The latest developments in techno-sciences often find new forms of expression in art practices, situated at the border of art and science, combining insights from biological sciences, notably biotechnology and genetics. As a result, these art practices create ‘artificial bodies’, or ‘living machines’ that connect living, organic matter with cybernetic machines. The aim of this research project is to work out an innovative theoretical framework and adequate method of describing and analysing such artistic expressions. These theoretical and philosophical concepts question the borderline between organic life and machines.
The project will largely draw on Bruno Latour’s ANT theory. This methodological choice has at least two reasons:
First, Latour’s theory of network not only questions the opposition between subject and object, as well as the anthropocentric view, but also the dualisms that the performative arts question so vehemently today (live and artificial; author and work; work and recipient, etc.) The processual character of those new types of performances is also reflected on the level of the relationships between the participants (understood, in accordance with Latour’s theory, as both human agents and non-human factors). The concept of network, with its actants and translations, as well as the notion of assemblage (which Latour took over from deleuze and Guattari and developed further for his ends and purposes) is the most adequate point of departure for this research.
Second, both Latour’s theory of network and his outline of anthropology of the moderns stems from a detailed analysis of a laboratory as a site of construction of scientific facts and artefacts. Laboratory in this form was developed in the 17th century by Robert Boyle and it has a tremendous impact on the concept of theatre in the Enlightenment. The stage, as conceived of by Lessing and Diderot, was to serve as a metaphorical laboratory in which the typical bourgeois world-view was established and spread. Theatre also served as a model of interhuman relationships for the bourgeoisie, and taught them proper ways of experiencing and expressing emotions. This line of development continued in the 20th century (Brecht’s scientific theatre, Juliusz Osterwa’s Reduta Laboratory, Jerzy Grotowski’s Theatre Laboratorium). This connection between stage and laboratory is significant in so far it served as one of the major sources for the development of the performative arts in the latter half of the 20th century. Theatre (and also other art forms) became a laboratory in which artistic facts (aesthetic artefacts) were produced.
The output of this research project is the organization of lectures, research seminars, a conference, and the publication of a monograph joining the various competences the authors involved: Sugiera, Parikka and Stalpaert.