Humans in BioArt

While discussing the topic of BioArt, I was enthralled by the artists who did not work with microorganisms, tissues, and bacteria, but instead included macro organisms into their artwork. The artist that stood out to me was the one who created a setup of eight different boxes that were incubators for eggs. The artist then introduced real eggs that eventually hatched into chicks. With BioArt on the microscopic level, I believe there exists a gap between the viewer and the artwork. For example, when looking at a picture of microscopic cells, I don’t especially relate to them or imagine that they are a part of me. However, when the artist is able to introduce a full living organism, like the chicks, the gap is bridged because we can see the whole picture of life itself. Professor Cartwright discussed the work of Wilhelm Röntgen, the first person to print an x-ray of his wife’s hand.

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Not only was this image a huge leap for science and medicine, it also fills a void in the art realm as well. This image is so intriguing because not only can the viewer see that the shadows resemble a hand, but the inner structure of the body is also visible. What’s more, the inclusion of a ring on the finger gives the image a human attribute; the owner of the hand in the image has a life beyond the image. BioArt has the capability to communicate the idea of ‘life beyond art.’ BioArt begs the questions: How can organisms on the macroscopic level, like humans, be included into art? What are the effects of human integration into art?

One example is the work of the artist Fred Wilson. Wilson did a project called Mining the Museum, in which he “excavated” the archives of a museum and put the artifacts that were in storage into his own displays. He claimed that his reason for creating this artwork is: “What they put on view says a lot about a museum, but what they don’t put on view says even more.” An interesting piece that comes to mind is called “Guarded View.” Wilson found four old museum guard uniforms and put them in the museum as an art display. As a further experiment, Wilson dressed up as a museum guard for a day to see how he would be treated. Interestingly, he was ignored, as if he were just another part of the museum. Visitors thought nothing of the actual museum guard, yet they were infatuated by the four figurines dressed in old guard uniforms. Wilson seems to satirize human interaction in this incidence, showing that the viewers are drawn to this display because of the human resemblance yet cast off the real working human guard.

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Another thing that comes to mind when discussing integrating humans into artwork is the human statue; street performers who paint themselves to look like statues, then stand completely still for viewers to stare at. The idea of an actual living being behind the makeup is what makes this medium so intriguing. Similarly, the human interaction, or lack there of, in Wilson’s work is what makes his study so interesting. Can it still be considered art? Or even BioArt? If BioArt is simply the integration of life processes and living organisms into art, then in some sense any art that is living in any way is BioArt, no matter the scale. The purpose is to create a more in depth human relationship between the artwork, artist, and audience, as well as to showcase life in a new way.

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-Sam Ozenbaugh

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