Post 2: Bio Arts

In Understanding Media Arts, one of the topics that came up which grabbed my attention was Bio Arts. Bio Art is an art practice where humans work with live tissues, bacteria, living organisms, and life processes or uses synthetic materials that represents or embodies the relevant subjects. Using scientific processes such as biotechnology, including technologies such as genetic engineering, tissue culture, and cloning the artworks are produced in laboratories, galleries, or artists’ studios

An exhibit of bio-art works by Kevin H. Jones went on view February 16, 2007 at the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass. Jones’ work discovers how biotechnology and other sciences are changing and being redefined. Almost every piece in it is alive, and the media used includes bioluminescent bacteria and rotting fruit. The exhibit seeks to make the achievements and implications of biotechnology more accessible, a goal shared by most bio-artists working today. (Shana Dumont, 2007)

The genetic revolution has turned the artist’s studio into a laboratory, the artist into a researcher, and living tissue technology into a medium. Artists are experimenting with biological substances in creative new ways. The risky business of using living organisms as a new art media and the artist as scientist has brought to the forefront a whole new set of ethical considerations and questions of responsibility.

Although BioArtists work with living matter, there are some debate as to the stages at which matter can be considered to be alive or living. Creating living beings and practicing in the life sciences brings about ethical, social, and aesthetic inquiry.

Beyond a shared use of ‘biomedia’ or living matter, the artists and scientists involved in bio-art may have divergent or even conflict- ing intellectual, ethical or aesthetic aims and interests. Such conflicts need clarification if we are to negotiate the role that bio-art has in disseminating often controversial science to a non-expert audience. The placement of mutagenic creations in the public space of a gallery does enable wider access to complex, cultural debates about how and who is responsible for the shaping of our biotechno- logical future, thereby opening up a space for critical dialogue beyond or in-between the specialist discourses of both art and science. (Stracey F, 2009)

Another related artist is Stelarc who is a well-known Bio Artist. For his work Ear On Arm, He had a prosthetic ear surgically placed in his left arm. The ear gradually was able to hear and transmit. This project has been about replicating a bodily structure, relocating it and now rewiring it for alternate functions,” Stelarc says. “It manifests both a desire to deconstruct our evolutionary architecture and to integrate microminiaturized electronics inside the body.” The Ear on Arm project suggests an alternate anatomical architecture – the engineering of a new organ for the body: an available, accessible and mobile organ for other bodies in other places, enabling people to locate and listen in to another body elsewhere.

Kibong Rhee is also another Bio Art practitioner. Although his art doesn’t really use any living organisms, cell or matter, he uses the idea of prosthetics in his work. Perpetual Snow, is a kinetic sculpture that conveys the environmental phenomenon of falling snow and the human act of writing. There is a motorized life size model or the artists arm, which was considered as the Bio Art part of his work, to move a white marker pen in which draws circles on to a glass panel. His work shows how work done by robots can be disguised and human touch can be added to it with the element or prosthesis.

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