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WETWARE features art in the light of today’s convergent living technologies: While artists have previously staged “Artificial life” through the hardware and software of computers and robotics to simulate living systems, increasingly it emerges from wetware itself. Whether touching upon the brain’s position between spiritualism and metabolism, the synthesis of luminescent protocells from scratch, or microbes that possess the technical ability to make gold and clean water, contemporary artists who employ laboratory methods in the context of Synthetic Biology are getting particularly “close to life” today.
WETWARE presents beaded necklaces containing synthetic amino acids, protocells to simulate movements of phytoplankton, bacteria that produce energy to run a musical synthesizer, a desktop gene machine, A-Life parasites fed with electro trash, as well as an artificially grown brain-in-a-vat nourished with Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit. The exhibition juxtaposes art projects that creatively and critically investigate the anthropocentric mindset in engineered moist “Artificial life,” and the responsibility that arises with it. In WETWARE, the concepts of art, agency, and animation acquire new meanings, while aliveness is questioned in terms of components, circuits, and systems.
The exhibition features international artists who have increasingly extended their work towards wetware practices: Adam Brown, Gilberto Esparza, Thomas Feuerstein, Lucie Strecker & Klaus Spiess and Orkan Telhan. In addition Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand (with sound by Richard Chartier) and Anna Dumitriu present new works developed during their three-week residencies at the Beall in collaboration with the UCI Center for Complex Biological Systems and the UCI Newkirk Center for Science & Society.
WETWARE is curated by Beall Center Artistic Director David Familian and Jens Hauser, a Paris and Copenhagen based art curator, writer and media studies scholar who focuses on the interactions between art and technology. He holds a dual research position at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies and at the Medical Museion/Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, and is distinguished affiliated faculty of the Department of Art, Art History and Design at Michigan State University. His recent exhibitions include L’Art Biotech (Nantes, 2003), Still, Living (Perth, 2007), sk-interfaces (Liverpool, 2008/Luxembourg, 2009), the Article Biennale (Stavanger, 2008), Transbiotics (Riga 2010), Fingerprints... (Berlin, 2011/Munich/2012), synth-ethic (Vienna, 2011), and assemble | standard | minimal (Berlin, 2015).
The Beall Center’s 2015-16 exhibitions are supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Beall Family Foundation. The Beall Cter received its initial support from the Rockwell Corporation in honor of retired chairman Don Beall and his wife, Joan, the core idea being to merge their lifelong passions – technology, business and the arts – in one place.