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Subject: Conference 'Art and Biomedicine: Beyond the Body', Copenhagen, 3 September 2007
From: Thomas Söderqvist <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:=?iso-8859-1?Q?Thomas_S=F6derqvist?= <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 29 Jul 2007 11:51:35 +0200

text/plain (172 lines)


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:

10:00  Introduction

*Mikkel Bogh*, The Schools of Visual Arts, The Royal Danish Art Academy of 
Fine Arts, Copenhagen, and *Thomas Soderqvist*, Medical Museion, University 
of Copenhagen.

10:20   Session 1 (Chair, *Martha Fleming*, National Endowment for Science, 
Technology and the Arts).

*Ingeborg Reichle* (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities; "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; 
( "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; 
( "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 
College, London; 
"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; ( 
"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; 
( "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 
explanatory understanding.

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; ( "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:

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 ( and, 
focusing on the material and iconographic culture of contemporary 

Organising committee:
Martha Fleming ([log in to unmask]), Jan Eric Olsén 
([log in to unmask]) and Thomas Soderqvist ([log in to unmask]).

The Novo Nordisk Foundation ( and BioCampus 
at University of Copenhagen (

For further details, see:

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