Corpus Extremus (LIFE+), the second exhibition of Exit Art’s Curatorial Incubator Program, presented work by artists who use bio- and media- technologies to investigate questions of life and death. Representative of a relatively new international trend, these artists unite science and art to challenge conventional understanding of both fields.
Prior to the eighteenth century, art and science were not separated as distinct disciplines, and were often joined. Thus a hybrid bio-art discipline is nothing radically new. Yet, the work in Corpus Extremus (LIFE+) represented a revolution in interdisciplinary research and practices and offered a critical evaluation of science and technology through art. This direct involvement of artists in scientific research and lab practices aimed to demystify science through a cross-disciplinary approach; to provoke discussion about art and science as creative stimuli to each other; and to pose ethical questions to society.
The artworks in this exhibition dealt with the transformation of our notions of life and death due to the implementation of biotechnological advances in everyday life. Recent innovations in science and technology cause us to confront and challenge our conventional understanding of the body. Trying to reveal “the secret of life,” and to retain health, we are finding new ways to create living transplants and sustain life outside of the body. This possibility gives ground for the design of new organisms – hybrids, cyborgs and extended human bodies – that might be a new stage in an evolution with a questionable future.
Suzanne Anker, Guy Ben-Ary and Philip Gamblen in collaboration with Dr. Steve Potter Lab (Dr. Steve Potter, Douglas Swehla, Stephen Bobic), BioKino (Guy Ben-Ary and Tanya Visosevic), Dmitry Bulatov, Center for PostNatural History, Kathy High, Soyo Lee, Yuri Leiderman and Andrei Silvestrov, Stelarc, The Tissue Culture and Art Project (Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr), ULTRAFUTURO (Oleg Mavromatti and Boryana Rossa) in collaboration with Chris Bjornsson and Kathy High, Paul Vanouse, Jennifer Willet, Adam Zaretsky and the pFARM Collective
Curator: Boryana Rossa, as part of Exit Art’s Curatorial Incubator
Curatorial Incubator Director: Mary Anne Staniszewski
Project Managers: Herb Tam and Lauren Rosati
Poster Design: Papo Colo
Boryana Rossa is an interdisciplinary artist and PhD Candidate in the Department of the Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She works in the fields of electronic arts, film, video, performance and photography. Her works have been shown at Kunstwerke, Berlin; The Moscow Biennial; Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, New York; and Akademie der Kunste, Berlin. In 2004, together with the Russian artist Oleg Mavromatti, Rossa established UTRAFUTURO — an art/tech collective.
THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 6 – 9pm
Corpus Extremus (LIFE+) Explained and Expanded, Part 1
A series of presentations by Corpus Extremus artists and researchers that shed light on their work and bio-art issues.
Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr of The Tissue Culture and Art Project discuss their work, NoArk II, and semi living objects (partly alive and partly constructed) as a new class of object beings. Dr. Steve Potter, Associate Professor, Laboratory for NeuroEngineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, joins us via Skype for a presentation regarding the science behind Silent Barrage in Corpus Extremus. Guy Ben-Ary will discuss the concepts behind Silent Barrage. Tanya Visosevic from BioKino will discuss the interface between biological arts to film theory and cinema history in The Living Screen. Exit Underground. FREE. Cash bar.
FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 6 – 9pm
Corpus Extremus (LIFE+) Explained and Expanded, Part 2
Paul Vanouse presents his work and issues of biopiracy and patenting of life. Adam Zaretsky does a presentation on mutagenic arts related to his work pFARM :: Organic Fetish Biotech, which is followed by a screening of the project’s 60 minute film. FREE. Cash bar.
APRIL, April 17 and 18 6 – 9 PM
Corpus Extremus (LIFE+) Explained and Expanded, Part 3
FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 6 – 9:15pm
The Immunological Paradox of Pregnancy and the Art of Biomedical Realism
Irina Aristarkhova, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and Visual Art at Pennsylvnia State University, Irina Aristarkhova, Ph.D. examines the art works of Virgil Wong and Lee Mingwei (focusing on their Male Pregnancy project) through the prism of recent biomedical research on maternal-fetal interface. Identifying the problematic aesthetics of ‘biomedical realism’ in Male Pregnancy, the lecture proposes that this ‘aesthetic failure’ of the work provides an occasion to think through the notion of pregnancy as such. Conventional immunological discourses that characterize pregnancy center on the fact that the genetically-distinct fetus survives in the mother’s body, which would normally have responded by rejecting it as an ‘other.’ It is proposed that there is a need for a paradigm shift in imagining this ‘self-other’ in pregnancy; one that is not framed in terms of war and hostility as it has been historically in biomedical sciences. It is argued that Male Pregnancy points to alternatives to the notion of immunological ‘hostility’ insofar as one looks beyond its biomedical realism and more concretely at the social relations it (re)produces. The lecture concludes with a proposal that the maternal-fetal interface is grounded in hospitality and that this grounding in hospitality might finally make possible what Derrida thought impossible – for our intellectual traditions ‘to face their own mother.’
Irina Aristarkhova, Ph.D. (b. Moscow, 1969) writes and lectures on cyber-feminism, new media aesthetics, and comparative feminist theory. She completed her Ph.D. in Contemporary French Psychoanalytic Theory at the Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2002, Ms. Aristarkhova, together with Faith Wilding, Coco Fusco and Maria Fernandez, started “Undercurrents,” an online forum to discuss the interrelationship between cyber-feminism, new technologies, post-colonialism and globalization. She has held a faculty position at LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts and National University of Singapore, where she directed the Cyberarts Research Initiative (2001-2005). She has edited and contributed to Woman Does Not Exist: Contemporary Studies of Sexual Difference (Syktyvkar University Press, 1999), and edited the first Luce Irigaray book translated into Russian, An Ethics of Sexual Difference (Moscow: XZ, 2005), among many other published works.
7 – 8pm:
From conception taking place in test-tubes, to nuclear transfers in petri dishes, to embryos that have been cryogenically stored like so much frozen food, high-tech ways and means are expanding far beyond the old carnal way of making babies. When posed with the classic quandary, “Where do babies come from?”, will the mythology of life’s creation soon also include glassware and the bio-lab? Has the bundle-carrying stork been exiled from fairy-tales? And with the “bio-printing” of replacement organs and tissues on the research horizon, at what cost is this further quest for immortality? My work explores current concerns generated by experimental reproductive technologies.
Suzanne Anker is a visual artist and theorist working at the intersections of art and the biological sciences. She has been a guest curator at the New York Academy of Sciences as well as the author of many texts concerning the implications of the bio-technological revolution on culture and society. She has hosted twenty episodes of the Bio-Blurb Show on WPS1 Art Radio, organized in conjunction with MoMA in New York City, where discussions of “sci-art” are broadcast and archived. She currently teaches art history, theory and studio practice at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she is Chair of the Fine Arts Department.
Underexposed: Temple of the Fetus
8 – 9:15pm:
A screening of the film Underexposed: Temple of the Fetus (1993-1994, 60 minutes), produced, directed, shot and edited by Kathy High. Ms. High, Associate Professor of Video and Media Arts in the iEAR/Department of Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will introduce the film.
This chilling experimental narrative/documentary, about women’s relationships to new reproductive technologies and genetic engineering, combines interviews with field “experts” and a science-fiction segment depicting stories of in-vitro fertilization, donor insemination, and surrogacy arrangements. Script by Karen Malpede. Distributed by the Video Data Bank, Chicago, IL; Women Make Movies, New York, NY; and V-Tape, Toronto, Canada.
Kathy High is a media artist, curator, and teacher living and working in Brooklyn and Troy, New York. Her video work touches on topics including body politics, telepathic communication, the nature of animals, bioscience and science fiction, and the paranormal. Her works have been shown in festivals, galleries and museums both nationally and abroad, including the Guggenheim Museum (NYC), and the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), as well as aired on PBS. She has received numerous awards for her video works including grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. High has also recently taught at Princeton University, NJ, and Cooper Union, NYC.
SATURDAY, APRIL 18, 6 – 8:30pm
Permitted Habitats and Endangered GMO’s: An Introduction to the Center for PostNatural History
Rich Pell, founder of the Center for PostNatural History (CPNH), lectures on the history of his organization as one dedicated to the advancement of knowledge relating to the complex interplay between culture, nature and biotechnology.
“PostNatural” refers to living organisms that have been altered through processes such as selective breeding or genetic engineering to meet human desires. Pell will present a number of examples of “postnatural” life forms, giving particular attention to genetically engineered life forms that are indigenous to New York State.
Richard Pell and Kathy High co-founded the highly successful BioArt Initiative at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. Pell was selected as a juror for the 2007 International Genetically Engineered Machines competition at MIT. In 2007, the Center for PostNatural History was awarded a prestigious Rockefeller New Media Fellowship to map the genetic and evolutionary relationships between transgenic organisms. In 2009, the CPNH received support from the Creative Capital Foundation to begin work on a permanent facility. Pell is also a founding member of the art and engineering collective, the Institute for Applied Autonomy.
From Cosmism to Expansion in Outerspace: An Introduction to Russian Cosmism in Arts, Sciences and Interdisciplinary Practices
7 – 8pm:
Oleg Mavromatti, an interdisciplinary artist and co-founder of the art collective ULTRAFUTURO, will present a critical and historical overview of Russian Cosmism as a mystical philosophy that deeply affected the development of Soviet science and space research, as well as the relationship between spirituality and science and their media representation.
Russian Cosmism was a philosophical and cultural movement that emerged in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It entails a broad theory of natural philosophy combining elements of religion, ethics, and a history and philosophy of the origin, evolution and future existence of the cosmos and humankind. Mavromatti will discuss some of the main representatives of this philosophy like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who pioneered Soviet rocket and space research and was among the first to work out the theoretical problems of rocket travel in space; Nikolaj Fedorov, who embedded the ideas of immortality into Russian Cosmism, as currently developed by the trans-humanist movement; and Alexander Bogdanov, whose universal systems theory and interest in the possibility of human rejuvenation through blood transfusion was developed through scientific research and promoted through science fiction stories written by Bogdanov himself.
Since 2000, Oleg Mavromatti (b. Moscow, 1965) has lived and worked as a political refugee in Bulgaria and USA. Mavromatti’s performances and artistic actions react rapidly to the socio-political changes in Russia. His performances “Do Not Kill,” “Do Not Believe Your Eyes!,” and “Citizen X” have been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; The Culture Center of Stockholm; Pro-Arte Institute, St. Petersburg; and the Museum of Cinema, Moscow. In 2004, together with artist Boryana Rossa, he co-founded the art collective ULTRAFUTURO that works in the intersection of technology, ethics and human/machine identity. Mavromatti is also a founder of the Supernova Film Union (1995) and the Absolute Love Sect Collective (1995-2000). He was a member of the art collectives Netseziudik (1993-1995) and ETI (Expropriation on the Territory of Art, 1989). He and Sergej Salnikov also co-founded the STIK Moscow Film Festival.
8 – 8:30pm:
Kefir Grains are Going Onto the Flight, a film by artist and writer Yuri Leiderman and independent film maker and producer Andrei Silvestrov, will be screened. The film documents a “competition” between cultured kefir grains on board a Russian space program training plane in zero gravity that aims to select the best “cosmonaut” among them.
Yuri Leiderman (b. Odessa, Ukraine, 1963) has participated in non-official exhibitions of contemporary art in Moscow and Odessa since 1982. He has participated in numerous exhibitions of contemporary art, including the 1st European Biennial Manifesta (1996); the Biennale de Venezia (1993 and 2003); Sonsbeek’93 in Arnhem; and biennials in Istanbul, Turkey (1992); Sydney, Australia (1998); Kwangju, South Korea (1995); and Shanghai, China (2004). He currently lives in Berlin and Moscow.
Andrei Silvestrov, (b. Moscow, 1972), co-founder of the Mu-Zey art collective, studied History of Art at the Russian State Humanitarian University and at the Workshop of Individual Directing. He is the director of three feature length films and almost 20 film and video shorts. In November 2002, he debuted in the Bolshoy Theatre as the video director of the opera Snow Maiden (together with Pavel Labazov). In 2006, he directed and produced the film Volga-Volga together with Pavel Labazov. Volga-Volga has been described as “the strangest remake in the history of cinema.”
Corpus Extremus (LIFE+) was the third in Exit Art’s Unknown Territories series exploring the impact of scientific advances on contemporary culture. It followed Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution, a landmark exhibition of art and biotechnology shown in 2000, and Brainwave: Common Senses, an exhibition in February 2008 that examined the relationship between neuroscience and contemporary art. Corpus Extremus (LIFE+) was also the second show of Exit Art’s Curatorial Incubator Program.
The second exhibition of Exit Art’s Curatorial Incubator Program was Corpus Extremus (LIFE+), curated by Boryana Rossa. The program expanded Exit Art’s commitment to young and emerging curators, artists, and scholars in contemporary art, by devoting material, financial, and human resources to developing curatorial talent. Working with Exit Art directors and staff, fellows curated large-scale exhibition projects, learned fundraising, developed outreach and educational programs, and produced a catalogue. Access to Exit Art’s acclaimed archives facilitated these curatorial fellows’ abilities to contextualize their projects within international and historical frameworks.
Curatorial Incubator Director: Mary Anne Staniszewski.
This exhibition was supported with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. General exhibition support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Bloomberg LP, Carnegie Corporation, Jerome Foundation, New York City Department of CulturalAffairs, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Starry Night Fund at The Tides Foundation, Exit Art’s Board of Directors and our members. SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts is a jointly funded initiative between The University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Department of Culture and the Arts (2008 –2011). SymbioticA’s participation at Exit Art assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. NoArk II and Silent Barrage assisted by the State of Western Australia through the Department of Culture and the Arts. The Living Screen assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts. Special thanks to the Department of the Arts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.