ARTISTS AND SCIENTISTS AS EXTRAMOPHILES: EXTREME ENIVRONMENTS AND ECOLOGY

28 02 2009

By MATT RATTO and BRONAC FERRAN

The conference call and associated texts ask us to reflect on extreme environments and the extremophiles that inhabit them, understanding such things as indicators and vectors for the mutations that constitute biological change. The goal of our presentation is to extend this concept, to use the language of mutamorphosis,to link biological, environmental and cultural change and to explore how shifts in the space of the artist studio are occurring in the context of social and scientific exploration within their work. Referencing the work of two London based artists – Jo Joelson and Bruce Gilchrist, as well as an emerging project being developed in northeast Brasil, we explore the notion that artist-scientists are increasingly becoming extremophiles, in the sense that many of them are seeking extreme natural and cultural environments in which to develop their work. In doing so we suggest a renewal of engagement by these artists with the notion of crisis – a pointwhere it becomes critical, in their view, to assert the presence of art and artists within conditions of social and environmental change. Often the goal of these artist-scientists is to imagine and achieve beneficial environmental, ecological and cultural impact . But this is by no means a given. If “science looks and observes and art see and foresees,” (Gabo, 1937:9) what can the combining of these disciplines mean in the context of extreme conditions?

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