Author: Joseph Nechvatal --- Date: 1/27/96 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC


"Live in Boston"


Joseph Nechvatal / Paris

Galerie Des Archives
open from 1-11-97 to 2-28-97
4, Impasse Beaubourg
75003 Paris FRANCE

Bio-technology in the Gallerie:

"Sur les reseaux des computers, I'effet negatif des virus passe encore plus vite que l'effet positif de l'information. Or le virus est lui-meme une information. S'il passe mieux que les autres, c'est que, biologiquement parlant, il est a la fois le medium et le message. Il realise cette forme ultra-moderne de la communication selon MacLuhan, ou l'information n'est pas differente de son support mediatique."

Baudrillard in "Cool Memories"

For well over a decade social theory has been speculating in regard to bio-technological mutations. In the abundant anthropomorphic elucidations that are emerging out of post-industrial techno-culture, the biologicalization of technology, via computer viruses for example, and the technologicalization of biology, as ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) aptly demonstrate in this exhibition, are some of the most stimulating artistic metaphors, seems to me. In Norbert Wiener's "Animal and Machine" written in 1948 and then again in his remarkable paper "The Human Use of Human Beings" from the year 1950, the flight of fancy implied in bio-technological development has been one of an increasing possibility of completing an interface in which the mechanical device becomes extended biological skin. In the years following his theorization of bio-technology, this prospect of creating an alliance between biology and technology has become both feasible and, perhaps sardonically, advantageous, if one ignores the buried ethical concerns. As technological instrumentilization continues to mutate into the biosphere, the reflective significance of technology in relationship to the human skin is stirring artists to mentally copulate with more than mere hypothetical circumstances, but to some extent presuppose the materiality of reprogrammed and amended existence, perhaps to an extent interchangeable with a degree of fanciful extravagance. The invasion of technology inside and onto the flesh is more than a violence of technological advancement, it also tracks a mutation of the science of biology into the polished prescriptions of art in which physics is joined with theory and biology with personality in concession to a technological imperative not necessarily precombined in what used to be called fate. Bio-technology, as befitting the heart of an experimental orbit, is by 'nature' unimaginable, out of sight, and preposterous from the point of view of previous conceptions of corporeality. The biologicalization of technology and the molecularization of means through neuroelectric gene therapy and molecular electronics has, it seems, recently been manufacturing an actual post-industrial mode of the mutating and growing human skin as ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) demonstrates here in their exhibition and, not surprisingly, mutating our epistemology along the merry way.

In as much as the populace has intensely and rather influentially rebutted the practice of the cosmetic industry using animals in the testing of their new cosmetics, recent bio-technological research has been orienting itself towards the cultivation of human skin. At present specimens of reconstructed human skin are put to use to test the latest in cosmetic merchandise as well as to repair the damaged skin of severe burn victims. But we are not rid of the manipulation of living things in this respect, in as much as animals are still a prerequisite in the inaugural stages of skin reconstruction in the laboratory. Animals serve frequently as substrate for the multiplication of human tissue cells which are breeded for this purpose.

Here in the installation called "Live in Boston" presented at the Galerie Des Archives in Paris, skin samples have been realized from bio-cultures breeded from the cells of the two artists who make up ART ORIENTE objet (AOo), a man and a woman, in an abnormal desire to exchange skin with each other. These two artists who work collaboratively under the name of ART ORIENTE objet (AOo), slipped into this skin exchange fantasy by taking pictures of themselves in a process of transmission of skins "tattooed" with transferable patterns used as sketches by tattoo makers. (see attached image) The animal's image is reduced to a sort of advertising logo, easy to wear, easy to take off, which symbolizes the cynical attitude of man towards the animal, granting its survival only through his demiurgic will. Patches of their skin were breeded at a University lab in Boston and then these patches were tattooed with images of animals by a professional tattoo artist and exhibited in jars of preservative liquid. A video taped interview by a clinical doctor involved in the skin breeding procedure also complimented the installation along with a curious doll house which seemed to house strange and freaky toy mutational combinations.

In 1991, Ms. Laval-Jeantet and Mr. Mangin created the duo ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) in Paris and in accordance to AOo's indication, the meaning of ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) is "art objects oriented" but which can also be read as "art oriented by objects". Their work, they claim, can be explained in terms of Wittgenstein's insistence on the importance of sustaining the relationship between ethics and aesthetics. In order to realize this premise, ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) investigates and explores the inter-related fields of science and art. They arrange mise-en-scenes or objects such as "The Kit Ecosysteme Animalite" (1991) as quasi-promotional packaging, for example. Also ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) plays with scientific procedures and tools of research and experiment, as they merge heterogeneous objects aiming at a new, hybrid entity with a hidden poetic potential. In doing so, ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) deals with some of the ecological fears which plague post-industrial humanity, but in a way that does not necessary follow the rules of political correctness. With ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) the utopian abstract world clashes with the reality of the natural environment, subject to artistic manipulation. ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) frame methods used by research laboratories in order to prove that the very principles of scientific research should be questioned and not taken for granted. Seen in this light, making art can lead towards a more constructive solution than just questioning reality in an ironic manner. Therefore ART ORIENTE objet (AOo)'s activity in the field of obscure bio-technology could be understood as an attempt to draw the outlines of 'une science artefactuelle' (a science of artifices), an artistic activity leading to an eventual recuperation of living experience and the re-creation of the propinquity of myth in human life. ART ORIENTE objet (AOo)'s diagnosis of contemporary Western civilization points at the repossession of spiritual values through an initial dispossession of the viewer from pre-conceived notions of the pseudo-scientific spectacle, which is usually offered in the guise of absolute truth. "La poule heureuse" (1993), for example, consisted of a long horizontal cage divided into small square sections, the last of which contains a "joyful hen", the domestic animal imprisoned seemingly for the sake of pseudo-scientific experiment, but in fact for no other purpose than the pure absurdity of the situation. ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) proposes, it seems then, a new post-biological iconography, rooted in notions of common sense.

ART ORIENTE objet (AOo) <>

Joseph Nechvatal / Paris

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nechvatal -- jnech@!

I should have included the english translation of the french. Here it is: In computer networks, the virus' negative effect goes faster than the effect of positive information. Thus the virus is itself an information. If it goes better than the other it is because biologically speaking it is the medium and the message at the same time. It realizes MacLuhan's ultra-modern form of communication, where the information is not different than its mediatic support. "Cool Memories" - Baudrillard joseph