[-empyre-] hello, introduction, mycelia

Vanouse, Paul vanouse at buffalo.edu
Thu Jun 7 03:06:07 AEST 2018

Hi all, 
thanks for orgainizing this thread Shu Lea!
and thanks renate and empyre!

I’m an artist and professor at the University at Buffalo. For a few years I’ve been directing a center for biological art called Coalesce. In 19 years teaching at UB, this has been the most exciting thing I’ve been a part of. Coalesce is a hybrid studio laboratory facility dedicated to enabling hands-on creative engagement with the tools and technologies of the life sciences, a place where a place where artists, designers and architects actively learn, use and create, using life sciences technologies as their medium; scientists explore broader cultural meanings of their work; and philosophers and social scientists interact in a tangible way with the processes of the life sciences. But, it is a place where such disciplinary labels are challenged and hybrid creative practices are incubated. Our big sister is SymbioticA in Perth, who has been a model and collaborator in some of our activities. We offer courses and graduate lab space through the art department, public workshops, and four to six artist residencies every year.  In fact, the next deadline for residency applications is June 30;-)  http://www.coalesce.buffalo.edu

As an artist, I’ve been working with DNA for nearly twenty years. Impassioned amateurism and interdisciplinarity have guided my art practice. I have come to thrive upon the strange challenges and risks that I continually confront pushing the limits of such materials to visually communicate. In projects like "Latent Figure Protocol" (06-09), "Suspect Inversion Center" (2012) and "America Project" (2016) I’ve tried to challenge to the cultural authority of DNA Fingerprinting and genetic identity.  My intention in all three works was to dethrone the most authoritative image of our time, the “DNA Fingerprint” by deconstructing the notion of the DNA image as “natural” by artistically “constructing” them.  Making recognizable pictures with DNA imaging to undermine reductive slogans like “you are your DNA” and “DNA is destiny.” 

For the last few years, I’ve been working on a project called “Labor”, which is a factory (and live bio-media installation) that produces the smell of human sweat, but using only skin bacteria in industrial fermentation tanks. The scent of human sweat is created by bacteria such as Staph epidermidis, Propioni and Coryne bacteria that metabolize our excretions in fascinating ways—some aerobically, others anaerobically, others only partially digesting fatty acids to produce funky intermediate products.  Its meant as a strange nostalgia for humans in an era where increasingly non-human labor is used to produce many foodstuffs and other commodities and materials.  

Alongside this, I’ve just begun my first mycellium endeavor this Spring based on induced melanin expression in Neurospora crassa. It becomes part of the cell walls. Genetically and phenotypically, black microbial forms and networks. These two current projects stem from my molecular biology work with DNA, as they aim to complicate simplistic senses of individual and group (human and racial) identity.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing the network grow and take on new threads … and fruiting bodies!
I’m happy to help facillitate here in Buffalo!
We like to collaborate;-)

Cheers all,

ps— A sad, but also, a fond farewell to Marilouise Kroker.  She and Arthur would have been great to have with us all as we discuss this as they both engage artists, technology and theory in poetic and catalytic ways. I met them in 1994, when I was doing my MFA at CMU. They were really encouraging and influential on my work—among the first theorists that I felt I truly connected with as a new media artist.  

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