In the new issue of Art Mag by Sybaris we explore the relationship between art, science and technology. Since always, art has imagined new realities that sometimes seem to come out from science fiction. However, in recent times the visual arts are using those depictions in order to question both its own limits and of science. The pieces of art produced in this context not only imagine new aesthetic possibilities for art but also challenge current political, social, moral or economic values.

Sybaris Collectors16 OPINION
Digital Still Life × Ozan Turkkan20 OPINION The Delicate Line That Divides
Art, Science And Fantasy 80
26 The Art of Play. Othiana Roffiel85

THERE ARE NO flying cars, teleportation has not been discovered yet, and HIV still has no cure (apparently a vaccine is very close), but the 21st Century has been extraordinary by far. Two decades has been passed and they look likesomething out of a science fiction book or movie: terrorism, wars, natural disasters, the human genome was decoded, Internet has really change the world and, as if all that phenomena wasn’t enough, a pandemic has literally stoped the world. When reality surpasses fiction, for what do we need more literature, art or films? I might not have the answer, but I do believe art is always pushing us to see our outrageous reality from different perspectives. We do need
art to challenge our gaze. We selected 10 current artworks that imagine the future as if they belonged to a science fiction movie.

Eduardo Kac GFP Bunny (2000)

The 21st Century began with transgenic beings at least in the art
field. In May 2000, Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac created a Green
fluorescent rabbit by modifying her organism with a green protein
which turned the little animal—later named Alba— into a strange and
artificial creature. The project was made for experimenting with the
Transgenic Art, a new art form, according to Kac, “based on the use
of genetic engineering to transfer natural or synthetic genes to
an organism.”

Genetic engineering or transgenesis was invented and first
used in 1973 by Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen with scientific
purposes. The idea of manipulating the DNA sequences by artificial
means began to give alternatives for facing critical issues such as
certain terminal diseases or even world famine.

Such as with the science project, many questions came out
with Alba mainly related to the ethics involved with modifying the
DNA from living beings. Does Alba really was an artificial animal even
when it was originally a real bunny? What kind of consequences
could come when freedom turns into the possibility of creating any
kind of living being?

2 Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen
Pigeon D’or (2010)

It is very well known that the pigeon “poo” is very toxic. Although this
subject is not new, according to a BBC studio, “breathing dust or water droplets containing contaminated bird droppings can lead to several diseases.” Wait a minute! We are always surrounded by pigeons, all the cities around the world are pigeon’s domain. We are now worried about going out because of Covid-19 but we have been living for years—and without masks— exposed to pigeon poo. There is pigeon poo on your car, on the windows, on the floor, on the balconies, everywhere! What can be done with something so natural as pigeon droppings? Isn’t nature perfect?

Do not lie, if it were possible to eliminate the poop from all kind of animals (except human beings, because we are anthropocentric), we would certainly do it. Well, it is possible, at least as an art project. In 2010, London-based artist Revital Cohen and Thuur Van Valen
found out the way to modify the metabolism of pigeons through synthetic biology. With the help of biochemist James Chappel, they designed and created a bacteria to be eaten by pigeons. Once the bacteria is in their organism, instead of producing poop the pigeons defecate a biological soap. Yes! If you are tired to clean your car or your windows from birds poop, now they can be modified for they to defecate soap and make easier for you to clean. If all pigeons (or animals) around the world were modified, cities would be certainly cleaner. Sounds great, but think about it: do we have the right to modify living species for our own human benefit? If so, what is our conception of live?

3 Marion Laval-Jeantet
May the Horse Live in Me (2011)

What are the differences between humans and animals? In 2011, artist Marion Laval-Jeantet presented a performance consisting in an animal blood transfusion. How? After several months of injecting herself with different horse immunoglobulins in order to prepare her body to accept a complete transfusion and avoid allergic reactions, Laval-Jeantet injected herself with horse blood plasma in a very uncommon performance.

The project came out as a research about the boundaries between species and the supposed priority of humans over animals, but also it was addressed by the idea of provoking transspecies relationships. The last transfusion took place during a performance on February 22 2011, in which she also wore a set of stilts with hooves in order to create a communication ritual with the horse. Is it a Laval-Jeantet an hybrid specie? Apparently yes, she later said in an interview with Wired, “I had a feeling of being superhuman. I was not normal in my body. I had all the emotions of a herbivore. I couldn’t sleep and I felt a little bit like a horse.”

4 Adam Brown
Origins of Life. ReBioGeneSys (2013)

The Miller-Urey experiment was a chemical experiment that simulated the conditions thought in 1952 to be present on the early Earth and tested the chemical origin of life under those conditions. Made by scientist Stanley Miller and Harold Clayton Urey from Chicago University, the experiment proved that organic molecules could be created with inorganic substances. Having this in mind, Adam Brown created an unusual art installation—also
known as ReBioGeneSys—which, at the same time, is an extreme minimal ecosystem capable of forming self-organizing chemistries necessary to produce semi-living molecules and even protocells.

ssary to produce semi-living molecules and even protocells. For centuries, the idea of life as a result of organic systems shaped our thinking and made possible the distinctions between organic and inorganic, alive and dead, human and nonhuman. Brown took the previous experiments to design a system that can evolve by means of both organic and inorganic means. It is a cycle of natural production and selection which aims to be the answer to an evolution problem by reproducing life. That is to say, that ReBioGeneSys is an artifice designed not to mimic, but to produce nature itself through self-sustaining, ever-recursive autopoiesis. So if the world is coming to an end, and life is about to become something different that what we used to know, here is an option isn’it?

5 Charlotte Jarvis
In Posse (2014 – in progress)

Since mid-20th Century, art has been deeply involved with the feminist movements, sometimes from a poetic perspective and sometimes in the form of protest which have been considered by the critic as political projects more than artistic projects. Is it enough to make visible the inequality and violence to which women are subjected through art or do we need to take a step forward and make concrete proposals for making true changes? Are women
artists responsible for giving answers to their social problems?

For artist and academic researcher Charlotte Jarvis art activism isn’t enough, apparently a major change coming from the science is needed. Over the past six years, Jarvis has been working together with scientist Susana Chuva in Leiden and with Kersnikova Institute in Ljubljana in making semen from Charlotte’s female cells. These cells have XX chromosomes (the “female” genetic marker”. The first stage of the project is to erase these Xs through accelerate mutation and selection. The second stage is to add synthetic genes found on the “male” Y chromosome, whis is the one defining the gender of a human being. Jarvi’s idea is to reimagine the physical boundaries and turn our bodies into sites for transformation in order to erase the dichotomy between male and female. At the same time, by using science and art, this project tries to undermine traditional notions of patriarchal power, disrupt gender and to examine the meaning of gender now and in the future

6 Tomás Saraceno How to entangle the universe in a spider/web? (2017)

Spider webs are one of the most complex nature architectures. Are human beings capable of reproducing such a perfect structure? And if so, with what purpose? When in 1973 a couple of high school students proposed to send a group of spiders to outer
space, NASA realized spider webs function similar to dark matter. That is to say, the structures of thousands of galaxies – that aren’t even visible for us – are built over a mesh of multiple webs who eventually make up the immense structure of the universe.

Based on these investigations, Saraceno became interested in the way ordinary matter is attracted to the densest parts of what now is known as the cosmic web, where galaxies are formed. He created an original technique for 3D scanning, digitizing and reconstructing spider webs to produce an art installation. The purpose is to understand the extraordinary architectural methods not only of the spider webs but those involved in the creation of a galaxy. If spiders are more sensitive than human beings, then probably they are telling us something about how the dark matter works.

7 Trevor Paglen and Kronos Quartet
Sight Machine (2019)

Since 2005, American artist and geographer Trevor Paglen has researched the social and political consequences of images produced by machines and surveillance technology. What kind of data does machines save for who knows what benefits? For Plagen, machines are not naive as they are programmed by human minds who dump their prejudices or ideologies on these tools and technologies. One of his most recent projects is Sight Machine, a multimedia performance in collaboration with Kronos Quartet. While they were performing different kinds of music, they were under the gaze of machine-vision (considered as Paglen as the very specific way of seeing the watching machines) and artificial intelligence

Is it really possible for machines to quantify human emotions? There are several surveillance systems and machine-visions programmed to classify people based on their database. With this in mind, the quartet was monitored by cameras feeding into a suite of artificial intelligence algorithms. The software translated the abstracted information into images projected onto a screen behind the performers, “showing us how machines and their algorithms perceive what we are seeing”. Musician, instrumentality, person, male, female, entertainer, living thing, among other words, were projected by the software as a result of what they were seeing. Seems irrelevant, right? Well, think about it: this is the way you are classified by social networks and any kind of surveillance systems.

8 The Tissue Culture & Art Project
Vapour Meat [HPO.3.1] alpha (2018)

We are surrounded by the fake: fake news, transgenic food, fake fabrics, plastics, fake people on social networks… While the world is becoming more and more artificial, The Tissue Culture & Ar Project suggests that fake is not always as bad as it seems. It is probably not but we’ve had to get to a point in which fake is one option to reach the real. In 2018, this collective group of artists, curators and scientists, create a helmet that “uses this scenario to posit a future in which we reach for the abstract, hypermediated and the technological in lieu of the real.

Vapour Meat is a helmet that emits vapours composed of a mixture of lab-grown rat muscle cells, essential oils and water. It is also a prototype that fuses three contemporary trends: molecular gastronomy, lab-grown meat and e-cigarettes. What is for and how it works? The design of the helmet is an alternative response to the negative effects of meat industries and the exploitation of animals which also results in high levels of pollution. So if you became vegan because animal cruelty and you are worried about the food systems and the future of our planet, then Vapour Meat – however false it is – it is a solution to experiment real meat smealls and flavours

But there is an important point: that what you’re smelling at it is not coming from real meat but lab-grown meat. Vapour Meat is not just an useless sci-fi project or a conceptual project to get fun or question the current relations with agricultural farming, it is also a real investigation about the possibilities of having some options when the time comes (we hope will be far away) of not having real meat.

9 Biquini Wax Sa la na, a yuum, iasis / Laissez faire, laissez passer (2020)

Science fiction is not only about scientific and technological experiments that seems irreal. Science fiction is also about the social, political and cultural phenomena which apparently are the outcomes of imaginary scenarios. But what happens when those fantasies, that horror stories that we wouldn’t imagine could be possible actually are part of our reality, and even worse, we accept them as part of our daily life?

Sa la na, a yuum, iasis / Laissez faire, laissez passer is a multimedia installation created by Mexican collective and independent art space Biquini Wax, and conceived as a “parodical allegory of Mexico’s economic liberalization between 1986 and 1996.” In this piece, the anatomy of Keiko – the first superstar killer whale – is full of garbage: fast food, mass culture dolls, objects that refers to the fall of the Berlin Wall, NAFTA, the FTA (Free Trade Agreement between Canada, USA and Mexico), and all kind object that symbolise the utopia of a better future promised by the neoliberal regime. It is also, as art critic Irmgard Emmelhainz has said, an apocalyptical imaginary in which global warming and mass extinction -produced by that political and economical system – are actually part of our reality.

10 Acute Art (2020)

We are living in a very particular historical time: everybody and everything is under a strict lockdown thanks to a pandemic. Museums are closed (as if that matters) around the world and their equipment are struggling with producing art contents for the Internet and digital platforms. Artists, curators and even web programmers are doing the same. It is the case of Acute Art, a very attractive app who offers users to enjoy exclusive artworks from the commodity of their houses or in any place they want to. But what really matters is the opportunity to place a work of art in any kind of space: in the park, in a building, in the street, in your bedroom, in a church, etc. How does it work? With virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and works created by artists such as Marina Abramović, Olafur Eliasson, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, KAWS, among others.

It sounds very exciting, right? When would we have imagined that it would be possible to modify the landscape with just one click (and a cell phone, of course)? Is that really a way to modify our surroundings, our reality? The project is interesting in the way it offers an alternative to experience art without visiting a museum or a gallery. However, what kind of reality are we creating with projects like this one? How does augmented or virtual reality modify our gaze? Are we really creating another reality or are we just trying to hide the not-too-kind but existing reality?

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