[Synapse elist] Life, and then some...

Vicki Sowry vicki at anat.org.au
Mon Mar 3 16:53:10 CST 2008

I am posting this on behalf of Oron Catts, who is in the air between NYC and



Hello list,

Last night I had dinner with a bunch of scientists and clinicians who work
on cancer research, cells engineering and therapy. So I used that
opportunity to raise some of the issues that I feel need to be discuss in
this forum as well; we talked about the unique position of life in our
search for knowledge, and what is then done with this knowledge. Working
with life from the level of molecules to patients they were all attempting
to come up with a materialist (i.e. non spiritual) ways to talk about the
unique essence of life. Some were trying to limit that only to human life
while others were more open to look at life from cells to organisms as
something that is different from all other processes and materials. Someone
evoked the envy biologists sometimes feel toward physicists who can do "real
science" by being total reductionists, while biologists are dealing with the
"messiness" of life as well as the very visceral implications of their
research. That brought me to the original statement I prepared for this
forum, and to the question- is it different when artists are using life as
their material? 
Here is what I originally stated:
I am fascinated by the use of life as a medium for artistic engagement. As a
mirror reflecting back the different levels of human intervention and
manipulation of living systems, art highlights the fact that we perceive
life differently to any other material or process.  This special
consideration to life should be recognised and elaborated, perhaps as a form
of secular vitalism.
The growing tension between this elusive essence of life, either perceived
or real, and the mounting approaches to engineer life - is the zone in which
the most interesting art and biology works lie. I would have loved to
explore this further, drawing upon the idea of direct experiential
engagement with the manipulation of life as a cultural strategy.
looking forward to a stimulating discussion

More information about the eList mailing list