Michel Foucault

Tactical Biopolitics: a review.

“How can we know for sure these days that the truck driver repairing his exhaust at the crossroads in your neighborhood is not a silent conceptual artist engaging you in a thought-through performative experience? ” asks Jens Houser in “Observations on an Art of Growing Interest,” part of the collection of essays in Tactical Biopolitics. An engaging overview of scientists as artists, artists as ethnographers, activists as sociologists, and women who do agility trials with their dogs as philosophers, Tactical Biopolitics presents the words and works of people who profoundly engage their ethics with their craft.

Largely centered around issues of biology and bioethics, the book often wades deep into the waters of scientific jargon and academic word-whirlpools. When it emerges into common reality, however, it does so resonantly. While artist Kathy High gives a factual breakdown of her reasons for working with a group of former lab rats (they were predisposed to have her same health issues), we get caught up in the story of the rodents, their namings and personalities. Donna J. Haraway manages to make us forget agility trials as a means to make dogs literally jump through hoops and see them instead as an exercise in human-animal communication.

The book emerged from a conference on BioArt and the Public Sphere at UC Irvine in 2005. It is, write editors Beatriz de Costa and Kavita Philip, “a hybrid, made possible by two recent histories: the enormously creative practices at the intersection of technoscience, activism, and art; and the explosion of cross-disciplinary conversations following Michel Foucault’s articulation of biopolitics.

We see artists confronted with the ethics of working with living tissue, witness the affect racism has on modern scientific research, and learn of the evolution of activist’s tactics for getting AIDS medicine to patients who need it. We hear artists talking about life in labs, and scientist talking about the craft of ethical living. It’s a smorgasboard of modern ethical thought, of challenges to the definitions of professional fields. It’s fantastic reading for anyone interested in cross-disciplinary work. But largely, it is the story of people using the tools they have at their disposal to positively engage with an increasingly complicated and manipulated world. So while the authors featured in Tactical Biopolitics might not be the truck driver in your neighborhood, they are, like him, attempting to fix what’s broken.

Go to the Green Museum

Art in the 21st Century- Expanding the Artist’s Role

On Sunday February 22nd, Amy participated on a panel discussion, Art in the 21st Century- Expanding the Artist’s Role. The other panelists included Joseph Meisel from the Mellon Foundation; Beth Wilson, art critic and history professor at SUNY New Paltz and Brian Wallace, Curator at the Dorsky Museum. The panel was moderated by artist Simon Draper and held at Van Brunt Gallery, Beacon, NY in conjunction with the Habitat for Artists exhibition. The gallery was filled to capacity. One topic of discussion was the reaction to Holland Cotter’s NY Times article, “The Boom is Over. Long Live the Art” and the heated response elicited from it both positive and negative. Many artists argued that they already have “day jobs” – always have had them and didn’t like being told it was day job time again. Brian Wallace wondered why it falls to the artists to be the do-gooders in communities when hard times hit? Artist Susan Magnus spoke about the fact that many artists are involved in “real world” issues whether their work reflects those issues or not -that the idea of the isolated artist, alone working in the studio is no longer relevant. One positive suggestion was for artists and creative “think tanks” to emerge. Artist Karen Dolmanist spoke about her work reflecting her core values of sustainability and contemplation as opposed to market based values. Beth Wilson spoke about the possibility of heterotopias, as defined by Michel Foucault in a 1967 lecture.
In this lecture, Foucault sketches out a notion of how certain spaces exist for the negotiation of power relations, – places where for various reasons, individuals are set aside from the mainstream of everyday life. In the act of this setting aside, there is inscribed a “web of relations,” according to Foucault.

ecoartspace has been championing ideas related to the web of existence as per ecological systems, collaboration, collectivity and sharing for nine years now and they haven’t been as popular during the boom – maybe the recession will be a good time for us? Since ecoartspace is opening a new project room next week in NYC -we certainly hope so. The Habitat for Artists Collective project is an exciting beginning to this chapter.

HFA artist Chris Albert captured the event live and it can be watched on his blog, MAYKR.

Also catch Sharon Butler’s “share and share alike” on collaborative and community based art on the Art 21 blog.
Go to EcoArtSpace