Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Bioart under the lens of a Kantian microscope.
Jessica Donato
2nd Author
3rd Author
MASTER OF ARTS IN Contemporary Art Theory
Number of Pages
Goldsmiths College
Thesis Supervisor
Brendan Prendeville
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Visual Culture
Languages Familiar to Author
English, Italian, French, Spanish
URL where full thesis can be found
Bioart- Aesthetics- Synthetic Biology- Genetics- Tradition VS Experimental use of Technology
Abstract: 200-500 words
BIOART UNDER THE LENS OF A KANTIAN MICROSCOPE “The artist is the one who liberates a life, a powerful life, a life that is more than personal, it is not his/her life.” Gilles Deleuze What happens when artists leave their studios in order to step into scientific laboratories where materials like blood, tissues, cells, genes become a new palette for their artistic creations? The loose and generic term “bioart” tries to label this new artistic tendency as an intimate relation and interaction with bioscience and life manipulation. I am interested in exploring and understanding in which terms it is possible to experience biotechnology through the arts. Is there some space for an aesthetic experience of this intriguing mingling? Some instances of art engaging with genetic manipulation, tissue culture engineering, or synthetic biology are the subject matters I will critically investigate, drawing on Kant’s account on art, elaborated in the third Critique. Kant is one of the key thinkers who influenced the “eighteenth century definition of ‘aesthetics’ as sensuous, intuitive, individual and unrepeatable as contrasted with ‘logic’ which is conceptual, rationale, generalizable and subject to strict and invariant rules of correctness” [Blocker, 1979: 182]. This legacy, still today, informs and constitutes the terrain where art and science are categorised as two diametrically opposite disciplines. Prompted by this tension, I will offer a fresh interpretation of some Kant’s crucial ideas on art; specifically focusing on the act of artistic creation and on what the product of this creation does, namely, expressing aesthetic ideas. I will engage with these philosophical problems to propose an artistic and aesthetic dimension in which bioart may orbit. Under this lens, I will scrutinise artworks such as Victimless Leather, by Tissue Culture and Art Project, Natural History of the Enigma by Eduardo Kac and Pigeon d’Or by Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen in order to demonstrate how the aesthetic judgment of these artworks can be significantly shaped on how they embody their multiple meanings through the indirect presentation of ideas in sensible form. I will argue, in fact, that bioart can be aesthetically mediated by dint of a feeling that involves one’s cognition and imagination. An intensity felt that cannot be communicated by a determinate concept nor by a fixed message, but that carries with it the force to hit people’s gut and mind. An intensity that, echoing Kant’s thoughts and reasoning, I will describe as “feeling of synthetic life”, entangling the visceral connections between bioart and life. This component of radical indeterminacy, spliced with life itself, becomes all the more compelling and fascinating when merging with the problematic issues related to the latest advances in biotechnologies and their social, ethical, political and moral implications. The physical encounter with the materiality and the liveliness of bioart brings science outside the environmental norm of a lab, providing a provocative platform where the complexity of the matter can be experienced from an artistic and aesthetic angle. The oral and written, critical lecture is, then, my role in the after-life of these artworks. A sort of drama of narration about their short lives but, perhaps long deaths.