[-empyre-] Week 3: Thanks to Kathy and Lindsay and Welcome Soyu, Paul and Yiyun

Byron Rich brich at allegheny.edu
Tue Mar 7 08:35:31 AEDT 2017

Hi everyone,

First, thanks, Renate for brining all these amazing thinkers together; it
has been fascinating reading all the responses, questions, etc.
Additionally, it has been wonderful being in such company. Kathy, I saw one
of your works at the Miller Gallery at CMU a few days ago. Inspiring, as
always. As an early career artist and professor, it has been so motivating
to be in dialogue with so many people I've long admired.

Paul's response was so thoughtful that I doubt I can add much, but I'll

One element that, for me, pushes against any kind of epegenetic notion of
"Bioart" is the vastness of what fall under that title. From biohackers to
those influenced by biological processes, there are wildly different
perspectives on what can be achieved, or what should be, using biology as a
loose underpinning. From the technosolutionist approach that biodesign
often espouses, to the highly self aware work of practitioners like Paul,
to those that fall somewhere in between (perhaps like Mary and I), bioart
doesn't seem to claim any kind of underlying manifesto as unifier.
Anecdotally, I am often frustrated by being put into the biohacking
community, as I am realistically not interested in DIY processes as much as
I am increased scientific literacy. The conflation of the two notions
positions my work precariously, but that has advantages, too. I guess I'm
hinting at why the term "bioart" is so problematic.

I think institutions like the Waag Society in Amsterdam are trying to
reconcile with exactly what you are questioning, Erin, in that the
biohacking labs and artists working with biology have overlap, but don't
necessarily see the ultimate purpose of their pursuits as similar. And to
what extent is there a unifying ideology? Or is there one at all? Something
like Adam Brown's *The Great Work of the Metal Lover *plays in the liminal
space between producing a democratizing output and being highly self aware
in so much as it is playing with public perceptions and understanding of
what is possible. Compare that to, on one end, biohackers developing DIY
processes and tools to emancipate discovery from institutional forces, and
on the other biodesigners using or appropriating the aesthetics or
mechanics of biological systems to solve some kind of problem. A
technosolutionist approach made more human through references back to
nature. I'm not even going to bother getting into the issues around anture.

I hope I don't sound crazy, as I'm typing this up on my phone in the campus
coffee shop as students filter through asking me questions on myriad

Thanks again, Renate!

On Sun, Mar 5, 2017 at 11:53 PM, Vanouse, Paul <vanouse at buffalo.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> HI Empyre and Erin,
> I wanted to finally respond, to at least some of what Erin had asked so
> long ago…
> On the provocative question of
> "It is here that we might pose the question of the epigenesis of bioart,
> suggesting that bioart is itself the epigenesis of both biology and art.
> Yet, even if bioart might be heading toward such uncharted territory as the
> (machinic) subjectivity of bioartworks, the “evolution” of bioart,
> anthropocene art, and astrobioart (the fusion of astrobiology and bioart),
> the philosophical grounds of bioart remain, it appears, highly static and
> fixed . . “
> So for me, epigenetics is antithetical to essentialism and determinism—for
> instance dethroning the idea of what is genetically determined by positing
> externalities and other influences, pressures, causalities, complications,
> etc.  I would claim that no field, such as biology, is determined by an
> inner logic or essence, but a more complex network of such influences.  I’m
> thinking for example of how Carolyn Marvin’s “When Old Technologies Were
> New" or Lily Kay’s "Who Wrote the Book of Life", dethrone the idea that
> technosciences are somehow already there or predetermined or stable.
> Likewise, I can’t imagine that bioart has a fixed philosophical ground… to
> me it seems so unstable that even an accidental comment could alter its
> seeming fixity, not to mention shifts in funding and global politics;-)
> Anyway, I hope I understood your question correctly, I’ve been mulling
> this over for awhile...
> Thanks for a great month Renate;-)
> Paul
> > On Feb 25, 2017, at 8:13 PM, Erin Obodiac <emo57 at cornell.edu> wrote:
> >
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Responding to Paul Vanouse's question about the relation between ethics
> and aesthetics, I wanted to first focus on aesthetics and bioart within a
> philosophical framework . . . I'm writing a paper for the biodeconstruction
> panel at this summer's ACLA conference.
> > Tentatively titled “Bioart and the Epigenetic Turn: from Bioinformatics
> to Bioplasticity," this paper does not discuss bioart in relation to the
> fascinating world of transgenics and cloning, bionetworks and biocolonies,
> or Green Florescent Protein (GFP), but in relation to a so-called
> non-materialist transcendental principle: what Kant calls “the epigenesis
> of pure reason.”  It also situates Derrida’s discussion of parergon from
> The Truth in Painting in relation to epigenetics: just as genetics might be
> considered the ergon of the living being, so too might epigenetics be its
> parergon.
> > Although new materialism—and bioart is part of this adventure—has
> dissolved barriers between the natural and technological, the human and
> nonhuman, the living and non-living, the organism and environment, the
> genetic and epigenetic, the informatic and plastic, it has also
> unexpectedly invited us to revisit aesthetic orientations that look
> “beyond” the material.  Philosopher Catherine Malabou, for instance,
> insists that although contemporary biology and biotechnology (and we can
> add bioart here) in effect deconstruct the limits of deconstruction and
> other poststructuralist theory, she nevertheless observes that new
> materialism often disregards and therefore reinstitutes the
> “transcendental” in its most critical and uncritical forms.  In the realm
> of art and aesthetics this territory is perhaps staked out most familiarly
> by the “sublime,” yet if we return to Kant’s Critique of Judgment, we will
> see that the sublime and the transcendental are not only immersed in
> questions of the aesthetic, but in biology and, we might say, biotechnics
> and bioart as well.
> > This is not to say that bioart should retreat or regress into questions
> of “aesthetic experience” or the “immaterial,” but that the aesthetic, in
> Kant’s formulation, belongs to life as such, and that Kant often deploys
> biological terms to discuss the aesthetic.  One such phrase, and one that
> Catherine Malabou explores in her recent book Avant Demain: Épigenese et
> Rationalité, is “the epigenesis of pure reason.”  Epigenesis is a theory of
> (embryonic) development in distinction from preformationism, and for
> contemporary genomics it suggests a certain kind of plasticity to the
> fixity and innateness of the genetic code and forms in general.  It is here
> that we might pose the question of the epigenesis of bioart, suggesting
> that bioart is itself the epigenesis of both biology and art.  Yet, even if
> bioart might be heading toward such uncharted territory as the (machinic)
> subjectivity of bioartworks, the “evolution” of bioart, anthropocene art,
> and astrobioart (the fusion of astrobiology and bioart), the philosophical
> grounds of bioart remain, it appears, highly static and fixed . . .
> >
> > Paul: how would you describe the philosophical underpinnings of bioart?
> >
> > Regards,
> > Erin Obodiac
> >
> >
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Hi Empyre group,
> > Thanks Renate for inviting and Kathy for prodding me to write and to ask
> a couple questions;-)
> >
> > So, I suppose this would be a good place to mention/discuss my main
> recent project this year, the Coalesce Center for Biological Art.  The
> Center was initiated as a component of the Community of Excellence in
> Genome, Environment and Microbiome at the University at Buffalo. Our
> mandate is to help address the grand challenge to our social and ethical
> tools by recent advances in the biotechnology; complementing UB’s expertise
> in the life sciences by addressing questions and issues vital to public
> understanding and participation, but beyond the analytical constraints of
> most disciplines.
> >
> > Coalesce has been in the works for a few years, but this is the first
> year fully operational in all aspects.  We now teach interdisciplinary
> courses and workshops with biological media, offer graduate assistantships
> and undergraduate internships, support faculty research, and offer visiting
> artist residencies.  This year’s residents were selected after a call for
> proposals in the summer 2016, and have been the center’s guiding spark:
> Nicole Clouston (CA), Heather Dewey-Hagborg (US), Kathy High (US), Timo
> Menke (Se), Zbigniew Oksiuta (US), Byron Rich and Mary Tsang (US), and
> Lucie Strecker and Klaus Spiess (At).
> >
> > After working in with biomedia for the last twenty years, the Coalesce
> center and our residents have forced me to think in greater breadth about
> many issues our field interrogates.  Needless to say, I wouldn’t have
> attempted such an enterprise if not for the residency I completed at
> Symbiotica, with Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, 2005 in Perth, as well as at
> Biofilia, 2014 in Helsinki.  The questions that now sit upon my desk,
> staring back at me, are particularly these “ethical tools”, which I mention
> in our mission statement.  I’ve always considered theoretical frameworks to
> be “critical tools” and find updating our ethical tools crucial at this
> stage.  It would seem that many of the funds and incentives for the
> development of ethical tools have been diminished and compromised since the
> beginning of the Human Genome Project in the 1980s with its 15% funds
> devoted to Ethical, Legal, Social Implications (ELSI) program.  Indeed,
> many of the seeming bedrocks of ethics and precaution have been eroded,
> like those of the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA in 1975.  For
> instance, the recent proclamations from the National Academy entrepreneurs
> that the highly accurate Crisper protocol means that we can now reconsider
> the ban on human germ-line modification?!  As if the ban were simply
> because of technical problems!
> >
> > So, can bio-art be an even more explicit participant in ELSI debates in
> the coming years.  How do we presently conceive of the relationship between
> ethics and aesthetics?
> >
> > Looking forward to hearing from others about this.
> > cheers,
> > Paul
> >
> >> On Feb 24, 2017, at 10:35 AM, High, Kathy <highk at rpi.edu> wrote:
> >>
> >> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >> Dear Renate,
> >> Thanks so much fro writing and for introducing Soyo, Paul and Yiyun.
> >> It would be great to hear of the scene in biological arts in Seoul and
> >> Shanghai - for Soyo and Yiyun!
> >> And Paul could fill everyone in on his amazing Coalesce Residency in
> >> Biological Arts in Buffalo!!!
> >>
> >> Looking forward!
> >> Thanks Kathy
> >>
> >> On 21/02/2017, 2:06 PM, "empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on
> >> behalf of Renate Terese Ferro" <empyre-bounces at lists.
> artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> >> on behalf of rferro at cornell.edu> wrote:
> >>
> >>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >>> I have been trying to sort through some glitches in our system but am
> >>> going to plod on in hopes you are getting our posts.  Just a reminder
> >>> that you can check on what has been posted by going to our main
> archived
> >>> space here
> >>>
> >>> http://lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> I want to take this opportunity to thank Kathy High and Lindsay Kelley
> >>> for helping me through Week 2 while I was traveling to NYC.  The
> >>> discussion was a great beginning into the nuances of doing
> >>> interdisciplinary work that is so meshed and intertwined with politics,
> >>> the environment, health, and so much more.  I appreciated Kathy’s early
> >>> post last week when she wrote:
> >>>
> >>> <snip>
> >>> I am very aware that my role as an artist, feminist, educator, queer
> >>> person, and provocateur is essential more so now than even before! As
> >>> so-called bio-arists (and I say that because the term “bio-art” is
> such a
> >>> terrible “catch all” term that needs to be examined as it needs to
> serve
> >>> for “eco-artists”, "genetic-artists” “transgenetic artists" "synthetic
> >>> biology
> >>> artists” and so on, all terms needing to be unpacked), — and generally
> >>> we, as bioartists, work with living materials and we make decisions
> about
> >>> the ethics that we apply to these materials.
> >>>
> >>> <snip>
> >>>
> >>> My hope is that we can use the base that both Kathy and Lindsay
> provided
> >>> for us to deconstruct the layers within “Bio Art” that manifest
> >>> themselves today BETWEEN BIOLOGY AND ART. For me its the between maybe
> >>> that holds the key to our examination?  Not sure but would love to hear
> >>> from more of you.
> >>>
> >>> Welcome Soyo Lee, Paul Vanouse and Yiyun Chen.  It is with great
> pleasure
> >>> that we welcome you to our -empyre- space and hope that you will post.
> >>> Realizing that Soyo and Yiyun are sleeping right now (they in Australia
> >>> and Singapore) we will wish them sweet dreams and look forward to their
> >>> contributions a bit later.  Paul I know is awake and probably in his
> >>> Coalesce Lab right now or teaching at U. of Buffalo but hopefully he
> will
> >>> have time to write in when he gets a chance.
> >>>
> >>> And to you lurkers….hope you will be inspired to write even short
> posts.
> >>> This is a conversation and without you in this space I feel lonely
> >>> sometimes thinking that there is absolutely no one out there. So if you
> >>> are reading this please be inspired to write.  I will refer to the
> >>> question that t Tim Murray and I wrote last month.  Is the listserv
> >>> -empyre no longer relevant if our subscribers do not participate.
> >>> Something to think about for sure.
> >>>
> >>> Biographies are below.  Looking forward.
> >>> Warmly,  Renate
> >>>
> >>> Soyo Lee(KR) is an artist who is interested in changing social and
> >>> ethical conceptions about various living organisms in human culture.
> Her
> >>> recent project Ornamental Cactus Design, looking at the cultural
> history
> >>> of a popular horticultural product, was presented at the Museum of
> Modern
> >>> and Contemporary Art(Seoul), Museum of Contemporary Art(Sydney),
> >>> ISEA(Albuqerque), and SLSA(Perth). She holds a Ph.D in Electronic Art
> at
> >>> Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, and runs an independent art
> >>> space and publisher Lifeforms in Culture in Seoul, Korea.
> >>>
> >>> Paul Vanouse has been working in emerging media forms since 1990.
> >>> Interdisciplinarity and impassioned amateurism guide his art practice.
> >>> His electronic cinema, biological experiments, and interactive
> >>> installations have been exhibited in over 20 countries and widely
> across
> >>> the US. Vanouse is a Professor of Visual Studies at the University at
> >>> Buffalo, NY.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> Yiyun Chen is an artist currently based in Shanghai. She graduated from
> >>> MA Design Interactions at Royal College of Art in London, and obtained
> a
> >>> diploma of Traditional Chinese Medicine at
> >>> Shanghai University of TCM. Drawing and film are main mediums of her
> >>> narrative works, which often based on fictional scenarios, aiming to
> >>> provide alternative prospectives by raising dilemmatic questions
> through
> >>> proposing critical concepts. She currently interests in the realms
> where
> >>> art, psychology and medicine connect, and her work now mainly concerned
> >>> with the human body under
> >>> the topic of disease and wellness as an ideology. Her work ‘Sick
> Better’
> >>> is nominated by The Helen Hamlyn Design Awards and currently exhibiting
> >>> in London.Yiyun just finished her bioart residency in SymbioticA,
> Perth,
> >>> Australia.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> 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
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> empyre forum
> >> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> >> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> > http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> > _______________________________________________
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> > http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
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*Byron Rich Assistant Professor of Electronic Art, Intermedia & Painting*
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA

Doane Hall of Art, A204
(o) 814.332.3381

*Office Hours, Spring 2017:*
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - 8:30am-10:00am
Click here
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