In the simplest of terms for a complex practice, bio-art incorporates organic matter into works of art. For example, Philip Ross built a teahouse out of fungus, and composer David Dunn took three trumpet players into the Grand Canyon and recorded the canyon’s reverberations.
But one of the more famous–and controversial–works is by artist Eduardo Kac who commissioned a French laboratory to create Alba, a rabbit implanted with a green fluorescent protein gene from a type of jellyfish.George Gessert, another pioneering bioartist who is known for breeding plants into art, writes about Kac’s rabbit piece:
The aesthetic novelty of a rabbit that fluoresces is enough to make GFP Bunny a sensation, but that novelty is not the most important aspect of the project. Kac is most interested in how we perceive genetically engineered organisms, and how we integrate them into our lives. When he exhibits Alba, he does so in a living-room-like setting that he inhabits along with the rabbit. The setting draws attention to the social networks in which she exists. These networks include her interactions with other rabbits, her interactions with human beings, and human interactions with one another in response to her. Kac’s longterm plan for Alba is to make her a member of his household. Questions about the definition of nature fall away before questions of the well-being of animals, and of connections between species.
To examine this burgeoning field, CalArts is offering an interdisciplinary course cluster on bio-art this fall, with five classes focusing on topics at the intersection of biology, art and technology.
“Bio-art is a one of the most exciting fields of creative practice and critical inquiry today, and this selection of courses aims to provide an enhanced understanding of bio-art through radically interdisciplinary work” said Arne De Boever, School of Critical Studies faculty member and one of the instructors who helped design the course cluster.
The classes incorporated into the cluster tackle different angles on the theme–from the biology of life and death to “acoustic ecology” to the interplay among biopolitics, aesthetics and philosophy. Students who register for one (or more) of these classes will also participate in related events throughout the semester, including guest artist lectures at CalArts, and an academic mini-conference featuring artists such as Philip Ross and David Dunn at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles. Students will also have a chance to exhibit their own bio-art in a year-end art show.
Things only happen here to make what happens next.
Is LinkedIn a viable artistic community in your opinion? How would you improve it?
I don’t think so, and I don’t think i wish it to be. I don’t know if LinkedIn represents a community really as much as an infrastructure. I think it exists separate from something like Facebook without competition because one is about social networks and one is about businesses networks. I also don’t see how it accommodates the needs of an artistic community.
I don’t think there is a social network that does effectively represent an artistic community out there. How specific do you allow it to sort itself? the arts are too expansive with too many points of access to be represented effectively through a network with a defined set of sortable criteria. For self-sorting facebook is more effective because it is focused on individuals not labels. For curated sorting a wiki is better since everything is of equal weight.
That’s the issue with getting past post-modernism isn’t it? Modernism was about the universal, post-modernism was about the categorized, and post-post-modernism is about the unique.
What new symbols, songs, secrets, myths are you driving in the green movement?
I can tell you that I’m trying to drive it away from the color green and images of leaves. The image that bugs me the most is actually grass, since in most places it’s impractical and wasteful regardless of it’s green-ness. I think an era’s aesthetics speak to values and I think we’re pushing the value of the first nature and something more raw, less processed. It’s happening in design, supply chains and our food. I’m also trying to break the myth of technological solutions.
I’m irked by the layering of systems over existing systems to solve problems with the existing system. I’d rather break it down to it’s elemental parts. I’m a big promoter of archaic technology, like using steamed banana leaves or not vitrified drink ware in Indian. Things that were discarded as incorrect in a modern manufactured world that persists into the contemporary era.
Are you an alchemist?
No, there is plenty of magic in real science.
Tell us about your favorite modern painter and how you feel when you gaze at the work.
Are we saying modern or contemporary. I’m a traditionalist when I define the Modern era as something that happened in the beginning of the 20th century out of industrialization. If we’re talking painters though I can name a few. Magritte for being clever and questioning the mudane, Haring for balancing accessibility, message, and challenging art world constructs. I do however find myself most drawing to the infrastructural and phenomenological though and insofar as that is concerned am more trilled by visual are that engages those parts of my brain. That’s not always present in painting, so I have to mention Olafur Eliasson, who fascinates me.
How do you manage the bureaucracy that you’ve created at The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts? How do you personally support your members?
There isn’t much Bureaucracy. We’re extremely small and nimble. We’re the least incorporated we can be and have foregone 501c3 status to stay lean. I suppose we deal with the bureaucracy of partnership with more cumbersome organizations and then it’s oftentimes working within their structure.
We can make our decisions and change methodology rapidly to best accommodate our members and partners since all of the power rests between two equal executives. We’ve yet to expand our power-sharing, outside of partnerships, and those are all project based. It’s not the most profitable, but it’s in line with our core mission, which is really about information and infrastructure. We’re like the opposite of the CIA, we don’t see value in protecting our information, and support ourselves through others valuing sharing information as a desired act.
For the second part of the question though, it’s hard to say. I mean, we don’t have funds to directly support their activities. But, we try and talk directly to all of them. They have our address, phone numbers, email addresses, and ultimately all of our lines of communication like our website, social networks, twitter and so on is all us personally. If you get in touch with the CSPA, you’re getting in touch with us directly. We don’t filter that, and don’t understand ecologically mind organizations that put up blocks, since we gain absolutely zero (aside from profit I guess) from not talking and being transparent if we plan to not destroy the planet and the billions of lives that will impact.
And, ultimately, it helps that I’m the web guy too. It’s part of what I do, so there is nothing standing in the way of our web presence, we do.
What were the 3 – 5 best innovations from last year’s CSPA Convergence?
The Convergence itself. I go to a lot of conferences and I deal with but don’t like the hierarchy and artifice that often surrounds them. I prefer the camp model which, like wikis, aims to gather people around a topic and allow all of them to offer something. So I think it’s in expanding the convergence model to get between these models of conference and camp and add on more doing, not just talking.
Marbles in a Jar – This is Avery simple re-use model we’ve been working on. It looks at volume of material used as a marble in a jar. You fill the jar until you’re done and then add a second jar for the next and so on to next iterations. For each unit of reused material you move a marble from the first jar to the one for the current project, if you use new material you add new marbles. It doesn’t have to be marbles and jars, but it’s a very simple way to engage your use of raw material
Energy Budgets – We’re trying to get theaters to incorporate the expenditures of energy into budgets for making. It incentivizes energy innovation by the user. If no one uses energy efficient devices, it doesn’t matter.
Eliminating recycling programs – this idea started at this convergence in response to the 6 receptacles the University of Oregon had for waste. It’s too much. The idea waste receptacle is only one for compost-ables. It’s not entirely feasible though. When speaking at APAP last month I brought this into a more realist goal. Not recycling because you don’t have anything to recycle. At the CSPA we print proofs of the Quarterly for editing that we share and otherwise we don’t generate material waste by our business. That sort of blows people’s minds.
I think Jack Capitalism and Eli Sustainability are headed for a blow-out, down and dirty fist fight in the months ahead? Ready?
I’m ready, but I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be particularly violent. I think that the necessity of sustainability will be the biggest check on a capitalist future. I think about the labor movements of the post-industrial world and the evolution of that “conflict”. I also think about the 4 roles in the actor-centric model of political change and the political pendulum. Sustainability is different still, it’s an opportunity if we want it to be, but as with all of these models of shift, the future is hybrid, not contrary.
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Ian Garrett Bio –
Executive Director of The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (CSPA), a non-non-profit arts infrastructure organization where he collaborates with others like the LA Stage Alliance, University of Oregon, York University, The Arcola Theater, EcoArtSpace, the Royal Society of the Arts, Diverseworks ArtSpace and others to work towards sustainability in the arts, ecological and otherwise.
Programs at the CSPA include a rich online resource guide, curricular development, a quarterly journal, annual convergence, and the development of collaborative local materials re-use programs and a certification program for arts making being initiated through an international partnership between US, Canadian and British producers. The center was founded by funds received through the 2007 Richard E. Sherwood award for emerging theater artists from the Center Theater Group (CTG) awarded to be used forming a working relationship consulting with CTG on the integration of ecologically sustainable practice into their production.
Ian teaches Sustainable Theater and Management Technology courses at the California Institute of the Arts and has been featured in American Theater, DramaBiz, and The Design Magazine and has spoken at The Central School for Speech and Drama, St. Louis University, and the Indy Convergence along with most arts conferences in the United States.
He originally studied architecture and art history at Rice University in Houston, Texas, but has since come to build an awarding winning practice in live performance and installation art, having also attended California Institute of the Arts to complete MFAs in Lighting Design and Producing.
Profile Summary: William “Willi” George Paul Green Business Certified Sustainability Consultant and strategic vision planner, writer and program designer for environmental planning, civil engineering and non-profits for over 15 years. Executive producer at PlanetShifter.com generating 125+ thought leader interviews and 1200 posts to-date since EarthDay ’09. Produced two innovative online community building projects as a PhD Student in Environmental Planning and Design at Virginia Tech. Designed the electronic charrette while earning MA in Urban Planning. Developed marketing and online community building strategies for over thirty Internet start-ups.
Willi Paul, Art and Sustainability Consultant
415-407-4688 | willipaul1 at gmail dot com Current Portfolio | Linkedin Profile | Digital Archive
Jim Richardson, writing in The Art Newspaper, warns galleries and museums of the change that is inevitably coming to the art world. In and editorial “Facebook is more than a fad” he writes:
Social networks and blogs are the fastest growing online activities, according to a report published in March by research firm Nielsen Online. Almost 10% of all time spent on the internet is spent on these types of sites, which Nielsen describes as “member communities”, and they are visited by more than two-thirds of the world’s online users.
This has not gone unnoticed by museums and galleries, with many creating some kind of presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. But because this has primarily been done as a marketing tool, institutions are missing a far greater opportunity. By treading gently into the second generation of web development and design, known as Web 2.0, museums risk achieving little, and are effectively paying mere lip service to online social engagement. If they were to make a proper commitment to the enterprise, they could transform their relationship with audiences, change people’s perceptions of them and vastly expand the reach of their collections.
The Nielsen research shows that a major factor in the success of social networks is that they allow people to select and share content.
How will what Clay Shirkey called “mass amateurization” penetrate the art world? Lawrence Lessig writes of the change from a Read Only culture to a Read/Write culture. Now, with intitiatives like Creative Spaces, amateurs are not Read Only any more. They can curate too. How are art institutions going to handle the idea that their authority is no longer a given?
This is the reason that many museums and cultural organizations decided they needed websites in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We recognized that people were increasingly turning to the Web as a source of information–for content knowledge but also for trip planning. I believe that the primary reason most museums started their websites is about planning visits. Marketing departments realized that a large percentage of people were using online search engines to find interesting things to do, and they wanted to be there.
Now, things are changing again. Whereas the Web of the 2000s was dominated by search, we are entering a time when more and more people are using social media as their gateway to the Web. Ask a college student what her homepage is, and you are likely to see Facebook, not Google, pop up on her screen. The worldwide market reach of social networks and other “member community sites” (as Nielsen research deems them) is growing rapidly, and it seems likely that Facebook and other social networking sites will continue to attract older, more mainstream audiences.
This means that more and more people are “entering” the Web via social context. Last week, Susie Wilkening wrote a blog post expressing that Facebook has replaced her newspaper as the go-to place for relevant news in her life. It’s not hard to imagine a near future where Facebook (and sites like it) also replace a lot of the ways we use atomized search. This already happens for me with professional research. When I’m looking for a resource on something, my first stop is Twitter, where I can send my research question to my professional network. Then I use Google to track down the references they mention. People often ask me how I find out about interesting projects going on at different museums. I’m not constantly googling “visitor co-created exhibits” and searching blind. I find out about these things in my social networks–via blogs, professional communities, Twitter, and socially-selected content feeds, which contextualize and direct me towards information of interest.
And what about me? I do consulting work and research for a variety of museums (and I’m available!). Previously, I curated The Tech Virtual Test Zone at The Tech Museum, designed virtual experiences with the Electric Sheep Company, and worked as the Experience Development Specialist at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. I live in beautiful Santa Cruz, CA, pursuing museum (and virtual) experience design from the mountains. If you would like to discuss opportunities for collaboration, consulting, or wild projects, contact me.