[-empyre-] WEEK 1 on empyre: Art, Engineering, and Politics: In Memoriam, Beatriz da Costa

Christiane_Paul at whitney.org Christiane_Paul at whitney.org
Sat Feb 2 08:12:44 EST 2013

Thanks so much for the intro, Renate! There obviously is a lot more to say about Beatriz' life and work than my introductory post can cover, but I hope it serves as a start...

I cannot claim that I knew Beatriz/Shani as long as others who will be contributing to this discussion and I may not have had as much insight into her work process as her collaborators , some of whom will participate in the discussion in the coming weeks. I became familiar with Shani’s work while she was still a student in Marseille, through a couple of her instructors who were praising her work. In 2004, I invited Preemptive Media (Shani, Brooke Singer and Jamie Schulte) to present their project Swipe (2002-2004; http://beatrizdacosta.net/swipe.php / http://www.preemptivemedia.net/swipe/) as one of the gatepages for the Whitney Museum’s artport website. Swipe addressed the problematic practice of data collection in the context of gathering data from drivers' licenses via license scanners. For artport, Preemptive Media created Swipe Stickers, which you could attach to the barcode on your license to make it illegible (http://artport.whitney.org/gatepages/june04.shtml). I also was a member of the jury that gave Shani’s project PigeonBlog (http://beatrizdacosta.net/pigeonblog.php), which uses pigeons for grass-roots data gathering about air quality, the emerging artist award at the 2006 ISEA01 Festival in San Jose.

Until 2009 Shani and I just kept in touch and met and gave lectures in the classes we taught (at Irvine and RISD) when we were visiting the respective other coast. I admired her and her work, which I closely followed, writing about it in articles and recommendations for funding and fellowships. I presumed that our exchanges would continue indefinitely until her diagnosis with terminal cancer became a reality check for my naïve assumption. Our relationship changed, and we made a point of spending more time and enjoying life with each other, and providing support. The luxury of having many years of friendship ahead of us turned into the intensity of struggling with a limited time span that the medical profession calculates in percentages.

Shani’s personality was deeply inscribed into her work, which contributed to keeping her alive. A curiosity paired with criticality and high analytical ability (and a good sense of humor), as well as a poetic elegance emerging from clarity and precision characterized her way of thinking and artistic approach. Her discipline at times seemed super-human. Shani’s projects made major contributions to the interdisciplinary fields of art, science, and technology, as well as social and environmental activism. Her body of work comprised and fused bio-tech initiatives, environmental activism, and interspecies relationships. Collaboratively and in her own practice, she critically explored issues such as access to and protection of data; developed alternative tools for the detection of environmental pollution; and made use of participatory practice and interaction with the public to raise awareness of public policies, the effects of biotechnologies, as well as the rights of the individual. 

Shani’s interdisciplinary practice by nature required collaboration with teams, but the work she pursued outside of the collaboratives Preemptive Media and Critical Art Ensemble seemed more geared towards interspecies relationships. PigeonBlog and Invisible Earthlings (http://beatrizdacosta.net/invisible.php) explore relationships and interdependencies between species from artistic, scientific, and activist perspectives in highly original ways. 

Her unrealized project Salmon Transmissions (2009), which she proposed for a Guggenheim fellowship, was supposed to be part of her Companion Species Museum, which was meant to exhibit relationships and interdependencies between species from an artistic perspective. Salmon Transmissions uses the journey of one salmon to explore issues ranging from environmental pollution and health; migration, the local, and the global; as well as economic issues of globalization.

Her 2010 Guggenheim proposal Interspecies Design consisted of models as well as actual implementations of “architectures” that provide living organisms with care units after exposure to environmental toxins; shelter and transportation after environmental catastrophe; and responds to their ongoing rural to urban migration activities.

Shani’s work provided a much-needed counterpoint to the proliferation of commercially driven or naïve “green design” initiatives that promise to engage with current environmental crisis. Her legacy raises many questions, from the preservation of (collaborative) artistic work to the status of unrealized proposals, which arguably are part of an artist’s body of work.

From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Renate Ferro [rtf9 at cornell.edu]
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2013 12:37 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: [-empyre-] WEEK 1 on empyre: Art, Engineering, and Politics: In Memoriam, Beatriz da Costa

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
It is with honor that -empyre soft-skinned space pay tribute to the
life of Beatriz da Costa and her work this
month. Today we have also launched -empyre's new website.  This week
we are grateful to Robert F. Nideffer, Beatriz' partner who will be
our guest joined by Christiane Paul.  Their biographies are listed
below.  We want to invite all of Beatriz' family, friends, colleagues,
and others to participate this month on -empyre.  Please forward the
introductory post on your emails and social media so that we can a
broad and global response this month.

Robert F. Nideffer holds an MFA in Computer Arts, and a Ph.D. in
Sociology, and is a Full Professor in Studio Art and Informatics at UC
Irvine. His work has been shown at a variety of venues including Museo
Nacional Centro de Arte, Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; the Whitney
Biennial; and the Museum of Modern Art New York, NY.

Robert was Beatriz's colleague and partner.

Christiane Paul is Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney
Museum of American Art and Associate Prof. at the School of Media
Studies at The New School. She has written extensively on new media
arts and lectured internationally on art and technology. Her recent
books are Context Providers – Conditions of Meaning in Media Arts
(Intellect, 2011), co-edited with Margot Lovejoy and Victoria Vesna;
New Media in the White Cube and Beyond (UC Press, 2008); and Digital
Art (Thames and Hudson 2003; expanded new edition 2008). As Adjunct
Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art, she
curated several exhibitions—including Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools,
Profiling (2007), Data Dynamics (2001) and the net art selection for
the 2002 Whitney Biennial—as well as artport, the Whitney Museum’s
website devoted to Internet art. Other recent curatorial work includes
The Public Private (Kellen Gallery, The New School, Feb. 7 - April 17,
2013), Eduardo Kac: Biotopes, Lagoglyphs and Transgenic Works (Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil, 2010); Biennale Quadrilaterale (Rijeka, Croatia,
2009-10); Feedforward - The Angel of History (co-curated with Steve
Dietz; Laboral Center for Art and Industrial Creation, Gijon, Spain,
 Oct. 2009); INDAF Digital Art Festival (Incheon, Korea, Aug. 2009);
and Scalable Relations (Beall Center for Art and Technology, Irvine,
CA; as well as galleries at UCSD, UCLA and UCSB, 2008-09). Dr. Paul
has previously taught in the MFA computer arts department at the
 School of Visual Arts in New York (1999-2008); the Digital+Media
Department of the Rhode Island School of Design (2005-08); the San
Francisco Art Institute and the Center of New Media at the University
of California at Berkeley (2008).

Renate Ferro
-empyre- soft skinned space
moderating manager
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

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