Natural History Museum


This post comes to you from Cultura21

Collective exhibition, 8 May – 29 September 2013, and international symposium, 8 May, at PAV (Via Giordano Bruno 31, Torino, Italy)

On Tuesday, 7 May 2013, at 6.30 pm, the PAV will open the collective exhibition Internaturalism, curated by Claudio Cravero. The exhibition aims to investigate some of the research and practice of the branch of contemporary art generally known as “ecological art” or “Bioart”, demonstrating the links and connections to current ecological debates. The works of art on show in Internaturalismassume an essential role as vehicles of social understanding of the world around us, and succeed in constructing concrete meaning from often abstract issues related to the environment and ecological drift (from loss of biodiversity to pollution and global warming). Emerging from the works of the sixteen artists in the exhibition are visions and narratives of nature that coincide with the concept of “internaturalism”, namely the capacity to imagine a hybrid between the different meanings of nature, understood not only as the common good of humanity but of all living beings.

The exhibition

Among the works on display is Perpetual Amazonia, an environmental video installation by Lucy + Jorge Orta. Commissioned in 2010 by the Natural History Museum in London, it is the narration through images and prose of an expedition undertaken in the Peruvian rainforest. The study of nature is also explored from an ethological point of view in the work of Henrik Håkansson, through a video-documentary that examines the behaviour of insects and birds. Addressing similar themes are 108, Luana Perilli’s living installation that consists of a domestic scene featuring everyday objects and a colony of ants; Colombaia mobile (Mobile Pigeon Coop) by Filippo Leonardi, a housing structure that connects two spaces through the use of carrier pigeons and, finally, Laurent Le Deuff’s sculpture in the park which is based on the underground tunnels drawn by moles. The relationship between man and nature with regard to the common cellular and organic matrix that combines living beings and the environment is also explored in the exhibition, for example in the interactive installation Bio-acqua by Piero Gilardi or in the biological processes analyzed in a mining cave by Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna. Through Brigitte de Malau’s ritual performance and the work on seeds waste by Norma Jeane, Internaturalism also explores the land and the nutritional habits connected to it. Last but not least, some of the works in the exhibition intend to trigger an awareness of the typical behaviour of the homo consumer, actions aimed at the commodification of nature and of the profits related to so-called bio trade (as in the work New Alliances by CAE|Critical Art Ensemble and in the light installation Shelf-life by Uli Westphal). A series of cultural reflections on the theme of language completes the exhibition. In this regard, the results of the workshop Segni d’incontro (Signs of meeting) conducted by Nja Mahdaoui and Agostino Ferrari are presented, as well as Mixture of Plants by Gabriella Ciancimino. Ciancimino’s work is installed in the courtyard and consists of a sound apparatus through which a conversation between the artist and Christian Berg, scientific head of the Botanical Gardens of Graz, is heard.

As part of the exhibition, the Educational and Training department of the PAV, curated by Orietta Brombin, will host Rerum Naturae, a programme on the role of man in relation to natural phenomena; Cultivating Signs which addresses the issues of exchange and relationships andDelicatessen, or edible matter as an artistic medium. In terms of training for adult audiences, onFriday, 31 May, Saturday 1 June and Sunday 2 June, Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna will lead Workshop_33 / Back and Forward_Colonization_02, a collective and immersive activity based on housing and work as methods to explore a place.

The Symposium

On Wednesday 8 May, from 10 Am to 6 Pm, at the Casa del Teatro Ragazzi, the PAV will host a symposium entitled Internaturalism, dedicated to debates around the theme of nature. The conference will analyse the theme of nature from multiple perspectives (aesthetic, ethical, anthropological and artistic). For more details about the symposium: click here to download the PDF file.

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

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Synth-ethic vs Vandana Shiva

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Synth-ethic: Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition at the Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Synthetic biology is at the scientific cutting edge, but also on the ethical edge.  The works in this exhibition explore that edge.  The curatorial essay starts with the principle that synthesis is one of the fundamental practices within art.  As the exhibition title suggests, when moving from mimesis to synthesising with the living, ethics need to be half the work.

Art has always involved synthesis. Uniting disparate elements, putting them into a collage to create new works, metaphors, sensory experiences, or aesthetic genres, however, is also inherent to a curiosity, present in every epoch, for finding new ways of creating with new expressive media. Those contemporary artists, who in recent years have begun to employ laboratory methods and biotechnology for their own purposes in new contexts and to modify living systems, are particularly “close to life”. Here, it would seem, the newly declared discipline of synthetic biology is well-suited to the task, seeking, as it does, not only to modify existing organisms but to design “life” anew, from the ground up. Yet, this biological science is not concerned with living beings but rather with components, circuits, and systems. The language of engineering has been shifted to biology. These new dimensions to our technical ability to act, however, call for a new ethical engagement concerning the question of how and whether we should act simply because we can. The exhibition synth-ethic offers perspectives on human intervention in biotechnology and the responsibility that arises with it. Artists appropriate these technologies for their own purposes, see through the mania of novelty and beyond the constraints of economics to examine the areas of tension between molecular biology and ecology, architecture and biochemistry, technology and nature, cybernetics and alchemy.


But reading Vandana Shiva‘s text The Corporate Control of Life (Hatje Cantz, 2011) provides a different and significant critical perspective on these issues.  Shiva sets out the activist work of many years challenging the corporatisation of nature.  She articulates the powerful arguments against the application of IPR to biodiversity and the impact on farmers, women and indigenous people.  Underlying her argument is an epistemological position radically at odds with the economically driven epistemology of Western corporate and governmental cultures which she describes as biopiracy.  She says (2011, p8),

The rise  of reductionist science was linked with the commercialization of science and resulted in the domination of women and non-Western peoples.  Their diverse knowledge systems were not treated as legitimate ways of knowing.  With commercialization as the objective, reductionism becaue the criterion of scientific validity.  Nonreductionist and ecological ways of knowing, and nonreductionist and ecological systems of knowledge, were pushed out and marginalized.

The genetic-engineering paradigm is now pushing out the last remnants of ecological paradigms by redefining living organisms and biodiversity as “man-made” phenomena.  Patenting life was transformed into international law through the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In the context of this epistemological critique, artists need to step with care into the field of Synthetic Biology and the work of the Critical Art Ensemble is, amongst others, exemplary for demonstrating the potential for art to position itself as an effective counterpoint to corporate-political cultures.  One must question carefully the ability of artists to appropriate these technologies, and the form of appropriation must manifest the critique.

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It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

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World Water Day LA at Natural HIstory Museum

This Sunday at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles you will find a day long program of water and sustainability education. It is a non plastic event (however they are providing paper cups – which someone will need to talk with them about). I’m sure it will be a good turnout. It is always fun to go to events like these and educate the educators on how it could be even more GREEN.

Don’t miss the Water Justice Forum at 1:30pm where speakers will discuss water challenges for Los Angeles from the Southern California Watershed Alliance, Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, and Urban Semillas.


After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions and contemporary neuroscience

After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions has just opened at the Natural History Museum. It’s a lot of fun. Based on Darwin’s book less-known tome The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals it veers into less obvious territories than some of the other Darwin200 events and exhibitions, looking at the …

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Darwin’s tree: the Eureka moment

Tania Kovats’ TREE will be unveiled at the Natural History Museum tomorrow. It’s a special commission for Darwin 200. In an interview with Tom Bailey for RSA Arts & Ecology, she talks about the process of thought that led her to take a thin section from a 200-year-old oak tree. There’s one great section in which she mentions the extraordinary page from Darwin’s notebook,  in which he’s written “I think”, then drawn his first representation of the evolutionary “tree of life”, and then about what it makes her aspire to as an artist:

What, if any, other artistic interpretations of evolutionary theory, or natural history, have influenced your work?

The I think drawing is definitely a drawing that I’ve been compelled by for quite a long time, partly because of how amazingly well it describes a moment of conception. It’s like the idea is happening in front of you when you look at that drawing. In drawing there’s an exchange between thought and the mark that you make, the drawing becomes a trace of that moment. So I think that drawing is so exciting, partly because it’s also very simple. The thing that compels me about Darwin’s evolutionary theory is that you have a really simple answer to a very big, complex question. A lot of the artworks that I feel are strongest (and I strive to do this in my own work) are incredibly simple in essence, but may have many complex readings that can be projected onto them. A dumb art work is one that you can usually talk about the longest. An artwork that has something very simple at its core then lends itself to constant reflection, and lots of layering can go on.

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