biological art. .. what where how why?

I realized over the last year that a startling percentage of my conversations with friends, both new and old have been centred around the definition of my course of study…

“Oh hey Joel, havent seen you in a while, what’re up to?”
“Im doing my Masters in Perth!”
“Oh what’re you doing”
“Biological Art”..
“What in the world is that?”

most conversations begin like that, and while it’s interesting cos i’ve also had the distinct pleasure of hearing what people understand by that term.. i guess you can never have a comprehensive understanding of the term in the short 3-5 minutes of discussion that furnishes casual conversation – not to mention most people (at least those i talk to) are not particularly interested in the full extent of the answer.  Over the course of the year (and numerous sticky situations not knowing how to approach the question) i’ve developed a series of answers that are short, yet concise.  One of them goes like this.

“ah.. biological art is essentially a fine arts programme that allows us as artists to enter the shrine of science and use the tools and technologies of the life sciences for artistic and aesthetic gain.  Most of what we do covers the ethical and societal implications of the rise of biotechnology, genetic modifications, ecology and the like. ”

Normally after this, I’d give an introduction into the work that people have done… Eduardo Kac, Oron and Ionat, Kathy High etc etc.  as well as give a couple of the project proposals sent in by students at the Art and Life Manipulation unit at UWA ’09.  Probably after this, the questions are always centred around form and physical manifestation of the ‘strange’, but i try to present a comforting picture (at least thats what i think it is) of some other works around bio art – namely my own, Lisa’s, Nigel Heyler’s, Perdy’s etc.

Nonetheless, ive decided maybe i should set up a series of blog posts to attempt to define this term.. or to present a non-definition of the term (what isnt Biological art!?), just so that it might be easier for people to gain access to this study.  I begun to realize that the term largely depends on which angle you look at it from – artist, scientist, designer, anthropologist …  so i wonder if as a pre-requisite to understanding,  people should first need to define their stand.  Might be counterproductive since im the advocate of inter-disciplinary endeavours, but it at least would be fun to reverse the interrogating light.

Most of the blog posts will be collections of thoughts, people i’ve met/done work with/studied with spotlighted and elucidated to a certain degree so we can understand why they chose to do this in the first place.  ill include a series of links to interesting bioart places/thingalings that might help to develope the discussion.  Im thinking this might be a good place to also put my thoughts down somewhere before i begin writing my dissertation.

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