Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oron Catts's Keynote at SLSA (notes)

(There was no internet so this is a bit later than the talk, so it's not strictly a liveblog. Never mind!)

intro: “life or elusive nonlife of matter or objects” (OOO ref!)

This is happening in a GIGANTIC IMAX, gigantic. The powerpoint is displayed on the concave surface of a dome. Douglas Kahn and I are sitting right opposite the display, which is about 100 feet away from us, and about 100 feet up.

“To think of objects not as instruments for our use, but as entities that are effectively linked and that need care, to think of objects as plants in our garden...that have lives of their own...objects that perform services and that require care”
Ezio Manzini (design)

growing rather than manufacturing the environment

nagging feeling that things might go wrong
production of animals for human ends (French artificial mother, 1750)
disassembly lines >> Fordism (living beings >> products)

H.G. Wells life as “something plastic, something that may be shaped and altered”
life as a raw material
biology becoming engineering
dream of Geoff Loeb

incubators from Buffalo; factory farming (Cyphers Inclubators)
Safran, “Factory farming considers nature as an obstacle to be overcome”

tissue culture in early C20
infant incubators Coney Island
Carrel’s artificial heart 1930s, organ perfusion pump

Charles Lindbergh, mechanic

Carrel recommended gas chambers for humans...

1995 the mouse with an ear, done again for display, to get NIH funding
tissue engineering
1989 image versus 1999 image of body being replaced by machine

scientist trying to develop artificial cornea, box full of rabbit heads, take eyes out, antibiotic liquid
they didn’t even have the ability to discuss it, unless it’s a quotation from Blade Runner
growing rabbit cells over glass structures
hydrogel works like stone age tools
we are now starting to chip away life
In Vitro Meat, Disembodied Cuisine, 2001–2003

this meat is “semi living”
trying to build exercise machines to the meat
British chef: people are happy to eat pigs chained to the floor
BBC show about extreme tech solutions to problems tech created

France 2003 allowed eating (not UK or Ausralia)
tissue engineered frog steaks!
the most expensive piece of meat ever
four of eight people spat them out so they were then exhibited as the remains

Victimless Leather 2002
tiny jacket of mouse and human cells
“Murder in MOMA”: the system had to be switched off since the mouse cells went ape

Medicine and Art, Mori Art Museum Tokyo
Oron had to administer medicine to his art when the tiny kimono got a fungus

>> Modern Meadow, Peter Thiel, rhetoric of saving the world (doing it for real)
Catts doesn’t like it; it’s okay as a luxury item but a bit off as a “growing forward” world saving thing

Neolifism: fetishization of tech approaches to life
old style museums privilege form of lifeform
privileging the form when it comes to new forms is starting to lose its meaning
death mask of dolly, small statue of mouse with ear

actual collections are kept in small cryogenic vials

wet dream of the geek: the dna packet of info
frozen ark idea: totally devoid of context, why care for the environment

so even conservation people are affected by neolifism
idea we can improve on nature
“that’s how fucked up we are”

cabinets of curiosities
the only piece of living life in this exhibit is the one that looks the most tech

Oron thinks he has neglected something: the substrate
the context
how engage with this
camp at far north of Finland
he didn’t know the place would be teeming with life

crashed German plane site; charred earth looks like it had happened yesterday
Lindbergh was allowed to examine the Junker bomber (he saw those very planes)
fascist stuff about race
shrapnel in eyes that wasn’t rejected

substrate stiffness essay 2009

Golems were made of one third calves
Golem was a proof of concept that humans have power of creation
once Golem becomes too useful the rabbi at Prague turns it off

constantly recurring articles about being able to engineer blood vessels
we still believe the promise of engineered life

Q&A: we should be aware of the inherent violence in our existence
that’s why I’m down with hypocrisy (yes!)

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