[-empyre-] Week 3: Science, Technology, Art and Fakeness

Hamilton, Kevin kham at illinois.edu
Wed Jun 21 04:02:06 AEST 2017

Hello all - 

The questions I raised yesterday emerged for me in a panel Renate co-organized at last year's College Art Association conference for the New Media Caucus, on Biology and Art.

At this panel we heard from some great people, including Maria Fernandez, Paul Vanouse, Natalie Jeremijenko, Byron Rich and Mary Tsang. I was struck by the role of representation, of image-making, at the center of so many of the projects discussed. That shouldn't be surprising for artists of course, especially given the aesthetic and theoretical lineages these artists draw from. But images may be a surprising plane on which to argue with science.

One might explain that through constructing their own "fake" images using DNA, for example, Paul and his collaborators reveal the way these "fingerprints" gain legal and scientific authority as cultural products. Such a "reveal" of how science builds credibility can then help introduce a larger conversation and critique about how, for example, the criminal justice system relies on particular approaches to identity and personhood.

This is one way in among many one might take to critique, reimagine or abolish contemporary trial and sentencing structures. Some critiques of the same system start with how little the victims of crimes figure into retributive justice models. Others take a more historical approach, and narrate the roots of American trial and sentencing culture in slavery.

The dislodging of unjust structures solely through revelation of root causes and origins will likely get us nowhere. So a critique of the science of identity as applied in criminal prosecution that is based solely on revealing the subjective, constructive nature of its images will likely get us nowhere. Thankfully, I don't think that's where Vanouse and his colleagues stop.

It might be where the deniers of climate change stop. Such revelation and critique is certainly is where a lot of "creation scientists" spend their time.

I'll keep going on this line tomorrow, but would of course also welcome other thoughts, examples, and questions!

All best,

Kevin Hamilton

On 6/19/17, 12:33 PM, "empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on behalf of Hamilton, Kevin" <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on behalf of kham at illinois.edu> wrote:

    ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
    Hi all - 
    Thank you for the introduction Renate! And thanks to all for a good month so far on the subject. I'll ask a question to get things going.
    Here on empyre, we can point to a lively and expansive lineage of art, activism and scholarship that questions basic epistemologies of modern science. Much of this work builds on science studies, feminist theory, and postcolonial critique to illuminate and re-imagine the role of "big science" in the structuring of biopolitical regimes across medical, military, and agricultural domains. 
    **What do these practices offer our efforts to reduce climate change, at a moment when the truth-claims of scientists have been undermined for very different reasons?**
    As in so many other moments this century, we find ourselves with some structural homologies among the efforts of groups working towards very different political ends. Climate-change deniers and critics of big oil and big pharma have been taking similar swipes at the foundations of western science for years. 
    It matters who is doing the swiping, and to what ends, so I don't mean to draw a false equivalence. But at a moment when public discussions about climate change have become so predictable and even pre-determined, what could we learn from the efforts and examples of Beatriz da Costa, CAE, Faith Wilding, Paul Vanouse, Natalie Jeremijenko and others working in biology and art? Do the rhetorical and representational strategies of these or other artists offer help in shifting public conversations toward shared action? Contrarily, are there examples from among these bodies of work that we should take care to avoid in the present moment?
    I have some thoughts on all this that I'll share more over the week as the opportunity emerges, but thought I'd introduce this line of questioning for starters.
    All best,
    Kevin Hamilton
    empyre forum
    empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au

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