1 03 2009



facing the earth under it’s global conditions we must realize, that we have become a victim of the one-world-one-mankind illusion. the fact is: the opposite is true. under nowadays global conditions we should speak of a billionfold world and mankind. whenever today’s human beings question the world and themselves, they no longer rely on their own unsupported sensory unifying systems, but more and more on science-and technoassisted, from each other independent devices and apparatuses. (cameras, microscopes, telescopes, film,- video-, computer-, netsystems, etc.) the reality check signifies, that human awareness has become more and more alienated by technology from the vision of the human existence as an integral whole. finally, as the human awarness has become substituted by the millionfold of technological devices it has also become obsolete with the most crucial consequence, the individual itself has fallen apart. this has happened following the speed and need of the scientific- technological progress of differenciation and specialisation. as a result, in the science- ans technology driven world the individual becomes splitted further and further into millionfold of fragments, pieces and bits which are already dispersed and distributed worldwide by the same technology. this kind of millionfold, fragmented in_dividual has become today’s contradiction to further speak of one world, one mankind and one universe.

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28 02 2009


The Arts Catalyst develops experimental art that practically and critically engages with science and technology, particularly science’s cultural, social and political contexts – where possible through artists’ direct engagement with its processes and technologies.

Provoked by subjects and places that we, as non-specialists, “cannot” do, access, understand or affect – particularly where they impact profoundly on our lives and futures, we work with artists to create contexts and opportunities for them to work at the frontiers of scientific investigation and application (including genetics, nuclear physics, space science, ecology, neuroscience and new materials) and in hard-to-access environments, such as biotech labs, experimental reactors, space agencies, zero gravity and remote environments. We are interested in the new forms and techniques of artistic expression that these engagements can activate and in the dialogue and cultural shifts that these interventions provoke within science, within art and in society.

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24 02 2009


Bio-technologies produce, modify, and sustain life in forms no longer comprehensible within the traditional Western frameworks, nonetheless the distinction made by the Greeks between the two terms for life – bios and zoe – still proves to be very useful. Zoe, as Rabinow points out, ‘referred to the simple fact of being alive and applied to all living beings per se’ while bios ‘indicated the appropriate form given to a way of life of an individual or group.’ (Rabinow 2002, 15) Historically, only bios – the good life – has been considered worth philosophical attention as limited strictly to humans (although, Aristotle excluded e.g. women and slaves), while zoe as its animal other remained marginalized in the phallogocentric tradition of the West.

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22 02 2009


Our cultural concept of Mars has historically been entrenched with its possibilities of life since Lowell gazed at Schiaparelli’s canali over a century ago. Perhaps a small misinterpretation of language, an optical illusion or the dream of an optimist unlocked the myth of a war torn planet where unrivalled irrigation skills implied markings of intelligent creatures (Lowell, 1909). With new discoveries and development of technological tools, Mars has become reduced from inhabiting man-like creatures to worms, plants and gradually only a potentiality of microbes. Indeed, many scientists shared this disappointment as the Mariner orbiters first laid their eyes on a hostile planet engulfed in dust. Beginning with the Viking mission, the raging dust storms’ settled and its two Landers unravelled for the first time the alien world of Mars – a dry rocky desert covered in iron oxide yielding the ochre-red hue as well as its name, the red planet. Hitherto the only set of tests for carbon life probing Martian soil showed incomplete but daunting results. Its controversy sparked a complete re-thinking of ‘what life is’ and ‘where we can find it’. The robotic invasion of Mars has since re-awoken its potential, catalyzing a range of new research disciplines drawn to the possibilities of finding life. The red planet remains a frontier for life through its history both as a cultural and scientific space. Our engagement attempts to open artistic areas in primarily scientific spaces and to address cultural aspects and experiences that also take place. The Martian Rose is an artistic investigation into boundary conditions of life beyond terrestrial settings.

The Martian Rose developed from a previous work that provocatively examined notions of culture and nature by introducing genetically modified plants into pristine wilderness. A journey deep into Mexico opened a hyperreal and bioinvasive exploration aimed at investigating genetically altered living systems and their interaction with our culture and ecosystem. Thereby, challenging frontiers surrounding constructions of nature, belonging and otherness. Keeping within this bearing, we turned our attention to more recent frontiers and production of life in these realms. This led us to a world beyond our own, researching possibilities of life outside Earth. Mars is often referred to as our final frontier because it evokes a sense of wonder and mystery that science fiction valiantly tries to capture (De Goursac, 2005).

Whilst scientific research has become increasingly sensitive to questions of ‘what life is’ and ‘where can we find it’ by probing new chemical and atmospheric configurations; interdisciplinary fields combining genetics, space- and nanotechnology have emerged posing a challenge to the search path for life and consequently to trajectories of an extraterrestrial dream. The question ‘of life’ in this context is all of a sudden reconfigured to: Can we create life outside of Earth?

Our interest started with the long leaping idea of creating life for Mars.

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22 02 2009


My artistic themes reflect on the limits of life and death in the context of molecular genetics. The installation, Tremor, was produced in April 2007 using video microscopy in the context of developmental biology and zebrafish genomics. Extreme close up evaluations of mutant zebrafish embryos were used capture the essence of the life force as movement, but also show, paradoxically, that making and unmaking the gene requires a pathological trespass into the mystery it seeks to reveal. In microscopic studies of embryonic growth, visual distortions, physical vibrations, shadows, reflections, scratches, and microbial parasites randomly appear. Awkward co-ordination of eye and hand movements, control of the image and the limitations of a fixed viewpoint were used to engage the viewer in a visceral and psychological reading of a mediated life form. I showed how physical contact and looking create tremors and palpitations that are tactile, reactive and deadly because the embryonic organism is sensitve and frequently dies.

k1 Stills, Tremor (2007)

Zebrafish belong to a group of model organisms deliberately bred to study vertebrate development. They are used to search for mutations randomly using classical forward genetics, and then selectively bred. Historically, shared characteristics suggested linear chains with humans as the dominant species, but as the all life is revealed in greater genetic complexity, it sheds new light on human evolution and our interconnection to other species becomes more pervasively subtle. Humans share ancestors with fish but the transgenic application of our molecular self to other species now renders evolutionary comparisons redundant.

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22 02 2009


Rene Descartes, when writing on optics and consciousness, (La Dioptrique 1637) instructed the reader to follow the advice of the German priest Christopher Sheiner, who, in 1619 used the dead eye from a recently deceased body as the lens for a camera obscura. Thus Descartes, perhaps best remembered, as the principle architect of Cartesian dualism, becomes the unwitting proponent of a tangible connection between body and mind in the relationship of vision to cognition and consciousness. Descartes was fascinated by the possibilities offered by the camera obscura, not least as an aid to understanding the complex mechanisms of sight and cognition. In his misguided search for the ‘seat of the soul’ (which he deduced was in the pineal gland) he spoke of looking into the metaphorical ‘mind’s eye’, in Descartes’ time impossible, but now thanks to fMRI scanners and confocal microscopy, seemingly a reality. The ‘Cartesian Theatre’ (though not conceived by Descartes himself) offers us the spectacle of the mind as a darkened theatre where we may search for ‘the self’, but the self is an elusive spectre, and neurologists now know that the self is not constant but is in a state of continuous neurobiological flux.

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22 02 2009


1) Susceptibility to teratogenesis depends on the genotype of the conceptus and the manner in which this interacts with adverse environmental factors.

2) Susceptibility to teratogenesis varies with the developmental stage at the time of exposure to an adverse influence. There are critical periods of susceptibility to agents and organ systems affected by these agents.

3) Teratogenic agents act in specific ways on developing cells and tissues to initiate sequences of abnormal developmental events.

4) The access of adverse influences to developing tissues depends on the nature of the influence. Several factors affect the ability of a teratogen to contact a developing conceptus, such as the nature of the agent itself, route and degree of maternal exposure, rate of placental transfer and systemic absorption, and composition of the maternal and embryonic/fetal genotypes.

5) There are four manifestations of deviant development (Death, Malformation, Growth Retardation and Functional Defect).

6) Manifestations of deviant development increase in frequency and degree as dosage increases from the No Observable Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) to a dose producing 100% Lethality (LD100)1

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