[rohrpost] SLSA Berlin 02 - 07 June, 2008 (panel: Rethinking Representational Practices in Contemporary Art and Modern Life Sciences)

Ingeborg Reichle ingeborg.reichle at kunstgeschichte.de
Die Mai 27 11:25:27 CEST 2008

Figurations of Knowledge

5th Biannual European Conference of the Society for Literature, Science, 
and the Arts (SLSA)

Berlin 02 - 07 June, 2008

hosted by the Center for Literary and Cultural Research Berlin (ZfL)


The next SLSA conference (Berlin 2-8 June 2008) is coming up soon and 
therefore I am sending today the program of the panel: Rethinking 
Representational Practices in Contemporary Art and Modern Life Sciences, 
Friday, 6th of June, 11:00--13:00. Four scholars in the field of art and 
biotechnology / life sciences will give presentations about current 
issues of this fast evolving field.

The artist Suzanne Anker (New York, USA) will present a paper about 
"Semaphores and Surrogates: Stand-ins and Body Doubles". In 2004 she 
published together with Dorothy Nelkin her important book: The Molecular 
Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2004) 
see: http://www.geneculture.org/

The art historian Robert Zwijnenberg (Leiden, NL) will give a talk about 
"Bio-Art: Concepts and Matter". In 2005 Robert Zwijnenberg was able to 
open The Arts & Genomics Centre, which is based at the Faculty of 
Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Leiden Institute of Chemistry, 
Gorlaeus Laboratories, University of Leiden, The Netherlands. The Centre 
creates a platform for international artists, scientific researchers and 
professionals from business and government organizations in the aim to 
stimulate, initiate and supervise collaborations and exchanges, see: 

The historian of science Thomas Söderqvist (Copenhagen, DK) will give a 
presentation about "Five (good and Bad) Reasons why a Medical Museum 
Director wants to Bring Art and Science together". Besides interesting 
conferences on Biomedicine on Display he organized at the Medical 
Museion, University of Copenhagen, he is hosting a very interesting 
web-site about Biomedicine on Display, see: www.corporeality.net/museion

I will talk at the end of the panel about "Art in the Age of 
Technoscience" and will present some issue I deal with in my forthcoming 
book "Art in the Age of Technoscience. Genetic Engineering, Robotics, 
and Artificial Life in Contemporary Art " (Springer, New York 2009), 
see: http://www.kunstgeschichte.de/reichle/pub_technoscience_EN.html

Suzanne Anker (New York, USA)
Semaphores and Surrogates: Stand-ins and Body Doubles

Robert Zwijnenberg (Leiden, NL)
Bio-Art: Concepts and Matter

Thomas Söderqvist (Copenhagen, DK)
Five (good and Bad) Reasons why a Medical Museum Director
wants to Bring Art and Science together

(Chair): Ingeborg Reichle (Berlin, GER)
Art in the Age of Technoscience

Panel: Rethinking Representational Practices in Contemporary Art and 
Modern Life Sciences

Friday, 6th of June, 11:00--13:00

Location: Kaiserin-Friedrich-Haus, Robert-Koch-Platz 7, 10115 Berlin

(Chair): Ingeborg Reichle (Berlin, GER)

The panel "Rethinking Representational Practices in Contemporary Art and 
Modern Life Sciences" will bring a group of international experts 
together to frame this increasingly important topic at SLSA 2008. The 
aim of this panel is to extend investigations of research in art and 
science with a focus on the complex role of visual representation in 
both fields. By contrasting contemporary art with recent scientific 
developments, it is possible to demonstrate that art today not only 
serves to comment on science, but also represents a form of research and 
knowledge production in its own right, though one belonging to a 
radically different epistemological tradition. Moving beyond the 
postulated dichotomy of the "objective" sciences and the "subjective" 
arts, contemporary art shows us that art is no longer limited to the 
production of beautiful artefacts, but has established its role as a 
legitimate form of knowledge production in its own right. Today the 
engagement of art with science ranges from artists' iconological 
handling of scientific imaging to research projects executed as artistic 
endeavours by artists working in the laboratory. In the last two decades 
we have seen a number of artists leave the traditional artistic 
playground to work instead in scientific contexts such as the 
laboratories of molecular biologists. Such artistic interventions in 
genetics and biological forms have made possible new means of artistic 
expression and art forms, like 'Transgenic Art' and 'Bio-Art'. The use 
of biological materials by artists ranges from tissue engineering to 
stem-cell technologies and even transgenic animals, a phenomenon that 
raises ethical questions with regard to both scientific and artistic 

Suzanne Anker (New York, USA)

Semaphores and Surrogates: Stand-ins and Body Doubles

 From material processes to elusive patterns, artists and scientists 
devise myriad models of explanation. Sometimes illusionistically 
evocative, sometimes diligently computational and at other times 
sculpturally bounded, these conceptualizing tools have historically 
linked art and science. In addition, surrogates or substitutes are also 
fabricated from animate matter or otherwise employed "readymade". In the 
case of an animate surrogate, a stand-in body double, performs functions 
generally separated from personal utility. How do ethical parameters 
intervene in actions of this kind? This paper will explore the ambit of 
modelling options brought to the fore by considering the changing role 
of surrogates as research tools. From blow-up dolls to medical dummies, 
from tissue testers to photographic tableaux, this paper will focus on 
the variegated range of modelling techniques in both the artist's studio 
and the scientific laboratory. These facsimiles will be explored as 
conceptualizing mechanisms expanding the possibilities for dimensional 
invention and intervention.

Robert Zwijnenberg (Leiden, NL)

Bio-Art: Concepts and Matter

In contemporary arts practices dealing with living biological systems, 
artists on the one hand get their hands wet by actually working with 
living material in a technological environment, on the other hand they 
often explain their artistic practice as essentially conceptual in 
nature. They seem to translate or to transform a technological practice 
into an artistic practice or to relocate it to the artistic realm, and 
it is assumed, that in this transformation or relocation, the 
bio-artists distance themselves from and/or undermines the technological 
rhetoric and ideology at work in this practice. For instance, the 
Disembodied Cuisine from the Tissue Culture and Art Project is described 
as carrying ad absurdum the realization of technological hopes and 
wishes of tissue engineering, by using this technology within a 
performative installation, i.e. an artistic environment. The artistic 
strategy behind Eduardo Kac's Alba is often compared to the strategy 
behind Duchamp's fountain. In these accounts, the emphasis is on 
artistic processes (of relocating, transformation, etc.). In my paper, I 
will discuss the question if technologies and biological materials used 
by bio-artists are changed or affected by these transforming processes, 
in the sense that they acquire new or lose qualities. Or are there 
qualities that persist through an artistic transformation? Do 
technological practices and biological material have an essence that is 
unaffected by a change of context?

Thomas Söderqvist (Copenhagen, DK)

Five (good and Bad) Reasons why a Medical Museum Director
wants to Bring Art and Science together

The recent conjunction of art and science discourses and practices has 
also reached the museum sector. In addition to their traditional 
concerns with narrativity and didactics, museums of science, technology 
and medicine are increasingly showing interest in ways of integrating 
art work (including wet-art) into their collections and exhibitions. But 
why are museums of STM interested in art and the aesthetic dimension of 
science and science communication? What can art works add to collections 
and exhibitions? In this paper I will discuss a number of good (and bad) 
reasons for this 'aesthetic turn' in the STM museum sector: political, 
economical, epistemic, cultural and existential.
www.corporeality.net/museion, www.museion.ku.dk

(Chair): Ingeborg Reichle (Berlin, GER)

Art in the Age of Technoscience

Today many scientific representations -- like the DNA-double helix -- are 
no longer neutral descriptions of genetic entities but rather have 
advanced to the status of ornaments and bearers of a mythological and 
religious meaning of 'life itself'. Already around 1900, early 
representatives of the young discipline of genetics exhibited a tendency 
to indulge in utopian rhetoric, conjuring up visions of a 'biological 
art of engineering' or a 'technology of living organisms', which did not 
confine itself to the shaping of plants and animals but aspired to 
etting new criteria for human coexistence and the organisation of human 
society. Then, as now, the heralds of this 'biological revolution' were 
predicting nothing less than a second creation; this time, however, it 
would be an artificially created bio-industrial nature that would 
replace the original concept of evolution. Many art exhibitions in 
recent years have taken as their central theme the effects of this 
'biological revolution' on a person's self-image and on the 
multi-layered interrelations between art and genetics. However, in 
contrast to the first encounters between art and genetics, which began 
in the early twentieth century with art's visual and affirmative 
engagement with genetics, today these 'scientific' images are being 
decoded through the linking of art and the images of the life sciences, 
resulting in a new way of reading them. Artists are taking the 
terminology of the realm of art and applying it to the technically 
generated images of molecular biology or other life sciences, thereby 
questioning their claim to objectivity and truth and making them 
recognizable as a space where other fields of knowledge and areas of 
culture may also be inscribed. With the aid of an iconography of images 
from science, an attempt is being made to decipher the cultural codes 
that these images additionally transport.