Transbiotics - a challenge to traditional art

  • 2010-06-17
  • By Anna Kravcova

ART OR SCIENCE?: This festival shows what can be achieved by combining the two.

RIGA - The 21st century is a time of innovative technologies and grand scientific achievements. We perfectly realize that we are living in an age of wonders, and it seems that nothing can surprise us. However, there are still plenty of things which can easily boggle our imagination, and sometimes they are closer than we might dare to think. This summer Riga’s residents and guests will have a unique opportunity to visit quite an extraordinary event.

Until June 20, the Center for New Media Culture (RIXC) is organizing the XII Festival for New Media Culture “Art + Communication,” which will comprise various lectures, conferences, and exhibitions. One of the most notable programs, which will take place in the framework of the festival, is the exhibition of biotechnological art works “Transbiotics.”
For a long time, science and art were considered to be two completely different things. However, BioArt is exactly the case when these two phenomena merge together, and it is challenging to guess if these are scientists who produce art, or artists born with a scientific state of mind. The prominent feature which separates bio-artists from their colleagues is the specific choice of material. Bio-artists do not use paints, brushes, glue, or any other traditional tools. Instead, they work with living matter, such as cells, DNA, proteins and living tissues. This is probably one of the most extraordinary and outstanding ways of self-expression and creative reflection of the outer world. This is the first chance for Latvia’s audience to explore the latest international developments of such authors as Paul Vanouse, Zane Berzina, Terike Haapoja and Andy Gracie.

Paul Vanouse is an American artist who concentrates his attention on the difficult issues of race and identity. In the course of the “Transbiotics” program he will exhibit two of his famous creations. The first one goes under the title “Latent Figure Protocol.” This work presents an attempt to demonstrate an analogy for a fingerprint, projecting human DNA on the screen. Paul Vanouse believes that personal information provided by DNA can be of much more use in the legal, social, and health care systems than traditional fingerprints. Commenting on his work in his official Web page, Paul says: “I am also seeking to confront the notion of genetic destiny - the idea that DNA somehow provides a template not only for much of our physical appearance, but also for our specific place within the societies in which we live. For instance, determining our income levels or our predilections toward criminality.”

The second project of this author is called “The Relative Velocity Inscription Device.” It scrutinizes DNA of four family members. Electrical current is applied to every DNA, causing it to move, and allowing the audience to see their progress displayed on the screen.

Another participant is Zane Berzina, a Latvian artist living in London. In collaboration with architect Jackson Tan and an international group of scientists they created a project called “E-Static Shadows.” In her work she applied the properties of electrostatic energy to textile, creating a unique electronic fabric, which visually reflects upon humans’ movements.
Finnish artist Terike Haapoja, in her turn, presents two visual installations “Succession” and “Dialogue.” The first work is a 4 minute long video, which demonstrates the growth of bacteria on a canvas that was applied on a humans’ face. The aim of the second installation is to indicate the close connection between people and the surrounding environment. Guests of the exhibition will have an opportunity to experience a real voice of nature. Humans breathing and whistles will be audibly reflected by the trees, used in the installation.

Finally, the project “Deep Data” by British artist Andy Gracie offers to go on a virtual journey to deep space. It receives information from two space data collecting programs Voyager and Pioneer, and allows observing the generation, interaction and effects of magnetic field fluctuations on the organisms.
Festival events will take place at “Kim?”/Spikeri gallery (Maskavas St. 12/1), RIXC gallery (11. Novembra Krastmala 35), Riga School of Economics (Strelnieku St. 4a) and the Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia (Kronvalda boulevard 4). The entrance is free of charge.