24 02 2009


Mutability was a central issue in the oeuvre of artist Helen Chadwick in the late 1980s and 1990s of the last century. Her work explores the “territories of prolific encounters”, mostly the body, landscape, the embryo and the cell. The encounters could be between natural and (man-made) toxic materials, between beauty and economics, between natural law and memory, desire and form, between the material and the digital or informational. The processes that ensued from the territories of prolific encounter she associated with viruses. In her “viral aesthetics” Chadwick (1989, p. 97) considered these processes as contingent on risk, not as damage persé, but as potential – cultivating the possibility of change. Concepts of purity or essentialism and contagion no longer apply in her work and Chadwick reworks the danger of the hostile into hospitality. Chadwick is not alone in this quest, as “viral sensibility” is discussed in many ways, from computer technology and marketing strategy to body/machine interfacing and philosophy. ”Viral sensibility”, according to Joseph Nechvatal, “conveys latent excess”, is “ecstatic, variational and non-hierarchical” (Rogue 2004). I will investigate the viral as a metaphor in art and art/science encounters in order to develop a possible philosophy of mutability.

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