[-empyre-] Introduction: Between Biology and Art Welcome Byron Rich

Byron Rich brich at allegheny.edu
Sun Feb 12 04:31:01 AEDT 2017

Greetings everyone. I’m pretty happy to be a part of the conversation.

I’ll start with a bit about what I do. 

I’m really most into designing absurd solutions to ecological and social problems. I like pushing back against the idea of “techno-solutionism” as I find it has a weird relationship to Libertarianism as it’s practiced in Silicon Valley. I worry about the insertion of non-holistic approaches into culture without careful consideration of the context and consequences of them.

For instance, when in Germany for a residency two summers ago I was working quite a bit with invasive species, specifically Ragweed. Ragweed runs rampant throughout Germany and was particularly bad in the area of Leipzig where I was living. Every effort at mitigating the ragweed was failing, so I developed a terrible robot to help. What I was sort of struck by was the irony of the panic over this North American species in a way colonizing Europe. What I did was create a robot that could access weather data and Google Maps to plot a course to the port in Rotterdam where theoretically the robot could board a ship and carry a couple ragweed plants back to North America. Of course on the way it would inevitably spread ragweed only making the problem worse. Additionally, the robot could only travel 1 km on a full charge, then would have to wait as a small solar cell tried to recharge the battery pack. 

Needless to say, GARRy (GPS Assisted Ragweed Robot) didn’t really work as a solution. It did however function exactly as designed in that it could autonomously plot a course and navigate to it’s intended destination. I’m now using the same technology to develop nomadic ecosystems that travel on dirigibles. Aesthetically they are loosely based on La Minerve, a 19th century vision of the future of air travel. I love the idea of extending the capabilities of non-human actors as a kind of reaction to climate change. I can talk more about this project later.

Currently I am artist-in-residence at The University at Buffalo’s Coalesce lab where I am working on developing a transgenic bioluminescent yeast biosensor for the detection of estrogen and estrogen mimickers in water samples. There are some problems with the complexity of the transformation in that there are two plasmids in play, one for reporting and one for detecting. It’s still a bit beyond me, but should be doable. 

Perhaps that is enough of a first post? Please forgive any grammatical or spelling errors as I’m on my phone. 

Thanks for reading!

> On Feb 10, 2017, at 8:14 PM, Renate Terese Ferro <rferro at cornell.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> We will begin our Introductory posts for the topic Between Biology and Art this weekend joined by Byron Rich.  Byron and I will be setting the foundation for our discussion over the next three and a half weeks. These generative iterations create grounds of tension for creative and critical engagement within the fields of biological and artistic research and production.
> Historically we all recall the case of Steve Kurtz, SUNY Buffalo and Critical Arts Ensemble member who in May of 2004 was accused of bio-terrorism because Homeland Security agents mistook his biologically based performance inspired by the global GMO contaminated food system.
> This is not the first time we have hosted bio science artists into our –empyre-soft skinned space. In February 2013 we hosted a memorial discussion in honor of artist Beatriz DaCosta. Beatriz was a leading voice in socially activist artistic work in the areas of biology, engineering, and technology.
> I was inspired to host this topic this month because at this past summer’s ISEA conference in Hong Kong I noted so many young artists who were doing research.
> Inspired by all of them empyre invites new media artists, researchers, historians and others to join us to investigate current topics such as germs,
> fermenting, probiotics, skin, ecologies and many more intersections between biology, technology, and new media practices.
> Hope these comments will inspire some of our subscribers to write in. And I am thrilled that Byron has so valiantly agreed to start things out with me.  Here is his biography: 
> Byron Rich (CA) is an artist, professor and lecturer born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His work exploring speculative design, biology futures and tactical media has been widely shown and spoken about internationally. He pursued a degree in New-Media at The University of Calgary before finding himself in Buffalo, New York where he obtained an MFA in Emerging Practices at The University at Buffalo. He now teaches Electronic Art & Intermedia at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. 
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Associate Professor
> Director of Undergraduate Studies
> Department of Art
> Tjaden Hall 306
> rferro at cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Byron Rich 
Assistant Professor of Electronic Art, Intermedia & Painting
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA

Doane Hall of Art, A204
(o) 814.332.3381

Office Hours, Fall 2016:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - 8:30am-10:00am
Click here to schedule an appointment. 

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