ART AND BIOMEDICINE -- BEYOND THE BODY
An interdisciplinary one-day conference about creative visual practices at
the frontiers of biomedicine, convened by the Medical Museion, University of
Copenhagen, in partnership with The Schools of Visual Arts, The Royal Danish
Academy of Fine Arts.
Monday 3 September, 2007, 10 am - 5 pm
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
Kongens Nytorv 1
Speakers and Programme:
*Mikkel Bogh*, The Schools of Visual Arts, The Royal Danish Art Academy of
Fine Arts, Copenhagen, and *Thomas Soderqvist*, Medical Museion, University
10:20 Session 1 (Chair, *Martha Fleming*, National Endowment for Science,
Technology and the Arts).
*Ingeborg Reichle* (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities;
www.kunstgeschichte.de/reichle): "Larger Than Life: The Use of Living
Organisms in Contemporary Art".
Abstract: In the last two decades we have seen a number of artists who left
the traditional artistic playground to work instead in scientific contexts,
like the laboratories of molecular biologists. In my paper I will critically
explore new art forms like "Transgenic Art" or "Bioart" and show how this
new art forms both dramatically differs from artworks which explore art and
genetics through the use of traditional media. The use of biological
materials and living organisms by artists ranges from tissue engineering to
stem-cell technologies and even transgenic animals, a phenomenon that raises
ethical questions with regard to both scientific and artistic endeavours.
Today artists create new "life forms", new transgenic bodies/organisms which
are more or less "biofacts" rather than "natural" organisms, but with the
production of new organisms through art, it seems that artists again
challenge the reception of what is art and what is nature.
*Wolfgang Knapp* (Art in Context, University of the Arts, Berlin;
(www.kunstimkontext.udk-berlin.de/lehrende/knapp/knapp.html): "Artists as
Research Scientists; Science as Art? Interdisciplinary Approaches".
Abstract: Producing images is no longer uniquely the privilege of artists
and media professionals. More and more science-based images appear on the
art market. Artists intensify their studies of scientific methods. Local
and international research centres contact artists more and more often,
wanting to develop and present exhibitions on their professional scientific
work to a public audience. On both sides, are we seeing new professional
sensitivities -- and irritations -- developing inside traditional academic
working strategies? Within this focus, I will discuss individual art
practices and interdisciplinary collaboration between the arts and sciences
such as biomedicine.
*Steve Kurtz* (SUNY Buffalo and Critical Art Ensemble;
(www.critical-art.net): "Point of Intervention".
Abstract: This lecture is a brief overview of the points where applied life
sciences, politics, economy, and cultural representations begin to
intersect. On the one hand, it will examine the economic and political
pressures that push life science research in one direction at the expense of
another, and the rhetorics used to justify these trajectories of research.
On the other hand, it will also consider the release of derivative products
into the public sphere, and how the public is socialized to accept them.
These two moments, in which the cultural context for research initiatives or
biotechnological products is in the first stage of construction, are the
points of intervention where cultural activists can have the greatest
impact. This presentation will be illustrated by participatory
science-theater projects by Critical Art Ensemble.
(During the lunch break the Critical Art Ensemble's film "Marching Plague"
will be shown in the hall).
13:30 Session 2 (Chair, *Martha Fleming*, National Endowment for Science,
Technology and the Arts).
*Richard Wingate* (MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, King's
"Exchange and (Sci)Art: What Art Tells Science About How Science Sees the
Abstract: Over recent years Science-Art collaborations have progressed from
being merely "art on the theme of science" to, at their best, a genuine
of ideas between historically divergent disciplines. But what is the nature
of this exchange from a scientist's point of view and is there a
"utilitarian" value in such interactions for Science? From one perspective,
art collaborations may seem to have role primarily in demystifying,
beautifying or celebrating scientific achievement. However, the
confrontation between these two disciplines - the friction between the ways
of envisioning nature - is also a productive, useful and reflective venture
for Science itself. It is a process that allows Science to examine its own
assumptions about its relationship to a broader culture and how this
influences the way it observes, records and represents the world. A little
short of a manifesto for Sci-Art and certainly not an in depth analysis of
the process, I hope to at least give a perspective on my own experiences
within this arena in understanding the representation of one of the most
historically elusive and spectacular biological structures, the brain cell.
*Ben Fry* (MIT Media Lab, Boston; (http://acg.media.mit.edu/people/fry):
"Computational Information Design and Genomic Cartography".
Abstract: The ability to collect and store data continues to increase, but
our ability to understand it remains unchanged. In an attempt to gain better
understanding of data, fields such as information visualization, data mining
and graphic design are employed, each solving an isolated part of the
specific problem, but failing in a broader sense: there are too many
unsolved problems in the visualization of complex data. As a solution, I
propose that the individual fields be brought together as part of a single
process that I call Computational Information Design. I'll be showing
examples of work developed as part of my Ph.D. dissertation, and as a
researcher at the Eli & Edythe Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard addressing
the visualization of genetic data.
*Ken Arnold* (Wellcome Collection, Wellcome Trust, London;
(www.wellcome.ac.uk/node6510.html): "Drawing on Science: Medicine, Art and
Life at Wellcome Collection".
Abstract: My perspective on the intersections between art and biomedicine is
inevitably based on my recent experience of overseeing the establishment of
a new type of venue in the heart of London, where many views and
perspectives from medicine, from art and from the rest of life are freely
mixed. Wellcome Collection hosts a kaleidoscope of voices, but two of the
loudest are inevitably art and biomedicine. This talk will explore our
efforts to give each enough freedom to 'be themselves', but also our
aspiration for the art and the science to work equally as evidence and as
samples (specimens even). Confounding one of the deadening clichés of
contemporary culture, these are galleries where art is as likely to engage
the intellect as the emotions and where science can elicit as much wonder as
16:00 Keynote (Chair, *Martha Fleming*, National Endowment for Science,
Technology and the Arts).
*James Elkins* (Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism of the Art
Institute of Chicago; (http://www.jameselkins.com): "Some Languages of
Medical Semiotics: Thinking of Non-art Images Discursively".
Abstract: This is a provisional survey of the ways that bioart can be
incorporated into current discourses. I'll look, briefly, at the general
problem of discourse at the border between art and science (using Eduardo
Kac as an example), and then at a series of possibilities: (1) historians
writing in science venues (Wieczorek, Kemp), (2) artists working with
scientists (Frankel), and (3) the new field of image studies (Manghani,
Simons). And last, I'll propose a way forward, paying attention to
individual "languages" of image and object production, among which medical
semiotics is arguably the most complex and epistemologically challenging.
The one-day conference is preceeded by a closed workshop on "Biomedicine and
Aesthetics in a Museum Context", Thursday 30 August - Saturday 1 September.
See further: www.ku.dk/satsning/Biocampus/artandbiomedicine/workshop.htm
On Sunday 2 September sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard is presenting a new work
which will focus on the problematic arising in the conference and workshop.
Jacob Kirkegaard has turned his listening ear inwards - to his own ear - and
by using specially developed listening equipment, he has captured the
microactivity which the hair cells of the ear broadcasts. There will be
three performances, at 6 pm, 8 pm and 10 pm. For further information, see
Medical Museion, a combined research unit and museum with extensive medical
historical collections (www.museion.ku.dk and www.corporeality.net/museion),
focusing on the material and iconographic culture of contemporary
Martha Fleming ([log in to unmask]), Jan Eric Olsén
([log in to unmask]) and Thomas Soderqvist ([log in to unmask]).
The Novo Nordisk Foundation (http://www.novonordiskfonden.dk) and BioCampus
at University of Copenhagen (http://www.ku.dk/satsning/biocampus).
For further details, see: