Imagination laboratory : making sense of bio-objects in contemporary art

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Imagination laboratory : making sense of bio-objects in contemporary art

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Title Imagination laboratory : making sense of bio-objects in contemporary art
Author(s) Holmberg, Tora ; Ideland, Malin
Date 2014
English abstract
Public engagement in biotechnology has declined as cloning, genetic engineering and regenerative medicine have become socially and culturally normalized. Moreover, when debates occasionally emerge, scripts are strictly limited through established politico-moral discourses in which rationality and calculability of risks and benefits prevail. In order to vitalize debates on new technologies, we claim that there is a need for re-conceptualizations of biotechnological concerns and possibilities. Zooming in on existing bio-technological debates, this article turns to contemporary genetic art as sites for such ethical reflections. Art can be viewed as an “imagination laboratory”, a space through which un-framing and rupturing of contemporary rationalities are facilitated, and, in addition, enabling sense-making and offering fantastic connections otherwise not articulated. In this article, the framework of “bio-objectification” is enriched with Bennett’s (2001) notion of enchantment and the importance of wonder and openness to the unusual, in order to problematize modernity infused policy institutions’ belief in rationality and calculations. Our aim is to explore representations of biotechnology and new life forms in contemporary arts in order to highlight alternative matters of concern than articulated through conventional politico-moral discourse. How are notions of post-human futures explored, questioned and (de)stabilized? Drawing on a cultural sociological analysis of Eduardo Kac’s “Edunia”, Lucy Glendinning’s “Feather child”, Patricia Piccinini’s “We are family” and Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s “Stranger visions”, we expand on the metaphor of enchantment and discuss how the art works can be interpreted in terms of “magic”, “wands” and “spells”: 1) What kinds of affects are mobilized through the magic of art (disgust, fear, wonder); 2) What kinds of specific “wands” are used; (shock, warning, recognition) and 3) Which responses are fostered through cultural spells (protection, rejection, othering, inclusion)? The paper demonstrates that while some modern boundaries and rationalities are highlighted and challenged through the “imagination laboratory” of the art process, others are left untouched.
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) stem cell research
cultural analysis
politico-moral discourse
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
Note The 27th Conference of the Nordic Sociological Association, Lund University, 14-16 August: 2014
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