Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who's tools are they? - a review of the book "the Molecular Gaze" and question.

"Doug, Joe and Genevieve"   from The Garden of Delights, 1998
Set of three color prints   •   60" x 74".   2001
Here are some artists referenced in the book "The Molecular Gaze; Art in the Genetic Age" - by Suzanne Anker & Dorthey Nelkins.  Both fine artists in their own right who address science and art in their own work as well, and write a  fantastic books about Biological / genetic issues represented in current art work being produced in the community.  
They address  different factions of approach to the issue:
 1)   “Reductionism”
Can you break the body down to a code?  Are we just little blue prints for the next building of life and does the Cartesian model apply to a whole being?    On Page 19 they refer to it as:
“Reducing life itself o molecules, it has displaced he visceral reference that had once defined the authenticity of the body and the authority of traditional biology as a descriptive science.”
What I love about their writing is they always show this it is / it isn’t in their research.  In this chapter, what they are looking at is - Where it is our DNA that makes us an individual, it is also the format of this individuality that makes us not only the same, and illustrates how very little separates us, it’ is also manipulate able… malleable…   A pliable state of being, that is not only so easily altered, but also perhaps, even synthetically created.
2)   “Mutation, Manipulation, and Monsters; the New grotesque in art”
Francisco de Goya "
This reminds me of Goya’s images of war, to show the worst of what is out there, to describe the truth.  If we have the ability to manipulate, who’s to say we will do it right, ethically, correctly – or will we improve ourselves by combining and recreating ourselves in a new artificially selected / manipulated evolution of sorts?????
Obviously images from Jake and Dinos Chapman , my shero ‘Cornelia Hesse Honegger, Hans Bellmer, Hanna Hoch, Charles Ray and more…
Jake and Dinos Chapman: Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic, desublimated libidinal model, 1995 
Image taken from the article by Roberto Simanowksi's (JUST AMAZING AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) 

 Cornelia Hesse Honegger.  
3)   “Blurring Boundaries: Chimeras and Transgenics”
  1)  Eduardo Kack:  "Alba"
2) Eduard Kac: "Genesis".  -->  coming from the biblical phrase
“Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

Image taken from the article by Roberto Simanowksi's (JUST AMAZING AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) 
Much about the same above, but the more optimistic / improving the world version, and much more about artists and scientists who ACTUALLY manipulate life into new monstrosities, (Eduardo Kac and the “Tissue Culture and Art Project” (Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, and Guy Ben-Ary.), an Australian collective who use actual cells (Pig cells in this example) – to sculpt objects.  
 (Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, and Guy Ben-Ary = Tissue Culture and Art Project Collective.) "Pig Wings Project: the Chiropteran Version, the Aves Version, and the Pterosaur Version."  2000-2001. 
Image taken from, and great article about the project at:
4)   “Breeding Better Babies; A new Genetics”
Genetics, Heritage, fetal states, cloning
5)   “Commodification: Genes for Sale”
Body art, the body and genetic engineering.
Bryan Crocket.  Gluttony, 2002. Cultured marble. From Seven Deadly Sins. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, NY.

Bryan Crockett
Ecce Homo, 2000
Made with marble and epoxy, 30 x 40 x 70 in.

The chapter I had my students read was "Science as Culture:  Through the Artist's Lens".  (Pg. 185 - 194)
It's a hard chapter to read as a fan of science because it truly expresses the great  subconscious societal concerns about new discoveries in science and how it is applied to our daily world.  The realization how mutable the body is, our genes, our sense of self and what that is – is this causing an anxious identity crisis or a desire to deem one’s self their own and untouchable – needing to defend ourselves from outside forces. Are images there to help describe and translate our reality, or persuade the audience to seeing the world our way?  When a scientist discovers a new tool, do they have a responsibility to see its use ethically handled?  Or does the artist, when tackling the subjects of genetic insecurities; are they well versed enough in the subject to be discussing it in the public arena without aiming towards impulse and panic?
So – the question to them is:
“When the artist uses the tools of science – adopting the research methods as their artistic practice, do they perpetuate the frenzy by actualizing the fears they wish to have society consider and avoid? 
Specifically, I am thinking of the work of
Tissue Culture and Art Project Collective and Eduardo Kac. 
In their case, does the actualizing of a spectacle prove their point or lessen it?
Eduardo Kac, "Edwiena"
Natural History of the Enigma, transgenic flower with artist's own DNA expressed in the red veins, 
2003/2008. Collection Weisman Art Museum. Photo: Rik Sferra.

the Making of Eduina.  the image is taken from the attached link (click)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Abbi,
    I am Bin Wang, a PhD from University of California, San Diego. I have sent you emails on requesting permission of one figure from this webpage to be used in my advisor's textbook twice, and I am still waiting for your reply.
    I sincerely hope that you could have a look at it, thank you very much.