Day 2: Biology and Art

Second day, second topic. this time, presenters addressed issues and work related to, and inspired by biology, sometimes by engaging directly with biology as a medium with which to experiment and sometimes as a background presence to observe and critically explore. Biology refers to a broad field that spans the very small and the very big, it is opposed to, compared, interspersed and sometimes confused with information, it is manipulated or hacked, it is turned into a spectacle or trivialized. these are probably only a few of the many reasons making biology a rather contested territory.

The first presenters to address this territory were Laura Cinti and Howard Boland from C-Lab , a centre created in 2003 preoccupied with the contemporary amalgamation of science and arts, as well as with the critical narrative and poetic negotiation of scientific spaces.

The peculiar feature of this organization is their focus on research and their outreach effort towards more mainstream institutions such as the London Science Centres. The impressive amount of work emerging from C-Lab is hard to summarize here as it engages with biology as a medium and research topic, as well as as the issues arising from using biology as artistic practice.

a few considerations that remained with me were the notion of bioart as a category that allows audience to participate in the process of making science. However,  engaging with the subject at an artistic and subjective level is not enough. for instance, we must  consider the type of subjective understanding often generated by bioart and think about new ways to engage with the very medium used. This, in many ways, resonates with recent reflections at Symbiotica regarding questions about the ambiguous and unexpected outcomes of bioart. Furthermore,  scholars like Robert Mitchell are increasingly reflecting on the transformation of our conceptions and practices of mediation brought by the combination of art and biotechnology. what are the ethical issues? what are the outcomes? and how do we anchor bioart to the sociopolitical context?