Species Reclamation via a Non-linear Genetic Timeline: An Attempted Hymenochirus Curtipes Model Induced By Controlled Breeding by Brandon Ballengée, 1998-2006. Courtesy of the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, NY.
POSTNATURE. THE FUTURE IS PRESENT
A project by Quo Artis, curated by Daniel López del Rincón
Ars Electronica Festival – Gallery Space 2019
5 – 9 September 2019
Text by Daniel López del Rincón
Urgency, Desire, Fear, Utopia, Collapse, Immortality… What will we face in the future?
In a world—our world—where the concept of nature is now obsolete, provisional concepts such as post-nature have allowed us to raise many questions about the meaning of these transformations, especially the demand for answers and ideas. Art has not come late to this revolution.
Why refer to this reality in terms of “post-nature”? What role does the human being play in shaping a post-natural age? Is it a recent reality or an old reality with a new name? What are the connotations of a term such as this today? What alarms does it set off? What imaginative and utopian practices does it generate?
In the exhibition POSTNATURE. THE FUTURE IS PRESENT, the concepts of future, nature and Anthropocene intertwine and dialogue with the answers offered by the artists Brandon BALLENGÉE, Joaquín FARGAS, the QUIMERA ROSA collective (in collaboration with Roger Rabbitch + Rebeca Paz) and Maja SMREKAR, have given to the question of the future in the Anthropocene era.
Credits: Technical and theoretical support: George Rabb and staff, Chicago Zoological Park (US), Lawrence Wallace, Herpetological Department, Carolina Biological Supply (US), David Cecere, The African Dwarf Frog Educational Website (US), The Department of Zoology, University of Dar es Salaam (TZ), The Herpetological Department, The Bronx Zoo (US), Stanley K Sessions and students, Biology Department, Hartwick College (US), Peter Warny, The New York State Museum (US), Declining Amphibian Population Task Force, The Open University (UK).
Brandon Ballengée, Species Reclamation via a Non-linear Genetic Timeline: An Attempted Hymenochirus Curtipes Model Induced by Controlled Breeding (1998-2006)
What if an artist could resurrect a frog that went extinct decades ago?
What would that resurrection consist of? How would it happen? What were the causes of the frog’s extinction? What is the motivation for wanting to bring it back? What are the human and non-human responsibilities involved in a species’ extinction? Is it legitimate, as a species, to be the reason for a species’ death but also for its resurgence? What is the emotional mechanism that activates our pity for a species’ disappearance? And the desire to recover it? The responsibility, the guilt, the messianism, the whim, the power? What hierarchies of humans and non-humans sustain nature’s relationships? What role should an artist adopt in an Anthropocene world, where some animals (humans) are to blame for the loss of others (non-humans)? Who and what do techno-scientific developments serve? What sense does it make to propose the aesthetic of restitution of a species?
Joaquín Fargas, The Biosphere project / Utopia (2006 / 2011-2019)
What if we could view our world, Planet Earth, from an alien’s perspective?
How does life develop in this sphere that we can hold in our hands? How is the necessary oxygen generated? What emotions do I feel when I perceive the world, my world, as something external? Fragility, domination, care, compassion, power, guilt, responsibility? How do plants survive in the biosphere? What are the functions of the microorganisms we “do not see” in the biosphere? How important is it for the artwork to be biologically alive? How do I relate to a work that can die? Does it aim to make us reflect on nature’s fragility? Does it aim to appeal to our responsibility, as viewers, as inhabitants of that which we are looking at? Could imagination, utopia even, be the best weapon to reverse ecological collapse? What if the artist created fans to cool down Antarctica’s ice, like a Don Quixote fighting climate change? What if he created a robot that flattened the glacier’s snow, to stop it melting?
Credits: Trans*Plant: Connecting with Mycorrhiza Intranet was realized in residence for PostNaturaleza exhibition at the ETOPIA Center for Art and Technology in 2017, Zaragoza, Spain.
Creation of 2019 Q.R*3 food for this [edible version]: Roger Rabbitch. Translation into English: Rebeca Paz.
Q.R*3: [Quimera Rosa+ Roger Rabbitch + Rebeca Paz], Trans*Plant: Connecting with Mycorrhiza Intranet [edible version] (2017-2019)
What happened to humanity that fateful year 2024, when all of Earth’s resources ran out?
How can we find out more about the lives of these biohackers? Are they still alive? Could we reconstruct what they did in the ecological collapse of 2024 through archaeological remains? How many of them were there, and how did they breathe that polluted air? What are all these laboratory objects that they’ve left us? What was all that equipment for? What did they eat? Did they create that laboratory food with such a peculiar taste? Or was that what destroyed them? Or just transformed them? Are they smiling in the voice recordings we have of them? Or are they crying? Did they find out how to communicate with plants? Did they learn to connect to mycorrhiza, the symbiosis between roots and fungi that allows plants to communicate, as they explain in their journals? Did they manage to adapt to their environment? Or was it the other way round, the environment adapted to them? Perhaps biohackers didn’t actually disappear at all, they just hybridised with plants? Being a plant: what would an existence with no interspecies limits be like? Can we imagine ourselves as the result of an entanglement between human and human? What does the year 2024 tell us about who we are? What does it tell us about who we are not?
Credits: Concept: Maja Smrekar. Architecture and design concept: Andrej Strehovec, u.d.i.a. Photos: Borut Peterlin
Production: Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2015 (SI). Supported by: the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana.
Photo Borut Peterlin.
Maja Smrekar, Survival Kit for the Anthropocene – Trailer (2015)
What if the artist could design a survival kit for the Anthropocene era?
What has brought us to this apocalyptic, hostile, barely habitable context? What should the kit contain? How will we detect radiation or protect ourselves from polluted air? How will we purify water and find food? Who should design this device? Will we once again have to trust a system, an industry that satisfies our needs? Or should we be the ones designing it? What kind of relationship will this survival kit allow us to have with our environment? Exploitation, cooperation, confrontation, harmony, colonisation? Will we revert to the dominant position of an ethnographer, a zoologist, or a conqueror of nature? How should we revise the modern definition of the human being as an entity isolated from nature? What are the possible contradictions involved in the existence of a kit to enable humans to live in the hostile world that they have created themselves? What notions sustaining our present relationship with nature should be revised?
Brandon Ballengée (US) is a visual artist, biologist and environmental activist. Ballengée creates transdisciplinary works of art by means of laboratory and ecological field research, focusing his work on human and non-human organisms affected by the Anthropocene. Brandon’s work has been exhibited in over 20 countries and he has had recent solo exhibitions at these museums: Louisiana Art and Science Museum (US), University of Wyoming Art Museum (US), Museum of the Fine Arts (US), Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University (US), Parco Arte Vivente, Centro d’Arte Contemporanea (IT), Museum De Domijnen (NL), Chateau du Domaine de Chamarande (FR) and others. He currently is a 2019 Creative Capital Fellow and Postdoctoral Researcher at Louisiana State University (US) studying the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Gulf of Mexico species.
Joaquín Fargas (AR) is an artist, founder and director of the Exploratorio Arts, Science and Technology Center in Buenos Aires, and director of the LatBio Lab (Latin American BioArt Lab). Fargas focuses his artistic production at the intersection of science, art and technology, proposing utopias for the preservation and interrelation of all living beings. He has participated in events such as the Havana Biennial (CU) and exhibited at the Galileo Galilei Planetarium (AR), San Martin Theatre (AR) and Recoleta Cultural Centre (AR). Fargas’s most emblematic work, he Biosphere project, was exhibited worldwide.
QR*3 [QUIMERA ROSA + Roger Rabbitch + Rebeca Paz]
Quimera Rosa (ES-AR-FR) is a nomadic lab from Barcelona that researches and experiments on body, technoscience and identities. Aware of transfeminist and post-identitary discourses, they seek to experiment with hybrid and flexible identities able to blur the frontiers of the binomials of Western thought. Most of their work is done collaboratively, free of proprietary codes.
Roger Rabbitch (ES) trans*performer interested in mutant processes, sexuality and cooking. His work aims to generate hybrid performances combining body, food and pleasure with a critical approach to the processes of normalisation of the body. Co-founder of Roce Canibal, a performance kitchen-lab.
Rebeca Paz (ES) is a playful artist interested in gender and sexuality. She is a transfeminist fascinated by the plant kingdom in different ways. Always curious and happy to discover and play with emotions and bodies, she loves to work with her hands. In this work, she seeks e-coexistence as a relational connection with other species.
Maja Smrekar’s (SI) work has been established in the international art and science milieu, based on interdisciplinary research of the developments and application of ideological structures in contemporary society. Grounded in sculpture, Smrekar’s practice has allowed her to lead strong collaborations in developing cross – conceptual productions that include installations, performances, site specific art, drawings, videos, sound, workshops, lectures, talks and texts. Among other, she received the Prix Ars Electronica – Golden Nica 2017 Award in Hybrid Art. Smrekar lives and works between Ljubljana (SI) and Berlin (DE).
Daniel López del Rincón (ES) PhD in Art History and lecturer at the University of Barcelona. His research and teaching focuses on art from the 20th and 21st centuries, particularly on the analysis of the relationships between art, nature and science. He is the author of the book BioArte. Arte y vida en la era de la biotecnología (Akal, 2015), among others, and was curator of the exhibition Postnature (Etopia, Zaragoza, 2018) for the European Network of Art and Science.
Special thanks to Etopia, Center for Art and Technology, Zaragoza, Spain
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