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organism: making art with living systems » 2008 » May

organism: making art with living systems

The idea of making art with living systems is not new; you might even consider a garden or a goldfish pond to be biological art. What is new is the degree of control over biological systems and materials contemporary technology offers us. Topics on the organism weblog include technical, practical, aesthetic, and ethical issues related to making art with living systems. Artists, scientists, engineers, students, and anyone else with an interest in this area are invited to contribute.

May 30, 2008

Biological Imperative

Filed under: exhibitions — regine @ 1:17 pm

Biological Imperative
rabbitJune 14-July 26, 2008. Opening Reception June 14, 7-10 PM, at Gallery Aferro, Newark.
Curated by Emma Wilcox

Screening July 12, 3 PM WAX, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees
“…regarding a near future when objects that are partly alive and partly constructed exist, and when animal organs will be transplanted into humans. What kind of relationships we will form with such objects? How are we going to treat animals with human DNA?” – The Tissue Culture & Art Projec


Andrea Aimi, Brandon Ballengée, Michael Betancourt, Ana Black, David Blair, William Brovelli,
Charlesworth, Lewandowski & Mann, Elio Caccavale, Sean Capone, Steven Dressler, Eva Drangsholt, Tagny Duff,
Aganetha & Richard Dyck, Lucia Fabio, Asha Ganpat, Daphne Gerou, Nora Herting, Verena Kaminiarz, Jennifer Mazza,
Jillian McDonald, Stephanie Metz, Lydia Moyer, Roger Sayre, David Sherry, Laura Splan, Brian Spolans, Ajla R. Steinvåg, Naoe Suzuki, Delmira Valladares, Maria Wallace

Structured around what the Tissue Culture and Art Project has called “cultural perceptions of life,” Biological Imperative freely mixes ideas of partial personhood, the possibilities of regeneration, multiples, fecundity, the semi-living, and the undead (things that just won’t die.) The exhibition posits linkage between disparate references such as (but not limited to) the undying popularity of the zombie genre, rabbit imagery, pirate radio and bioethical quandaries.

Elio Caccavalle’s MyBio Dolls are educational dolls informed by consultation with bioethicists, symbolizing possible biofutures, and allowing children to imagine narratives for scenarios such as human/animal organ transplants. Brandon Ballengee’s drawings of deformed frog specimens collected throughout the world also create a sense of the unfamiliar: some frogs have too many limbs, some too few. In Jillian McDonald’s two-channel installation in the new media room, Zombie Loop, zombie and survivor are somehow the same, referencing the genre’s implied life cycle. The endurance of radio signals in the atmosphere links Charlesworth, Lewandowski & Mann’s video work, Radio City to the theme of the undying. The piece is a record of journey via boat to an abandoned sea fort used by pirate radio transmissions in the 60’s. After an altercation that left one broadcaster dead, his wife rowed to sea and played “Strangers in the Night” as a memorial. CLM mimicked this action in 2006, playing the same song at high volume over the open water. The fecundity or productivity of animals, namely rabbits and bees, inspired other works in the exhibition, such as those by Aganetha Dyck with Richard Dyck, and David Blair. Dyck’s Hive Scans are large-scale color prints made in collaboration with bees, via a scanner introduced into a beehive. David Blair’s full-length film WAX was created over 6 years with footage shot on site at actual nuclear testing facilities in the US, flight simulation software and archival footage. The convoluted story concerns a beekeeper’s transformation upon discovering that his bees communicate between the living and the dead, and raises questions as to the collective and individual value of life.

25% of artworks in the exhibition contain rabbit content.

May 26, 2008

Biotech Company to Auction Chances to Clone a Dog

Filed under: news & oddities — regine @ 6:12 am

A California company is planning a string of online auctions next month to clone five dogs, with the bidding to start at $100,000.

Scientists consider dogs among the most difficult animals to clone because they have an unusual reproductive biology, more so than humans. But the company behind the auctions, BioArts International, maintains that the technology is ready, and it is calling the dog cloning project Best Friends Again. It has scheduled the auctions for June 18.

BioArts says it has licensed patents issued in the 1990s after researchers in Scotland cloned Dolly the sheep.

BioArts also arranged a partnership with the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea. BioArts says one of the principal scientists there is Hwang Woo Suk, who in 2005 was involved in cloning a male Afghan hound. He and his Korean colleagues named that dog Snuppy, for Seoul National University puppy.

A team led by Dr. Hwang reported in 2004 that it had made cloned human embryos and stem cells. But those claims were found to be fraudulent.

Mr. Hawthorne had hoped to clone a dog — a dog named Missy — since the 1990s. He was the chief executive of another company, Genetic Savings & Clone, which did extensive research on cloning dogs but concentrated on the commercial potential of cloning customers’ cats, something it offered to do for $50,000 apiece.

But he said Genetic Savings shut down in 2006 after giving “some pricey refunds” to customers who had paid to have their cats cloned.

“The technology was not refined,” Mr. Hawthorne said, “and rather than keep an operation that was burning through several million a year, keep that going, we decided, shut that down, focus on technology and launch a new company when the time seemed right.”

His new company, BioArts, began work last fall to clone Missy, he said, who was three-quarters border collie and one-quarter husky.

Missy died in 2002 at age 15. But Mr. Hawthorne had taken genetic samples from Missy in 1997, and had more taken after she died.

In December, he said, a clone was born, Mira. Two other clones of Missy, Chin-Gu and Sarang, were born in February, he said. Tests by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, indicated that the three dogs were clones, not just relatives.

As for the auctions, Mr. Hawthorne said the bidding would start at $100,000. He said that was a starting price, not a minimum, and could drop.

Mr. Hawthorne said cloning techniques had become more efficient over the years. He said 25 percent of embryo transfers now result in a puppy, and the survival rate of the puppies is greater than 80 percent. “That’s within the range of what conventional dog breeders expect,” he said.

But Dr. Robert Lanza, the chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology, a biotech company with laboratories in Worcester, Mass., voiced concern when a reporter described Best Friends Again.

“If anyone thinks they’re going to get Fluffy back,” Dr. Lanza said, “they’re gravely mistaken.” A cloned dog is “likely to be a totally unknown dog, just as if you went to the pound and adopted another, unknown animal.”

Agliomania – 8 garlic bulbs as art objects

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — regine @ 5:39 am

AglioMania (GarlicMania) refers to TulipoMania that took place in early 17th century Netherlands. During that time, tulip bulbs were traded for enormous prices and eventually crashed, thus the term bubble economy. AglioMania re-enacts the maniac trading phenomena with garlic produced in Italy during the 6 weeks of the “Enterprise of Art” exhibition at Palazzo delle Arti Napoli in Naples.

agliomania8 garlic bulbs collected from local farmers are framed as art objects and put on display. Each garlic bulb with a specific name enters the bidding market where Aglio Mille (garlic 1000 Lire) is the currency. A bidding system is established for the web and the gallery. The public is issued Aglio Mille, encouraged by the money earning schemes, joins the bidding for the desirable aglio bulbs.

AglioMania takes the public on an illusionary market frenzy. At the end of the exhibition, the highest bidder gets the desirable garlic bulb. Ultimately, the get rich garlic schemes are smashed as truck loads of garlic enter the green market.
Until June 30, 2008 at PAN I Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, Italy.

Via networked_performance.

May 23, 2008

Andy Gracie: Autoinducer_Ph-1

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — douglas @ 5:51 pm

Autoinducer_Ph-1 (cross cultural chemistry) exploits a traditional rice cultivation technique from SE Asia where Azolla is grown in large quantities and used as an organic, nitrogen rich fertilizer in the rice paddies. In the installation this process is reworked in an overly complexified, industrial, laboratory style way as a reflection on western agricultural techniques, our modern relationships with nature and the networked, machinic nature of ecologies.

Featuring an assemblage of pond-like structures, electronics, laboratory and hydroponic equipment Autoinducer_Ph-1 probes into and interferes with the symbiotic relationship between the cyanobacteria Anabaena and the water fern Azolla. Notions of data and information systems inherent in the relationships between the organic protagonists of the installation, and how they may be augmented, are realised by a synthetic software-based bacteria that interacts with them in its assumed roles of part time symbiont and part time parasite. Video projections which display evolution of the GCS graphic environment, and highly magnified video of Anabaena cultured under a video microscope.

Outcomes of this complex relationship and its proximity to symbiotic or parasitic characteristics determine the behaviours of the robotic rice farming system that forms the physical bulk of the installation. The installation loops biological, electro-robotic and computing processes together in a literally fertile interaction where the “primal soup” aspect of the Anabaena and Azolla cultures, and fragility of the young rice shoots, contrast strikingly with the computer-generated artificial chemistry molecules of the GCS.

Andy says:

“If anyone happens to be passing through beautiful Ljubljana next week please drop in to the opening of ‘Autoinducer_Ph-1′ at the Kapelica gallery on Kersnikova 4 on the evening of 27th May. In the meantime you can actually see the proof that I work for a living by spying on me as I destroy my ageing legs and back installing the work. Go to kapelica.org and you’ll get the webcam of the gallery. A new image every 15 seconds.”


May 16, 2008

Suicide Gerbera Daisy Plant

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — regine @ 3:12 pm

Dying for the sake of art is causing quite a bit of controversy these days. Carsten Höller‘s approach to the subject is softer and strictly botanical.


Carsten Höller, Suicide Gerbera Daisy Plant, 2008, installation view

On view at the Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art, New York, until May 17, 2008.

May 9, 2008

Botanicalls: The Plants Have Your Number

Filed under: news & oddities,websites — douglas @ 10:33 pm

Botanicalls: The Plants Have Your Number
Botanicalls opens a new channel of communication between plants and humans, in an effort to promote successful inter-species understanding.

Botanicalls allows plants to place phone calls for human help. When a plant on the Botanicalls network needs water, it can call a person and ask for exactly what it needs. When people phone the plants, the plants orient callers to their botanical characteristics.

(via MAKE: Blog)

May 6, 2008


Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — douglas @ 9:27 pm

new installation
by Ryan Wolfe
(with special thanks to Allison Kudla)

The technological and biological merge to create a unique hybrid living system which inverts the fundamental biological relationship between inside and outside…

STUDY FOR LIT FROM WITHIN In a sun-less room, plants thrive using light that emanates from within their own living tissue. Ryan Wolfe’s newest installation redefines how a living form can relate to its environment.

Clusters of Equisetum Hyemale (Common Horsetail) are equipped with the equivalent of internal sunshine. staggered throughout a dark room, each plant contains a number of surgically-embedded LEDs. These LEDs have been selected to enable the plants to photosynthesize in darkness. Sunrise and sunset programmatically occur from within each plant, allowing the viewer to navigate a field of organisms flourishing off their own internal sun cycle.

Wolfe’s installation reminds us how modern advances increasingly reconfigure lives while offering an imaginative glimpse of the future of this intertwining.

At Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery until June 29th, 2008.

MoMA exhibit dies five weeks into show

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions,news & oddities — regine @ 10:36 am

One of the central works in the exhibition “Design and the Elastic Mind” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (until 12 May), Victimless Leather, a small jacket made up of embryonic stem cells taken from mice, has died. The artists, Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, say the work which was fed nutrients by tube, expanded too quickly and clogged its own incubation system just five weeks after the show opened.

Catts and Zurr run a laboratory at the University of Western Australia in Perth; this combines artistic practice with scientific research. The jacket is one of several works created as part of their Tissue Culture & Art Project. Speaking to The Art Newspaper for a televised interview, Paola Antonelli, head of MoMA’s architecture and design department and curator of the show, says she had to make the decision to turn off the life-support system for the work, basically “killing” it.

Ms Antonelli says the jacket “started growing, growing, growing until it became too big. And [the artists] were back in Australia, so I had to make the decision to kill it. And you know what? I felt I could not make that decision. I’ve always been pro-choice and all of a sudden I’m here not sleeping at night about killing a coat…That thing was never alive before it was grown.”

Catts says his intention is “to raise questions about our exploitation of other living beings”.

May 4, 2008


Filed under: artists & works — regine @ 11:35 pm

The interactive installation Sonobotanics is going to be exhibited at okno in Brussels, from may 17, 2008 to may 31, 2008.

Periperceptoida Dendriformis Sensibilis
A sound plant whose precise classifying properties are to be found in the auditory domain. The stalk has a sound which is most similar to a woodwind instrument, whereas its leaves have a soft, rustling kind of sound. Its flowers sound like high pitched glass drops. Furthermore, the plant has a voice with which it reacts on perceived voices from other (e.g. human) beings.
Its physical appearance consists of a transparent ball, with long haulms (which are its sensing organs) in shades of blue and red with yellow ends.

Periperceptoida Dendriformis Imaginaris
A sound plant which is directly related to Periperceptoida Dendriformis Sensibilis. Its acoustic appearance is quite similar to P.D. Sensibilis, except that P.D. Imaginaris does not react to other voices. The outstanding characteristic of Imaginaris is that it is directly connected to one and only one other Sensibilis and that its sound emanations are exactly identical to the sound of this one specimen of Sensibilis. Interestingly, a Sensibilis and its connected Imaginaris cannot live in the same garden; they seem to require some distance between them. The physical appearance of P.D. Imaginaris is quite similar to that of Sensibilis, but with less and more slender haulms.

The Periperceptoidae can be further differentiated by their individual preferences for certain kinds of sounds. When their preferred sounds occur often in their environment, this has a positive influence on their growth and sense of well-being.

Predictive Sonobotanics
Current research in Sonobotanics has shown that it is exceedingly difficult to study the behaviour and characteristics of these plants, as they are extremely sensitive to their environment. This is yet another proof of their intelligence and their emotional nature: they obviously dislike being employed as guinea pigs for human science. Recently, this has led to the birth of a very different approach in Sonobotanics research: the new domain of Predictive Sonobotanics. This scientific discipline attempts to create models of the plants, using all the knowledge gained thus far about them, and implementing in a simulation certain behaviours of interest that the plants are suspected to have. By doing so, the behaviour of the models can be compared to the observed behaviour of the real plants in their natural surroundings, and further understanding of these complex beings can be gained.

The models shown in this exhibition have been created by the Institute for Predictive Sonobotanics (IPSO, which is part of the Foundation for Auralisation and Computation of Transient Objects, also known as FACTO) using modern technology: sensors measure environmental characteristics, such as light, temperature, humidity and sound; these data are used in computational models, implemented in the sonic programming language SuperCollider; the result of these is then auralised via the loudspeakers inside the physical model.
As the domain of Sonobotanics, and even more so Predictive Sonobotanics, is still considered controversial in some academic circles (questioning its validity as a “true” science), the researchers have chosen to use their contacts in the art world to bring the plants into contact with a larger audience, in order to expose their models to realistic environments.

About the researchers of IPSO-FACTO

Alberto de Campo
Born in 1964 in Graz, Austria, young Alberto’s first experiences with sonobotanics was when he went to play alone in the surrounding mountains. There, in places barely visited by other humans, he found plants he could not find back in the encyclopedia at home. He was most entranced by the part melodic, part noiselike, sounds of these colorful plants. Though he never saw significant changes in their visual exterior, he noted during repeated visits that its sounds were always changing, slowly evolving from one visit to the next. Certain biographers of de Campo claim that these experiences led him to become a composer and sound artist. Indeed, he chose to study classical composition, jazz and electronic music, and soon found that many of the melodies in local folk songs were quite similar to the plant sounds he heard as a young boy. However, during most of his life, Alberto was occupied with studying, researching and teaching, in places like CREATE/UC Santa Barbara, the Music Department at Academy for Media and Arts Cologne, the Music University Graz, the Institute for Sonoaviatics (of which he is co-founder and head of its Austrian section), and being involved in art projects together with Andres Bosshard, earweego, Julian Rohrhuber, Bill Fontana, and others.
Only on a recent visit to China – shortly after his guest professorship at the TU Berlin – did he finally find some proof of his notions of sonobotanics. Together with the happy coincidence of getting acquainted with M. Baalman shortly before, this led to the foundation of the Institute for Predictive Sonobotanics.
Currently, de Campo is also engaged in an interdisciplinary research project on data sonification at the Institute for Electronic Music and Acoustics (IEM) in Graz.

Marije Baalman
Born in 1978 in Pingjum, Frisia, the Netherlands, Marije was from a young age interested in (re-)creating realities. In her youth she mostly created these in stories, but as a surprise to some people in her surroundings, when going to university, she chose to study Applied Physics at the University of Technology in Delft. Her study there was accompanied by an engagement in role playing, a form of improvisation theatre. After a one-year course in Sonology at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, Marije moved to Berlin to engage in the creation of sonic realities by the use of Wave Field Synthesis. Currently she is working on a Ph.D. on that topic. Meanwhile, she had started creating models of creatures in computation and sound (e.g. “Scratch” in 2004), and so it was no wonder, that when she met Alberto de Campo during his guest professorship at TU Berlin, and – during some late night discussions in the studio – heard about de Campo’s true motivations to become a composer, his story about the plants – up until then mostly considered children’s fantasy by others – caught Marije’s interest to create a model of these plants. While Alberto was on his Chinese expedition, Marije searched in the more obscure botanic literature for references to these plants and – coincidentally – came across the name of a distant relative of hers, now widely known as Prof. Dr. Hortensia Audactor. Gaining access to (then largely unpublished) scientific descriptions of Periperceptoida Dendriformis and its variants, Marije set out to create models of these intriguing plants. When Alberto returned, they founded the Institute for Predictive Sonobotanics.

Hannes Hoelzl
While he is not directly involved in the work shown here, Hannes Hoelzl has been a seminal figure in the formation of Predictive Sonobotanics.
Born 1974 in Bolzano/Italy, he works in various disciplines orbiting around the central focus of sounds in space: from programming to composition, from installation to improvised performance, from ambient listening to synthesis of unpredictable sound and coding odd behaviour into semi-intelligent sonic entities.

As co-founder of the Institute for Sonoaviatics (led by Swiss sound artist extraordinaire Andres Bosshard), he has been involved in cutting edge sound art/research in a number of disciplines, some of which as innovative as Dracosonics (the study of sounds made by flying objects, often tied to strings). He has been an avid sonobotanist from the start and his experience and intuition has contributed substantially to their development of earlier incarnations of the sonobotanic models.

Louis Bec & Vilem Flusser : Vampyrotheutis Infernalis

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