Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Is all biology art?

If I were a bioartist, I’d put a regular rabbit in a museum. Eduardo Kac’s Alba supposedly qualifies as bioart because it’s a rabbit that has had a gene from a jellyfish implanted in its DNA. If we take Alba as our example, bioart is an artifice constructed by an artist using biological material. But that seems to suggest that the rabbit in itself was not yet bioart, in other words that there exists a realm of biology that would somehow not yet be affected (infected?) by art, and (by extension) by technology (from the Greek word “technè”, “art”).

However, Kac’s rabbit could already be considered an example of bioart before Kac’s intervention: its genetic material is a complex mix of the genetic material of two other rabbits. What goes in as a carrot on one end of the rabbit comes out looking like something entirely different on the other end. Surely digestion also is an example of bioart? Surely Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca factory ( qualifies? In a short essay called “In Praise of Profanation”, Giorgio Agamben recalls Italo Calvino’s statement that “feces are a human production just like any other, only there has never been a history of them”…

This seems to lead to the conclusion that there is no biology that exists separately from art. Does that mean that all biology is art? What would be the consequences of this for our understanding of biology and art?


  1. I do not know if this adds any clarity to the question of whether all biology is art, but it should be pointed out that there is a history of human feces that is at least 14,300 years old ( In another scatological work, more clearly situated in the realm of Art, Joe Davis inserted a short segment of DNA that included a decoder (Rosetta stone if you will) sequence followed by a sequence that when decoded and transcribed onto a prime number by prime number matrix revealed his microvenus ( The delivery system for his intended intergalactic work of art, Astronaut feces.

  2. from Tom Leeser:

    Check this out:

    also- do you know that there's an ongoing challenge to the veracity of
    Kac's Alba?

    Joe Davis has published and spoken about the biological
    inconsistencies in Kac's so-called project since 2001.