Noumenon Conundrum

april 30th, 2009

Charles Avery
The Islanders: An Introduction, 2004 – ….

For the past four years, Scottish artist Avery has created texts, drawings, installations and sculptures which describe the topology and cosmology of an imaginary island, whose every feature embodies a philosophical proposition, problem or solution.

Untitled (World View), 2008

Charles Avery

Avery’s mapping of the Island, to be completed over a projected ten-year period, can be interpreted as a meditation on making art and the impossibility of finding “truth”. The artist is characterised as a bounty-hunter, retrieving artifacts and documenting scenes from the subjective realm. Some of the works on show will focus in absurd detail, on particulars such as the sale of pickled eggs in the marketplace. Others present mysterious landscapes, such as the “Eternal Forest”, a place no one can ever reach but where a prized beast called the Noumenon is rumoured to live. A specimen of the Island’s wildlife will also be on show, having been realised in the form of a large taxidermy sculpture. These vivid and intricate works invite the viewer to recreate the Island in their own minds, and to use it as an arena for exploring philosophical conundrums and paradoxes.

Untitled (Stone-Mouse Display), 2008

Charles Avery

Untitled (Noumenon)

Charles Avery

Untitled (Aleph-Nul)

Charles Avery


februari 25th, 2009

Maarten Vanden Eynde
Platic Reef – sample, 2009

Maarten Vanden Eynde Coral Reef

Maarten Vanden Eynde Coral Reef

(title of exhibition curated by Julie Deamer – Glendale, USA, 02/2009)

A “floating landfill”, twice the size of Texas and made up of plastic particles was swirling about 1,000 miles west of California and 1,000 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands. The trash collected in one area, known as the North Pacific Gyre, due to a clockwise trade wind that circulated along the Pacific Rim. While the plastic trash floated along, instead of biodegrading, it was “photodegrading,” — the sun’s UV rays turned the plastic brittle, much like they would crack the vinyl on a car roof. They broke down the plastic into small pieces and, in some cases, into particles as fine as dust.
Charles Moore, marine researcher at the Algalita Marina Research Foundation in Long Beach who discovered the plastic in 1997 and has been studying and publicizing the patch for the past 20 years, said the debris — which he estimates weighed 3 million tons and covered an area twice the size of Texas —was made up mostly of fine plastic chips and impossible to skim out of the ocean. Also, it was undetectable by overhead satellite photos because 80 percent was plastic and therefore translucent. The plastic moved just beneath the surface, from one inch to depths of 300 feet, according to samples Moore collected .
Ironically, the debris was re-entering the oceans whence it came; the ancient plankton that once floated on Earth’s primordial sea gave rise to the petroleum, being transformed into plastic polymers. That exhumed life, our “civilized plankton,” was, in effect, competing with its natural counterparts, as well as with those life-forms that directly or indirectly fed on them. Inside the North Pacific Gyre the natural plankton was outnumbered 6 to 1 in favor of the plastic plankton. The scale of the phenomenon was astounding. Plastic debris became the most common surface feature of the world’s oceans. What could be done with this new class of products made specifically to defeat natural recycling? How could the dictum “In ecosystems, everything is used” be made to work with plastic ? So far no organism was able to digest plastik plankton or transform it again into something organic, closing back the broken chain of life.

Maarten Vanden Eynde Food Chain

In February 2010 the Belgian artist Maarten Vanden Eynde (1977), based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, went to the North Atlantic Gyre with a boat to collect 5 tons of plastic debris. He melted it into a huge plastic coral reef and shipped it to Oman. There, in the middle of a dried out sea, located in a dessert called ‘Mother of All Poisons’ (due to the hazardous environmental conditions), he placed the new coral reef as a landart sculpture, a remnant of a forgotten present discovered in a possible future.

Famous Forever

augustus 28th, 2008

Zatorski + Zatorski
Away from the Flock,

zatorski+zatorski Away from the flock

In Away from the Flock (2008) we peer into a Victorian bell jar and a still-born goat skull smiles back with a wry cheeky grin, its mouth bejeweled with a 22ct gold capped tooth.

Piero Golia
Maybe not even a Nation of Millions can hold us Back, 2003


piero golia

Complete skeleton with implanted diamond on the exact location where the (still living) artist has one as well.

Damien Hirst
For the love of God, 2007

damien hirst for the love of god

A 19th century human skull cast in platinum and encrusted with 8601 diamonds (weighing in at over 1100 carats). Price: $100 million

The human skull used as the base for the work, bought in a shop in Islington, is thought to be that of a European living between 1720 and 1810. The work’s title was supposedly inspired by Hirst’s mother, who once asked, “For the love of God, what are you going to do next?”

Chinese Cryptozoology

juni 17th, 2008

Shen Shaomin
Unknown Creature – Three Headed Monster, 2002

shen shaomin three headed monster

Shen Shaomin adopts the role of being anthropologist, scientist, and author of his own fabricated mythologies. Constructed from real animal bones, his sculptures collectively create a bestiary of fictional creatures that are wondrous, frightening, and strange. Reminiscent of Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings, Shen’s absurd assemblages exude an ancient wisdom, authenticating the magic of fable and folklore, while alluding to contemporary issues of genetic modification, consequence of environmental threat, and concepts of the alien and exotic.

In pieces such as Three Headed Monster and Mosquito, the skeletal remains of ‘extinct’ creatures are presented with the validity of museum display. Their colossal scale reinforces their imagined prehistoric origin as Jurassic curiosities and spiritual totems. Assembled from genuine ossified animal parts, his creatures are simultaneously familiar and perplexing, indicating a warped and uncomfortable process of evolution. Often carving into his surfaces, Shen adorns his creations with scrimshaw, further entwining humanistic reference into his disturbing zoological evidence.

Unknown Creature – Mosquito, 2002

shen shaomin mosquito


juni 9th, 2008

Jin Jiangbo
Tyrannosaurus Rex of China
, 2005-07
Interactive Media Installation
500cm x 230cm x100cm


When entering the room the Tyrannosaurus Rex starts moving and making sounds. Unlike the realistic Jurassic Park variety, Jin’s dino appears to have been assembled in the junkyard, using scrap metal and industrial bits and bobs. As a result, this T-Rex is less fearsome and more sympathetic than one might expect. Which, of course, is a reflection of the artist himself. Jin came of age as China was opening up to the world and that newfound curiosity, that need to communicate with the world, is the essence of his work.


The Beginning or The End

april 27th, 2008

Hubert Duprat
Aquatic caddis fly larva with case, gold, pearls, precious stones
2/3 cm, 1980–1996

duprat-insect larve


In his works Duprats often borrows shapes and materials from the plant and animal kingdoms, and combines them with a pseudo-scientific frame.

In earlier works, as a kind of nature’s own ready-mades, he has for example let water-living larvae of dragonflies (genus Trichoptera) produce sculptures for him. The artist has disassembled the tubular shell of the larva and placed the ”nude” creature in an aquarium where there are grains of gold, pearls and chips of precious stones. From this material the larva has then built itself a new shell. The process shows in what way the insect is capable of adjusting to new circumstances and materials, and the strength of its instinctive behaviour, but also poses questions about man’s view of art, about what is manufactured and what is ”naturally” created.

The work ”A la fois, la racine et le fruit” (At the same time, the root and the fruit) from 1997–98 is a sculpture with a peculiar shape, a branch from a tree adorned with small polished tablets of bone in subdued mosaic.


X-ray spider

april 18th, 2008

fossil spider

A 53-million-year-old spider has been revealed in exquisite detail by scientists from the UK and Belgium. The spider Cenotextricella simoni is about 1mm in length (see scale-bar). The scientists say that it would have inhabited a wooded area and lived in a warm climate. Internal details can be seen in the view at bottom-right.

The ancient creepy-crawly had been trapped in amber and preserved in a lowland area around Paris, France. The scientists reconstructed the creature’s original appearance using an X-ray-based medical imaging technique. The pictures, published in the journal Zootaxa, “digitally dissect” the tiny spider to expose amazing details such as the preservation of internal organs.

“This is definitely the way forward for the study of amber fossils,” said David Penney, from Manchester University and lead author on the study.

“Amber provides a unique window into past forest ecosystems. It retains an incredible amount of information, not just about the spiders themselves, but also about the environment in which they lived.”

This is the first time that the medical imaging technique, known as Very High Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography, has been used to investigate a fossil in amber – and Dr Penney said it had the potential to “revolutionise” the way fossils were studied.

Chihuahua Footprints Discovered!

maart 10th, 2008


2008 AD, concrete sidewalk, Hollywood, USA

Smallest breed of dog, 15 cm/10 in high, developed in the USA from Mexican origins. It may weigh only 1 kg/2.2 lb. The domed head and wide-set ears are characteristic, and the skull is large compared to the body. It can be almost any colour, and occurs in both smooth (or even hairless) and long-coated varieties.

Plastic Plankton

maart 6th, 2008

‘Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.’ – Andy Warhol


A “floating landfill, made up of plastic particles is swirling in a convergence zone about 30 to 40 degrees north latitude and 135 to 145 west longitude. It’s about 1,000 miles west of California and 1,000 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands — a week’s journey by boat from the nearest port. The trash collects in one area, known as the North Pacific Gyre, due to a clockwise trade wind that circulates along the Pacific Rim. While the plastic trash floats along, instead of biodegrading, it is “photodegrading,” — the sun’s UV rays turn the bottle brittle, much like they would crack the vinyl on a car roof. They break down the bottle into small pieces and, in some cases, into particles as fine as dust.

Charles Moore, the marine researcher at the Algalita Marina Research Foundation in Long Beach who has been studying and publicizing the patch for the past 10 years, said the debris — which he estimates weighs 3 million tons and covers an area twice the size of Texas — is made up mostly of fine plastic chips and is impossible to skim out of the ocean. Also, it’s undetectable by overhead satellite photos because it’s 80 percent plastic and therefore translucent. The plastic moves just beneath the surface, from one inch to depths of 300 feet, according to samples Moore collected on the most recent trip. (1)


Ironically, the debris is re-entering the oceans whence it came; the ancient plankton that once floated on Earth’s primordial sea gave rise to the petroleum now being transformed into plastic polymers. That exhumed life, our “civilized plankton,” is, in effect, competing with its natural counterparts, as well as with those life-forms that directly or indirectly feed on them. Inside the North Pacific Gyre the natural plankton is outnumbered 6 to 1 in favor of the plastic plankton. The large ratio of plastic to plankton found in this study has the potential to affect many types of biota. Most susceptible are the birds and filter feeders that focus their feeding activities on the upper portion of the water column. Many birds have been examined and found to contain small debris in their stomachs, a result of their mistaking plastic for food


Worldwide, 82 of 144 bird species examined contained small debris in their stomachs, and in many species the incidence of ingestion exceeds 80% of the individuals.

The scale of the phenomenon is astounding. Plastic debris in now the most common surface feature of the world’s oceans. Because 40 percent of the oceans are classified as subtropical gyres, a fourth of the planet’s surface area has become an accumulator of floating plastic debris. What can be done with this new class of products made specifically to defeat natural recycling? How can the dictum “In ecosystems, everything is used” be made to work with plastic? (2)

plastic land

(1) Based on a text by Justin Berton / San Francisco Chronicle
(2) Based on a text by Charles Moore

Body Double

november 13th, 2007

BEAVERTON, Oregon (CNN) — Oregon researchers say they have cloned a monkey by splitting an early-stage embryo and implanting the pieces into mother animals.

The technique has so far produced only one living monkey, a bright-eyed rhesus macaque female named Tetra, now 4 months old.

clone monkey 2 clone monkey 2

Tetra the monkey is different from Dolly the sheep, which was produced by Scientists at Scotland’s Roslin Institute using a process called nuclear transfer — taking the nucleus out of an adult cell and using it to reprogram an unfertilized egg.

Some scientists argue that animals like Dolly are not 100 percent clones because they have genetic material both from the adult cell they were taken from, and from the egg that is hollowed out to make the clone. Tetra was produced by a technique called “embryo splitting.” Here’s how it works:

* An egg from a mother and sperm from a father are used to create a fertilized egg.

* After the embryo grows into eight cells, researchers split it into four identical embryos, each consisting of just two cells.

* The four embryos are then implanted into surrogate mothers. Schatten said that in effect, a single embryo becomes four embryos, all genetically identical.

clone monkey drawing

In the case of their experiment, three of the embryos didn’t survive. The fourth, Tetra, was born 157 days later. Her name means “one of four.” Tetra isn’t the first monkey to be cloned, but she is the first using the embryo-splitting technique. More are on the way.

The Future Farm

september 27th, 2007

Alexis Rockman
The Farm, 2000

Alexis Rockman
oil and acrylic on wood panel, 96 x 120 in.
Courtesy of JGS, Inc.

‘My artworks are information-rich depictions of how our culture perceives and interacts with plants and animals, and the role culture plays in influencing the direction of natural history.

The Farm contextualizes the biotech industry’s explosive advances in genetic engineering within the history of agriculture, breeding, and artificial selection in general. The image, a wide-angle view of a cultivated soybean field, is constructed to be read from left to right. The image begins with the ancestral versions of internationally familiar animals, the cow, pig, and chicken, and moves across to an informed speculation about how they might look in the future. Also included are geometrically transformed vegetables and familiar images relating to the history of genetics. In The Farm I am interested in how the present and the future look of things are influenced by a broad range of pressures- human consumption, aesthetics, domestication, and medical applications among them. The flora and fauna of the farm are easily recognizable; they are, at the same time, in danger of losing their ancestral identities’.

cloned pigs

Five cloned piglets: Noel, Angel, Star, Joy and Mary
Born on Christmas Day 2001 in the US Scottish-based firm PPL Therapeutics

These are not the first pig clones, but PPL, a commercial offshoot of the Roslin Institute in Scotland, says the pigs are the first to be engineered in a way that should help prevent their tissues being rejected by the human body.
The animals’ biological make-up is slightly different from ordinary pigs. PPL says that it intends to use the pigs as part of its programme to seek a cure for humans suffering from diabetes.

F****d up Frog

augustus 1st, 2007

Garnet Hertz
Experiments in Galvanism, 2003/2004

Garnet Hertz

Garnet Hertz2

Clicking on “LEFT LEG” or “RIGHT LEG” activates motors inside of the frog’s body. These motors make the frog’s legs physically move in the gallery space. After clicking the leg activation links, a “LEFT LEG ACTIVATED” or “RIGHT LEG ACTIVATED” screen is displayed for about two seconds while the specimen’s legs are in motion.

‘Garnet Hertz has implanted a miniature webserver in the body of a frog specimen, which is suspended in a clear glass container of mineral oil, an inert liquid that does not conduct electricity. The frog is viewable on the Internet, and on the computer monitor across the room, through a webcam placed on the wall of the gallery. Through an Ethernet cable connected to the embedded webserver, remote viewers can trigger movement in either the right or left leg of the frog, thereby updating Luigi Galvani’s original 1786 experiment causing the legs of a dead frog to twitch simply by touching muscles and nerves with metal.

Experiments in Galvanism is both a reference to the origins of electricity, one of the earliest new media, and, through Galvani’s discovery that bioelectric forces exist within living tissue, a nod to what many theorists and practitioners consider to be the new new media: bio(tech) art’.

– Sarah Cook and Steve Dietz

Garnet Hertz3
Garnet Hertz at work…, 2005
(photo by Steve Dietz)

Animal Liberation Front

Mice and Men

juli 31st, 2007

Bryan Crockett
Ecce Homo, 2000


marble and epoxy, 30 x 40 x 70 in.

Transgenics is the practice of transplanting genes from one species to another, thus creating genetic hybrids that can develop characteristics of both species. Consider what is happening with genetics. For instance, the oncomouse is the first patented transgenic lab mouse, engineered to have a human immune system for the purpose of oncology research. In this way, the practice of genetics can be understood as an analogy to the worlds of allegory and mythology. Like the Satyr or Minotaur, the oncomouse is the literalization of a clichÈ man/mouse. That is why I have chosen to reinterpret the ultimate figure of salvation, Christ, through the ultimate actor of contemporary science, the oncomouse. This sculpture is intended to be a monument to the test object of modern science, human kindís symbolic and literal stand-in personified. This human-scale, fleshy mouse, sculpted with the pathos of classical sculpture, stands in a gesture reminiscent of Christ revealing his wounds. Almost six feet tall he is nude (as is the oncomouse) and his flesh is a very convincing pale skin tone. Upon further inspection, however, one realizes the mouse/man is actually sculpted in flesh-colored marble. The lifelike sculpture and skin texture makes the sculpture oscillate between a living creature and a strong likeness, evoking the Pygmalion myth.


Back in 1997, a rather bizarre photograph suddenly became very famous. It showed a totally hairless mouse, with what appeared to be a human ear growing out of its back. That photograph prompted a wave of protest against genetic engineering, which continues today.

Follow the Green Rabbit

juli 26th, 2007

Eduardo Kac
GFP Bunny, 2000

Eduardo Kac green rabbit

“Alba”, the green fluorescent bunny, is an albino rabbit. This means that, since she has no skin pigment, under ordinary environmental conditions she is completely white with pink eyes. Alba is not green all the time. She only glows when illuminated with the correct light. When (and only when) illuminated with blue light (maximum excitation at 488 nm), she glows with a bright green light (maximum emission at 509 nm). She was created with EGFP, an enhanced version (i.e., a synthetic mutation) of the original wild-type green fluorescent gene found in the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria. EGFP gives about two orders of magnitude greater fluorescence in mammalian cells (including human cells) than the original jellyfish gene.

The first phase of the “GFP Bunny” project was completed in February 2000 with the birth of “Alba” in Jouy-en-Josas, France. This was accomplished with the invaluable assistance of zoosystemician Louis Bec and scientists Louis-Marie Houdebine and Patrick Prunet. Alba’s name was chosen by consensus between my wife Ruth, my daughter Miriam, and myself. The second phase is the ongoing debate, which started with the first public announcement of Alba’s birth, in the context of the Planet Work conference, in San Francisco, on May 14, 2000. The third phase will take place when the bunny comes home to Chicago, becoming part of my family and living with us from this point on.
Alba is a healthy and gentle mammal. Contrary to popular notions of the alleged monstrosity of genetically engineered organisms, her body shape and coloration are exactly of the same kind we ordinarily find in albino rabbits. Unaware that Alba is a glowing bunny, it is impossible for anyone to notice anything unusual about her. Therefore Alba undermines any ascription of alterity predicated on morphology and behavioral traits. It is precisely this productive ambiguity that sets her apart: being at once same and different. The mystery and beauty of life is as great as ever when we realize our close biological kinship with other species and when we understand that from a limited set of genetic bases life has evolved on Earth with organisms as diverse as bacteria, plants, insects, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

alba1 alba2

Alba is undoubtedly a very special animal, but I want to be clear that her formal and genetic uniqueness are but one component of the “GFP Bunny” artwork. The “GFP Bunny” project is a complex social event that starts with the creation of a chimerical animal that does not exist in nature (i.e., “chimerical” in the sense of a cultural tradition of imaginary animals, not in the scientific connotation of an organism in which there is a mixture of cells in the body) and that also includes at its core:
1) ongoing dialogue between professionals of several disciplines (art, science, philosophy, law, communications, literature, social sciences) and the public on cultural and ethical implications of genetic engineering;
2) contestation of the alleged supremacy of DNA in life creation in favor of a more complex understanding of the intertwined relationship between genetics, organism, and environment;
3) extension of the concepts of biodiversity and evolution to incorporate precise work at the genomic level;
4) interspecies communication between humans and a transgenic mammal;
5) integration and presentation of “GFP Bunny” in a social and interactive context;
6) examination of the notions of normalcy, heterogeneity, purity, hybridity, and otherness;
7) consideration of a non-semiotic notion of communication as the sharing of genetic material across traditional species barriers;
8) public respect and appreciation for the emotional and cognitive life of transgenic animals;
9) expansion of the present practical and conceptual boundaries of artmaking to incorporate life invention.

Eduardo Kac

‘I will never forget the moment when I first held her in my arms, in Jouy-en-Josas, France, on April 29, 2000. My apprehensive anticipation was replaced by joy and excitement. Alba — the name given her by my wife, my daughter, and I — was lovable and affectionate and an absolute delight to play with. As I cradled her, she playfully tucked her head between my body and my left arm, finding at last a comfortable position to rest and enjoy my gentle strokes. She immediately awoke in me a strong and urgent sense of responsibility for her well-being’.

Back to the Flock

juli 24th, 2007

Back to the flock, 2003


Jumper, umpicked, rolled into a ball and left in a field somewhere.

Damien Hirst
Away from the Flock, 1994

Damien Hirst