In the context of the main theme of the conference and the exhibition, the issue of ethics emerged following two directions:
1) ethics in pondering the figure of the hybrid, the entanglement of zoe and bio, the intersection of bio and info. In the first case, Zylinska suggests that we are at an impasse after Haraway’s definition of the cyborg. In fact, in this implosion of organic and inorganic, human and machine, where do we locate the animal? And how do we define our coexistence and interspersing with the animal without maintaining an anthropocentric view?
Monika Bakke for instance asks us to think of the bioengineering of plants: recently, there has been a move to acknowledge that plants are sensitive beings responding to the external environment in a more intricate way than we think. However, what does it do to us in terms of our anthropocentric thinking? Bakke proposes two case studies that expose the long-history of human plant domestications (as human domination over plants) and their patenting (a form of colonization)
In the art intervention Common Flowers the “moon dust carnations” bioengineered by the company suntory and relocated in SouthAmerica were illegally reproduced by the artists using very simple recipes and then released into the territory in a case of reverse biopiracy.
Bakke reminds us of a controversial swiss ruling that revendicated the dignity of plants
See two articles that document the episode
in both cases, the question is not : do plant have dignity of their own? But it is rather : is there a way in which we can speak of plants without always approaching them as other than our own and in a fashion that avoids instrumentalization, ownership, reproductive ability, patenting etc?
the same issue was also raised by Oron Catts about the alleged semi-status of the semi-living entities. Would our behavior in the lab change if we didn’t manipulate objects that we don’t see, cells that we approach only by wearing protections and through the distance of the microscope lenses in a sterilized, sanitized environment ?
finally, another ethics concern was raised during the Symbiotica workshop when we realized how much waste it is involved in working in the lab. how many pipettes, how many gloves, how much material is disposed to assure that every process is properly sterilized and doesn’t incur in any type of contamination?