[-empyre-] the ethics of the semi-living

Oron Catts oron.catts at uwa.edu.au
Thu Sep 12 02:22:33 EST 2013

Thanks Rich, Tyler and Lynn
First - Lynn asked:
"What are the degrees to which Semi-Living cells exist?  And how did you come to that term?"
The cells are not semi-living, the cells are alive like cells are alive... it is the assembly which is the semi-living, in other words, it is the fact that these cells are now removed from the original body that they once occupied.  The  body that we tend to refer to as an individual entity that persist over time (in our case the rabbit), or as Rich refer to the removed cells as being "out(side) of time.". The semi-living is more than just the cells, as in order for them to live_as_cells_live they now need a human intervention/technological assistance (or care as we will discuss later); remove the technology and these cells/tissue will return to the original state of the half rabbit heads- a piece of dead meat. 
So it is this combination of living fragments and technology is what is half alive, hance the semi-living.  

Tyler asked:
Oron, you've written elsewhere the importance of care of the semi-living, which has come up in relation to _Victimless Leather_. I wonder if you
might say more about this, especially in terms of ethics. Is there an ethics of care embedded in the practices of BioArt, even if death looms

Like any life removed from context and put into a technological frame, there is a need to for it to be cared for (as in maintenance), for us, initially, the idea to forefront this maintenance/care was a way to assert the liveness of the semi-living in concert with its fragility. It was then developed into a more nuanced and layered approach that was dealing with complexity of other aspects of care, including the inherited violence of caring for living things. I know that Cary referred (and I'll paraphrase here) to Derrida's discussion of violence of existence as  flattening and unhelpful. But I think that it is important to remember that in caring for life, life is taken and imposing care on life can be seen as violence by itself. Think about the practice of gardening- weeding and pruning ...

So yes, if bioart would exists, as in if artists working with life and attempting to impose some kind of wants onto living systems - the ethics of care is undoubtedly, implicitly or explicitly embedded in the practice. At least temporarily until care is no longer needed - you can call it death...


-----Original Message-----
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [mailto:empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Tyler Fox
Sent: Tuesday, 10 September 2013 8:08 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] the ethics of the semi-living

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