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2018-04-24T06:33:55.916Z
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Tina Gorjanc, The Phylogenetic Atelier. Exhibition view at FAKE: THE REAL DEAL? Photo credits: Science Gallery Dublin

We’re going to see a living breathing woolly mammoth soon! Because members of de-extinction circles made us big, confident promises and because media enthusiasm and sleek videos confirmed their words.

Except that the reality is a bit more complicated than that. Scientists are not really going to “resurrect” the long extinct species. The plan is rather to create a GMO. The main strategy adopted by researchers today consists in using cells from the closest living species (in this case the Asian elephant) and edit their genes to obtain DNA as close as possible to that of the extinct animal. The result will be a hybrid organism that carries the genetic material from both species. It won’t be exactly the same hairy mammal as the old one.


Martha, the last surviving passenger pigeon, died in captivity in 1914, leading to the extinction of her species. She is now being displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Photo via

A similar copy-pasting...

Gaming Masculinity. Trolls, Fake Geeks, and the Gendered Battle for Online Culture, by Megan Condis, an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.


On amazon USA and UK.

Publisher University of Iowa Press writes: In 2016, a female videogame programmer and a female journalist were harassed viciously by anonymous male online users in what became known as GamerGate. Male gamers threatened to rape and kill both women, and the news soon made international headlines, exposing the level of abuse that many women and minorities face when participating in the predominantly male online culture.

Gaming Masculinity explains how the term “gamer” has been constructed in the popular imagination by a core group of male online users in an attempt to shore up an embattled form of geeky masculinity. This latest form of toxicity comes at a moment of upheaval in gaming culture, as women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals demand broader access and representation online. Paying close attention to the online practices of trolling and making memes, author Megan Condis demonstrates that, despite the supposedly disembodied nature of life online, performances of masculinity are still afforded privileged status in gamer culture. Even worse, she finds that these competing discourses are not just relegated to the gaming...

Animals that fake their appearance to blend in their surrounding and attract their prey, people who fake a delirious state of bliss on social media, girls who prefer fake fur (or ‘fantasy fur’ as Lagerfeld called it) to the real one, etc. Sometimes the fake is just a little bit more desirable than the real. And if you’re worried about animal welfare, broken food systems and the future of our planet, then fake meat, and in particular lab-grown meat, looks like the saviour humanity was waiting for. It will be cruelty free, greenhouse gases free and guilt free. At least that’s the promise.


Devon Ward and Oron Catts, Vapour Meat [HP0.3.1]alpha, 2018. Exhibition view. Image courtesy of the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin


Devon Ward and Oron Catts, Vapour Meat [HP0.3.1]alpha, 2018. Exhibition view. Image courtesy of the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin

Technological solutions like lab-grown meat come with ethical, ecological and economic costs that receive far less coverage in the press than the cheerful myths and fictions heralded by the proponents of the technology. As previous works by The...


Sissel Marie Tonn, The Intimate Earthquake Archive. Installation view STUK. Photo: ©Joeri Thiry, STUK

The province of Groningen in The Netherlands has the largest gas field in Europe. Since the early days of extraction in 1959, the field has produced billions of cubic meters of the natural resource. The exploitation is a lucrative business but, because the extraction process is causing earthquakes, it is also ruining the lives of the local residents. Many of the houses in the area have been so badly damaged by the man-induced earthquakes that they are uninhabitable.


Gas field in Groningen. Photograph: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg/Getty Images, via The Guardian


House in Groningen. Image via CBS

Sissel Marie Tonn‘s artwork The Intimate Earthquake Archive is an attempt to understand and communicate the psychosomatic effects that these man-made seisms have on the...

Handbook of Tyranny, by Theo Deutinger, an architect, writer, lecturer, illustrator and designer of socio-cultural maps.

On amazon UK and USA.

Publisher Lars Müller writes: Handbook of Tyranny portrays the routine cruelties of the twenty-first century through a series of detailed non-fictional graphic illustrations. None of these cruelties represent extraordinary violence – they reflect day-to-day implementation of laws and regulations around the globe.

Every page of the book questions our current world of walls and fences, police tactics and prison cells, crowd control and refugee camps. The dry and factual style of storytelling through technical drawings is the graphic equivalent to bureaucratic rigidity born of laws and regulations. The level of detail depicted in the illustrations of the book mirror the repressive efforts taken by authorities around the globe.

The twenty-first century shows a general striving for an ever more regulated and protective society. Yet the scale of authoritarian intervention and their stealth design adds to the growing difficulty of linking cause and effect. Handbook of Tyranny gives a profound insight into the relationship between political power, territoriality and systematic cruelties.


Animals slaughtered per second worldwide and slaughterhouse...


Maja Smrekar, K-9 topology ARTE_mis . Photo: Anze Sekelj and Hana Josic

Maja Smrekar has spent the past few years investigating human/dog/wolf co-evolution, co-habitation as well as the possibility to create a hybrid of the human and the dog species. Her K-9_topology work places this co-evolution at the center of a broader reflection around humanity, its presumption to have an innate right to rule over other living entities and the consequences this self-centeredness is having on the very future of our planet (or at least of our existence upon it.)


Maja Smrekar in collaboration with Manuel Vason, K-9 topology Hybrid Family, Berlin, 2016

K-9_topology evolved over a period of several years and is articulated around four artworks. The first, Ecce Canis, involved isolating serotonin from the blood of both the artist and her dog companion Byron to transform it into an odor that permeated a gallery installation. The fragrance symbolized the olfactory basis of their relationship and by extension the long history of mutual tolerance and taming of both species.

Maja Smrekar, I Hunt...


Jeroen van Loon, Cellout.me, exhibition view at Aksioma Project Space. Photo: Jure Goršič / Aksioma


Jeroen van Loon, Cellout.me, exhibition view at Aksioma Project Space. Photo: Jure Goršič / Aksioma

At the end of 2015, artist Jeroen van Loon offered his entire DNA data – 380 GB of personal data – for auction. The starting price was an extravagant 0 euro. Anyone could place a bid through www.cellout.me. A year later, the auction closed and the artist’s full genome sold for 1100 euros to the Verbeke Foundation.

The highest bidder had just acquired an installation composed of the server cabinet where the data are stored, framed pictures documenting the DNA extracting and encoding processes, four letters written by experts as well something more difficult to fully grasp: an individual’s entire DNA self-portrait.

In their letters, experts from very different fields attempt to untangle the meaning and implications of Cellout.me. Auction house Christie’s Amsterdam seeks to estimate the artistic value of the artist’s DNA; specialists at medical center ErasmusMC in Rotterdam looked at the ethical dimension of the artist’s work...

A much belated review of Politiken des Designs / Politics of Design, an exhibition i saw back in January at Kunstraum Potsdam, a forum for fine arts near Berlin.

The exhibition showcased the work of young designers recently graduated or still studying at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam (aka FH Potsdam – Fachbereich Design or FHP.) As its name suggest, the show aimed to demonstrate that design can play an important role when it comes to engaging with today’s social and political concerns. Through various visual and experiential strategies, designers can make more visible and even tangible problems that are under-discussed or too abstract to be easily understood.

The young designers used various strategies to tackle sociopolitical issues: data viz, gaming, photography, animation, etc. I’m going to mix and match below some of my favourite works in the exhibition:


José Ernesto Rodríguez, Philipp Strixner-Weber, Thomas Miebach, Mario Klemm and Merle Ibach, Urban Dataobjects (Poverty and social exclusion in Europe)


José Ernesto Rodríguez, Philipp Strixner-Weber, Thomas Miebach, Mario Klemm and Merle Ibach, Urban Dataobjects (National debt per person in 2015)

Nonhuman Photography, by Joanna Zylinska, a writer, lecturer, artist, curator and Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London.

On amazon UK and USA.

Publisher MIT Press writes: Today, in the age of CCTV, drones, medical body scans, and satellite images, photography is increasingly decoupled from human agency and human vision. In Nonhuman Photography, Joanna Zylinska offers a new philosophy of photography, going beyond the human-centric view to consider imaging practices from which the human is absent. Zylinska argues further that even those images produced by humans, whether artists or amateurs, entail a nonhuman, mechanical element—that is, they involve the execution of technical and cultural algorithms that shape our image-making devices as well as our viewing practices. At the same time, she notes, photography is increasingly mobilized to document the precariousness of the human habitat and tasked with helping us imagine a better tomorrow. With its conjoined human-nonhuman agency and vision, Zylinska claims, photography functions as both a form of control and a life-shaping force.

Zylinska explores the potential of photography for developing new modes of seeing and imagining, and presents images from her own photographic project, Active Perceptual Systems. She also examines the challenges posed by digitization to established notions of art, culture, and the media. In connecting biological extinction and technical...


Management Polled, Doon just the job. © Maria McKinney


Production Graph, Cloondroon Calling (QCD) © Maria McKinney

The delicate and colourful sculptures that the bulls above are carrying on their back are made from semen straws. These plastic straws are storage receptacles used in the process of artificially inseminating cows. They come in a variety of colours to help distinguish between different bull’s semen while being stored in liquid nitrogen.

Each straw sculpture has been specifically crafted by artist Maria McKinney for the animal whose genetic signature it denotes.

McKinney‘s project Sire (a “sire” is a bull used specifically for breeding purposes) investigates genetics in cattle breeding. Through these sculptures and their photographic documentation, the artist not only explores the past and future of humanity’s efforts to shape nature but she also reveals the hidden systems behind beef and milk production.

Algorithms of Oppression. How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, by Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble, a co-founder of the Information Ethics & Equity Institute and assistant professor at the faculty of the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication.

On amazon USA and UK.

Publisher NYU Press writes: Run a Google search for “black girls”—what will you find? “Big Booty” and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in “white girls,” the results are radically different. The suggested porn sites and un-moderated discussions about “why black women are so sassy” or “why black women are so angry” presents a disturbing portrait of black womanhood in modern society. In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.

Many of you have probably heard of Agbogbloshie, the biggest and most infamous e-waste dump in the world. That’s where most of the “Western” world’s electronics is (illegally) sent to rest and be dismantled by young people who ruin their health breathing toxic fumes and trying to salvage the precious metals our trash contains.

But our old bits and pieces of hardware don’t just contain copper and gold, they also hold personal, corporate and military information that can be retrieved and used by cyber criminals.


KairUs art collective Linda Kronman and Andreas Zingerle

The duo KairUs (artists/researchers Linda Kronman and Andreas Zingerle) traveled to Agbogbloshie in Ghana to investigate the issue of data breaches of private information.

The result of their research is Forensic Fantasies, a trilogy of artworks that use data recovered from hard-drives dumped in Agbogbloshie to answer the question: What happens to our data when we send a computer, an hard disk or any kind of other storage device to the garbage?


Forensic Fantasies trilogy: #2 Identity Theft, exhibited at Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary...

Speculative Taxidermy. Natural History, Animal Surfaces, and Art in the Anthropocene, by Giovanni Aloi.

On amazon UK / USA.

Publisher Columbia University Press writes: Taxidermy, once the province of natural history and dedicated to the pursuit of lifelike realism, has recently resurfaced in the world of contemporary art, culture, and interior design. In Speculative Taxidermy, Giovanni Aloi offers a comprehensive mapping of the discourses and practices that have enabled the emergence of taxidermy in contemporary art. Drawing on the speculative turn in philosophy and recovering past alternative histories of art and materiality from a biopolitical perspective, Aloi theorizes speculative taxidermy: a powerful interface that unlocks new ethical and political opportunities in human-animal relationships and speaks to how animal representation conveys the urgency of addressing climate change, capitalist exploitation, and mass extinction.

A resolutely nonanthropocentric take on the materiality of one of the most controversial mediums in art, this approach relentlessly questions past and present ideas of human separation from the animal kingdom. It situates taxidermy as a powerful interface between humans and animals, rooted in a shared ontological and physical vulnerability.


Berlinde De Bruyckere, K36 (The Black Horse) (and details), 2003.

If you find yourself in Amsterdam these days, don’t miss the fascinating exhibition Back to the Future at FOAM. I actually wish i could go back and visit it a second time.


Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, Light of Other days


Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, Light of Other days

The show draws parallels between the nineteenth century pioneers of photography who experimented with the technological and visual potential of the medium and today’s artists who are following in their footsteps by inventing new ways to use the materiality and processes of photography.

There’s a lot to dig through, learn and applaud in that show but i’m going to be my best lazy blogger today and pick up only one work: Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs‘s 2012 series Light of Other days.

Their haunting images were made by placing light-sensitive silver gelatin paper in a large analogue camera, resulting in direct and unique positive images. With exposure times sometimes longer than a minute and the help of electric drills to rattle the scenes, they create enigmatic images swirling whirlpools or produce a bright starry sky in...

Activestills. Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel, edited by Vered Maimon, a Senior Lecturer in the Art History Department at Tel Aviv University, and by Shiraz Grinbaum, a curator and photo editor for the Activestills Collective and researcher at Tel Aviv University.

On amazon USA and UK.

Publisher Pluto Press writes: In 2005, a group of photographers took a stand alongside the people of the small town of Bil’in, and documented their fight to stop the Israeli government building the infamous West Bank Barrier. Inspired by what they had seen in Bil’in, the group went on to form Activestills, a collective whose work has become vital in documenting the struggle against Israeli occupation and everyday life in extraordinary situations.

Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel examines the collective’s archive and activity from historical, theoretical, critical, and personal perspectives. It is the result of an in-depth dialogue among members of the collective and activists, journalists, intellectuals, and academics, and stands as the definitive study of the collective’s work.

Combining striking full-colour photographs with essays and commentary, the book stands as both a major contribution to reportage on Israel/Palestine and a unique collection of visual art.

If you happen to be in Belgium this week, don’t miss Watching You Watching Me. A Photographic Response to Surveillance, a show at BOZAR which makes it clear that technology has left us with nowhere to hide. We knew that already of course. Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations have pulverized any dream of internet as a space for free and uninhibited exchanges.

Watching You Watching Me explores how artists are responding to the world’s transformation into a vast tech-mediated panopticon. Some of the artists reveal the efforts deployed by governments and corporations to monitor our online thoughts and ideas, with no concern for our privacy and freedom of expression. Others make visible the new forms digital self-surveillance and ‘virtual vigilantism’ facilitated by social media and access to webcams across the world.

I feel like i’ve blogged about surveillance/sousveillance hundreds of times already but i was impressed with this show, it is solid, enlightening and should appeal to the wise and the uninformed alike. It closes on Sunday so be quick and visit it if you’re in the area. Here’s a quick overview of the works on show (i only skipped the ones i wrote about in the past):


Julian Roeder, Thermal Imaging Camera, 2012. A portable, long-distance infrared thermal imaging surveillance system used by a Bulgarian Frontex unit

As i mentioned on Monday, a fabulously perceptive and captivating exhibition titled Verschwindende Vermächtnisse: Die Welt als Wald / Disappearing Legacies: The World as a Forest opened at the Zoological Museum in Hamburg back in November. The show follows on the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace, a British naturalist who, over 150 years ago, (co-)formulated the principle of species evolution during research trips to South America and Southeast Asia. 150 years is not a very long time. Yet, if Wallace were to return to these tropical habitats, chances are that he would not recognized them. The rainforests have been destroyed at a very rapid pace by heavy logging, agricultural clearance and urbanisation. Large numbers of species have been driven to extinction in the process. Would Wallace still be able to develop the theory of evolution through natural selection in this context?


Exhibition view (entry lithograph of Amazonia.) Photo: ReassemblingNature.org, Michael Pfisterer


Armin Linke, Orangutan in the Tanjung Puting National Park, Kumai, Kalimantan Tengah (Borneo) Indonesia, 2017. Photo: © Armin Linke

Disappearing Legacies: The World as a Forest gathers contemporary artworks as well as zoological and botanical objects to investigate the changes...


Armin Linke, Fighting fire in the peatland, Kecematan Bataian Kabupaten Rokan Hilir (Sumatra) Indonesia, 2017. Photo: © Armin Linke

Although Charles Darwin is usually the only name that springs to mind when mentioning the theory of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace was actually a co-discoverer of the theory. Wallace developed some of his most important ideas about natural selection during research trips to South America and Southeast Asia.


Anthony Smith, Bronze statue of Alfred Russel Wallace. Photo: Reassembling the Natural/Etienne Turpin, 2014. Courtesy Linnean Society London

150 years later, the tropical habitats that the British naturalist explored have been radically transformed. The rainforests have been ravaged, ruined and flattened to make space for monoculture and other human pursuits of profit.

Verschwindende Vermächtnisse: Die Welt als Wald / Disappearing Legacies: The World as a Forest, an exhibition currently open at the Zoological Museum in Hamburg, “confronts the destruction of these tropical habitats in the context of the Anthropocene and mass extinction.”

If Wallace were to visit these rainforests today, would he still be able to formulate the principles of evolution by natural selection? Or has the biodiversity of those...

Last month, i attended an evening of ethical debates and artistic comments related to ancestry DNA testing, a commercial service offered by competing private companies to individuals who are eager to know more about their ethnic roots or who are searching for distant relatives.


A Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Finding Fanon, 2015

The evening, titled Trust Me I’m An Artist – DNA Ancestry Testing with Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, took place at The Arts Catalyst‘s new and cozy location near Kings Cross. This was the last public event of Trust Me I’m an Artist, a project set up by partners across Europe to investigate how artists and cultural institutions can creatively and ethically engage with biotechnology and biomedicine. The format of the event is as follows: the artist (or artists) present(s) their project, a specially convened ethics committee deliberate upon its feasibility and value, a conversation between artists, committee and audience ensues.


Larry Achiampong, Glyth, 2013 – 14

Inside Private Prisons. An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration, by Lauren-Brooke Eisen.

It’s on amazon USA and UK.

Publisher Columbia University Press writes: When the tough-on-crime politics of the 1980s overcrowded state prisons, private companies saw potential profit in building and operating correctional facilities. Today more than a hundred thousand of the 1.5 million incarcerated Americans are held in private prisons in twenty-nine states and federal corrections. Private prisons are criticized for making money off mass incarceration—to the tune of $5 billion in annual revenue. Based on Lauren-Brooke Eisen’s work as a prosecutor, journalist, and attorney at policy think tanks, Inside Private Prisons blends investigative reportage and quantitative and historical research to analyze privatized corrections in America.

From divestment campaigns to boardrooms to private immigration-detention centers across the Southwest, Eisen examines private prisons through the eyes of inmates, their families, correctional staff, policymakers, activists, Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, undocumented immigrants, and the executives of America’s largest private prison corporations. (…) Neither an endorsement or a demonization, Inside Private Prisons details the complicated and perverse incentives rooted in the industry, from mandatory bed occupancy to vested interests in mass incarceration. If private prisons are here to stay, how can we fix them? This book is a blueprint for policymakers to reform practices and for concerned citizens to understand our changing...