[-empyre-] Living Experiments

Adam Nocek anocek at uw.edu
Wed Sep 18 14:01:39 EST 2013

Thanks, Phillip, for this excellent post! I really like the way you want to
extend, for example, Oron's insights and take them outside of the
laboratory setting. To do this, you seem to imply, or in any case, play
with the idea that "experiment" should be thought in much broader terms
than the "scientific experiment." I wonder if you could comment on how you
see the experiment functioning outside of this setting, or how,
alternatively, a broader sense of experiment might transform the laboratory?


On Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 12:42 PM, Phillip S Thurtle <thurtle at uw.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thank you for the wonderful discussion so far. I’ve been tasked to
> share with you how I think about “living experiments”. This is my
> first exposure to Empyre (which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed) and I don’t
> have a sense of the distributed dynamics of the group. So I apologize
> in advance for what may appear as any unnecessary simplifications,
> redundancies, or obfuscations.
> For me, one of the most enduring lessons of bioart is how it tangibly
> demonstrates the ways we enable, privilege, and promote specific types
> of lives through daily practice. For instance, what are the types of
> lives that can occur through laboratory practice (such as the
> semi-living that Oron has talked about).
> I’m especially interested in thinking about extending this insight
> into how this occurs outside of the laboratory, how the other ways
> that we are embedded in political economy, aesthetics, and daily
> practice create new lives while changing others. This is where some of
> my work now focuses, thinking about the historical and material
> conditions for the emergence of new types of life.
> The first reason, I think this is interesting is that it is a
> necessary perspective for any type of “affirmative” biopolitcs, where
> “affirmative” is thought of in the Zarathustrian sense of an embrace
> of that which may come to pass (not that it is good, productive, or
> positive but that it happens). Second of all, as we have seen echoed
> in previous posts, bioart can encourage thinking beyond typical
> ethical formulations, such as how do I behave in a specific
> circumstance, to something that might be called “aesthetic”,
> “political”, or even “moral” ways of thinking, such as can how can the
> distributed “I” that I participate in might encourages less oppressive
> and more creative lives. Also, this isn’t just an issue for what one
> might constitute as various forms of life; rather, it is a way of
> navigating a world where complexity and material constraints often
> produce unintended consequences (although I would argue that studying
> what we call “living” can give special insights into processes of
> change). In short, I’m interested in the bioart experiments that we
> keep performing on each other.
> The way that the idea of “experiment” links past, present, and future
> is what really fascinates me. In any complex, immanent system,
> responses are not always what one expects. Approaching life (your
> life, others lives, my life) as an experiment places a focus on the
> unexpected outcomes that come about through multiply linked and
> variable ontologies. One of my favorite examples is the echolocation
> of bats. Bats send special audio signatures into the environment to
> find out what is out there. The return of the echo can tell bats not
> only about distance, but also about movement, surfaces, even the
> histories of objects (as long as that history changed the reflective
> properties of that object). Listening and acting are intertwined in a
> way that the term “experiment” can suggest.
> Thanks for making it this far. Phillip
> _______________________________________________
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> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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