drop in the sperm count of the average American male. Numerous hypotheses have been offered to explain the decrease. Some of the more credible suggestions are the environment toxicity, and the restrictive men’s clothing. The decline in sperm counts has given the eugenic industry an opening to push a number of its products. On a biological level, medicine is only compounding the problem that culture started!–the use of unfit sperm will only lead to a new generation that could be weaker than the last.
In order to contribute to solving this problem, The Society for Reproductive Anachronisms has returned to the Renaissance design for clothes to house the male genitals. The SRA endorses codpieces as a partial means to solve the problem of declining sperm counts.
The Society for Reproductive Anachronisms (SRA) was formed in 1992 to combat the rationalization and instrumentalization of the reproductive process that is occurring in order to totally manage its service to the pancapitalist order.
CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE (CAE)
CAE is a collective of five artists of various specializations dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, critical theory and political activism.
Their books include: The Electronic Disturbance (1994); Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas (2001); Flesh Machine (1998) and Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media (2001).
CAE's work employs genetic materials and lab practices with the direct participation of the audience. Lab-coated technicians from the GenTerra biotechnology corporation introduce their bioproducts and enable you to grow your own transgenic bacteria using recombinant DNA technology. Over the past five years, this artists' collective has produced a number of significant works on biotechnology and its new forms of representation. They use the tools and materials of genetic research to critically examine the foundational assumptions and truth claims of this science. Each of these performances employs biological materials, standard lab practices and direct audience participation. Produced in consultation with experts from genetic medicine, plant biology and robotics. They include: Flesh Machine (1998), The Society for Reproductive Anachronisms (1999), Cult of the New Eve (2000), and GenTerra (2001).
BEATRIZ DA COSTA, is a Robotic Art Researcher, at Carnegie Mellon University