BioARTCAMP: Laboratory Ecologies in the Wild West
Chair: Marie-Pier Boucher
2nd Chair: Assist. Prof. Jennifer Willet
Biotechnology forces a restaging of the ecology of our relations with other species: with biotechnology we are now able to breed, to birth, generational life forms that serve as tools, subjects and embodied technologies that in turn interact with and alter our bodies, and the planet’s ecology. This panel will propose alternative models (artistic and theoretical) to the proliferation of digital metaphors in describing biotechnological protocols. Drawing upon the transformative power of bioart in creating new conceptual and practical tools found in biological materiality, our discussion will revolve around a large collaborative project called BioARTCAMP. BioARTCAMP is best described as a bioart camping expedition in the Canadian Rocky Mountains where the Rockies will serve as a dramatic incarnation of an external ecology for six artists, two scientists and two theorists to build a working biotech laboratory as part of a durational performance.
Bioart intrinsically invites us to engage the complexities of the manipulation of life towards human ends by forcing us to consider the moral and ethical implications that the artist (and viewer) must ascribe to the materiality of the work. In the form of a debriefing after a bioart camping trip, our discussion will focus on the performative relationships biological laboratories possess with external ecologies. These performative relations, we will show, amount to the consideration of biotechnologically shaped environments in terms of connections between milieus of interiority and milieus of exteriority, in terms of topological connections; biotopologies. We will investigate (1) how biotopological practices affects living's spatial conditions; (2) how the production and manipulation of living organisms (Biodegradable Incubator, Animal Enrichment, Deep Woods PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)) in open ecologies affect the evolution of biotechnologies and their direct links with larger ecological concerns and; (3) how these interventions reconfigure our modes of understanding biological materiality. In brief, our panel will draw upon a science/art collaboration in order to discuss biotechnologies' spatial, ecological, material and ethical implications.
The BioARTCAMP is hosted by Jennifer Willet from INCUBATOR: Hybrid Laboratory at the Intersection of Art, Science and Ecology at The University of Windsor Canada and The Banff Centre, Canada.
Biotopological Reconfigurations: Biospatial Affections and Infections
by Marie-Pier Boucher
Biotopological Reconfigurations will address the spatial reality of the BioARTCAMP. Building a laboratory -a closed and sterile environment- into the wild gives birth to a productive relationship between open and closed spaces, between sterile environments and potentially infectious sites. These performative relations amount to the problematization of biotechnologically shaped environments in terms of connections between milieus of interiority and milieus of exteriority, in terms of topological connections; biotopologies. How does the opening up of a milieu of interiority, of a closed -or sterile- environment, to an open -potentially infectious- space, that is to a milieu of exteriority, to a space of indeterminacy, to a futurity, a changing potential, affects -or infects- living's spatial conditions? Drawing upon interviews I will conduct with all the participants of the BioARTCAMP, I will offer a critical analysis of the biotech future in terms of spatial and/or architectural technology.
BioARTCAMP: trekking the LAB into the FIELD
by Assist. Prof. Dr. Jennifer Willet
BioARTCAMP is a large collaborative art/science project hosted in July 2011 by Jennifer Willet from INCUBATOR: Hybrid Laboratory at the Intersection of Art, Science and Ecology at The University of Windsor and The Banff Centre for the Arts, in Canada. With BioARTCAMP a variety of artists, scientists and students will build a portable bioart lab in Banff National Park, Canada. At this site they will conduct a variety of bioart protocols, and host an open house ‘art/science fair’ for the general public.
In this presentation Willet will chart the practical and theoretical underpinnings of the BioARTCAMP project with emphasis on ecological metaphors for describing biotechnology, and a desire to complicate the ‘Great Divide’ between lab and field based research methodologies in the hard sciences. She will also take this opportunity to address the inevitable complication of her own theoretical presuppositions about BioARTCAMP – with the unruly happenstance of what actually occurred when she brought a variety of artists, and scientists, and specimens, and lab equipment together under a big tent in the Canadian Rocky Mountains!
The Human Incubator for Feeding Microbes
by Assist. Prof. Dr. Tagny Duff
Techno-scientific tools and devices are routinely used to mimic and reproduce conditions of life. The incubator is one such piece of technology that reproduces temperature and humidity needed to encourage the growth of cell based organisms. Usually such a piece of equipment- a stable of scientific lab ecologies- is used to incubate and foster cell growth of microorganisms in a sterile and contained lab environment. The Human Incubator for Feeding Microbes is a project reimagining the materiality and function of incubation from a non-human perspective and outside of the official laboratory context. The project emphasizes the interrelation and exchange between humans and non-humans via microbial bio-remediation of human waste materials (like hair, dead skin cells, perspiration) and compostable material (potato starch, cornstarch, agar, etc.). In this performance and site specific installation work, custom made incubators are worn on the human body in order to feed microbes and communicate with them through the process of decomposition, degradation and regeneration of waste materials.
This paper will present key issues arising from making, wearing and disposing of handmade portable biodegradable incubators. The Human Incubator for Feeding Microbes, done as part of Bioartcamp in the Banff National Park, Canada, will be the case study. How might the materiality, function and design aesthetic of techno-scientific equipment- specifically the incubator-be altered by reimagining microbial and non-human-human interactions?
Deep Woods PCR
by Assoc. Prof. Paul Vanouse
Deep Woods PCR is an historical fiction of science, in which I source primary molecular biology chemicals from the remote encampment. The Banff region is famed for its natural hot springs, which are the habitat for bacteria named Thermus aquaticus. This bacteria produces the heat-activated Taq DNA Polymerase, one of the most important enzymes in molecular biology because of its use in the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) DNA amplification/identification technique. In this project, I will harvest Taq Bacteria from the springs to use in each reaction and then perform PCR without electricity as I will thermo-cycle DNA reaction tubes by physically moving from one temperature region of a hotspring to another, and thus induce amplification. While acknowledging its history in the first great patent war of molecular biology, my retro-pioneering of this PCR identification technique will also hopefully invoke mythic narratives of (self) discovery.
Bios of the Participants
Marie-Pier Boucher is a PhD student in the department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University. Her work draws upon pragmatism, complex systems theory, and bio- and neurosciences in addressing architectural and spatial practices. She collaborates as a theorist and co-editor on Adaptive Actions (Madrid Abierto, Spain, 2010 and Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Canada, 2010) as well as on BioARTCAMP (Banff Centre for the Arts, 2011). She serves on the editorial committee of InfleXions, an open-access journal for research-creation. Her research residencies include: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany (2010) and SymbioticA, Center for Excellence in Biological Arts, University of Western Australia, Perth (2006).
Jennifer Willet is an internationally successful artist in the emerging field of bioart. From 2000-2007 Willet and Shawn Bailey collaborated on an project called BIOTEKNICA. She taught in the Studio Arts Department at Concordia University from 2000-2007, and completed her PhD in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program at the same institution. She now works as an Assistant Professor in the School of Visual Arts at The University of Windsor in Canada. In 2009 she opened a bioart research and teaching lab called INCUBATOR: Hybrid Laboratory at the Intersection of Art, Science, and Ecology at the UofW.
Tagny Duff lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Duff's interdisciplinary art practice spans biological art, video, performance, net art and installation works. Recent works include Cryobook Archives (2010) exhibited at The Science Gallery as part of the exhibition entitled Visceral and Living Viral Tattoos (2008). Video documentation of Living Viral Tattoos was screened at the Moscow Biennial (2009) and National Centre for Contemporary Art (2008) (Keliningrad, Russia) and IX MediaForum and Moscow International Film Festival (2008) as part of the group exhibition Evolution Haute Couture, curated by Dmitry Bulatov. Duff is Assistant Professor in the Communication Studies Department at Concordia University and the founder of Fluxmedia Research-Creation Network.
Paul Vanouse has been working in emerging technological media forms since 1990. His electronic cinema, biological experiments, and interactive installations have been exhibited in over 20 countries and widely across the US. Vanouse is an Associate Professor of Visual Studies at the University at Buffalo, where he co-Directs the Emerging Practices MFA concentration. His recent projects, “Latent Figure Protocol”, “Ocular Revision” and “Suspect Inversion Center” use molecular biology techniques to challenge “genome-hype” and to confront issues surrounding DNA fingerprinting.