[-empyre-] Ethics of the Semi-Living

Adam Nocek anocek at uw.edu
Tue Sep 10 02:08:25 EST 2013

Dear all,

First, I'd like to thank our two guests, Rob Mitchell and Cary Wolfe, for
an excellent conversation this past week! I think that their insightful
comments were able bring bioart and biopolitcs into new proximity. While
there were certainly more questions raised than answered -- for example,
the relation between populations and bioart, the meaning of an "affirmative
biopolitics," the affirmation of death, the exhibition contexts, and so on
-- I think this attests to the importance of (re)framing the political
stakes of bioart in biopolitical terms. I'm sure that we will have many
opportunities to revisit and redevelop threads from this conversation in
the next few weeks. Thanks!

This week I'm delighted to welcome Oron Catts and Richard Doyle to the
discussion at -empyre- and invite them to consider specific uses of
biomedia and how they might challenge us to reframe some of our guiding
assumptions about ethics and life.

Here is a short bio for both Oron and Richard:

Oron Catts is an artist, researcher and curator whose pioneering work with
the Tissue Culture and Art Project, which he established in 1996, is
considered a leading biological art project. In 2000 he co-founded
SymbioticA, an artistic research center housed within the School of
Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia.
Under Catts’ leadership SymbioticA has gone on to win the Prix Ars
Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art (2007) the WA Premier Science Award
(2008) and became a Centre for Excellence in 2008. In 2009 Catts was
recognized by Thames & Hudson’s “60 Innovators Shaping our Creative Future”
book in the category “Beyond Design”, and by Icon Magazine (UK) as one of
the top 20 Designers, “making the future and transforming the way we work”.
Catts interests lie in shifting relations and perceptions of life in the
light of new knowledge and it applications. Often working in collaboration
with other artists (mainly Dr. Ionat Zurr) and scientists, Catts have
developed a body of work that speak volumes about the need for new cultural
articulation of evolving concepts of life. Catts was a Research Fellow in
Harvard Medical School, a visiting Scholar at the Department of Art and Art
History, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor of Design
Interaction, Royal College of Arts, London. Catts’ ideas and projects reach
beyond the confines of art; his work is often cited as inspiration to
diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture,
ethics, fiction, and food.

Richard Doyle is Professor of English, Affiliate Faculty of Information
Science and Technology, Convenor of the Penn State Center for Nano Futures
at Penn State University, and was Visiting Associate Professor at UC
Berkeley, Department of Rhetoric in 2003. Doyle has published three
monographs, On Beyond Living: Rhetorical Transformations of the Life
Sciences (Stanford, 1997), Wetwares: Experiments in PostVital Living
(Minnesota, 2003), and Darwin's Pharmacy: Sex, Plants and the Evolution of
The Noösphere (University of Washington Press, 2011), that form a trilogy
about emerging transhuman knowledges. These knowledges and practices,
linked to molecular biology, artificial life, nanotechnology, psychedelic
and information technologies, render the experiential distinctions between
living systems and machines frequently dubious and often indiscernible.
This excited and confused rhetorical membrane between humans and an
informational universe nonetheless broadcasts a clear message: humans, in
co-evolution with the technical matrices transforming the planet, find
themselves in an evolutionary ecology that is as urgent as it is
experimental. Doyle’s is also at work on book, Admixtures: Dialogues After
Genomics, with Anthropologist, Mark Shriver.  With Shriver Doyle founded
the The Penn State Center for Altered Consciousness, which investigates the
genetics and phenomenology of legally altered consciousness with the help
of a flotation tank.
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