Are scientists in action the temporary performance artists?

The American Museum of Natural History shows ‘The Genomic Revolution’

The American Museum of Natural History shows ‘The Genomic Revolution’. Where the general public is clarified, the Ubergange are lifting to art. However, the genomic worldview is not questioned.

Interactive artwork by Camille UterBack: changed head of an exhibition visit

Who needs another exhibition on genome research? In the Federal Republic of Germany prevails in the “Year of life sciences” At exhibitions, podium discussions and participation events on this topic no defect. In the US, after all, the country in which the new science has found its puzzled, as well as its most obvious commercial recovery, the genome research only attracts a few delays in the museums. On 26. May, in New York, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) opened his doors for the Genomic Revolution, so far in the United States the most extensive exhibition on this topic complex.

Already last year took place “Paradise Now: Picturing The Genetic Revolution” In the New York Gallery Exit The topic of the artist side and illuminated numerous connections between performing art and biology. The tabowing, for example, – Fruher a favorite motif of the fine art – you are more difficult today. Who wants to get a stir, is recommended today a career in the field of life sciences.

Molecular biology promises publicity, therefore it was only a matter of time when performing artists were servicing genetic engineering measures to comment on these techniques. Joe Davis from Massachusett’s Institutes of Technologies began in the early 1990s to use genetically changed bacteria as art form (Art AS A Form of Life). And last year, the Kunstler Eduardo Kac living in Chicago excited international attention with his ‘GFP Bunny’. Kac’s albino rabbit lights up in the dark, because he was considered genetic engineering for fluorescence from a jellyfish.

Alba, the fluorescent rabbit of E. Kac

Rob Desalle, Curator The AMNH exhibition is more careful: “For our feeling, something is too sensational and could clarify the feeling at the viewer: the technologies are class because the animals look so great. This is a scientific exhibition, which should throw a more balanced look at the technologies.”

Following his educational order, the AMNH wants to deliver information to the broad public. From the history of DNA discovery to modern applications in medicine and agriculture, the entire range of genetic research is displayed. In the language of the double helix, the exhibition makers see social and scientific aspects interlocked. Exhibits that are intended to contribute to the understanding of biological matters can therefore be found as well as video installations with faces and sound bites of well-known gene critics like Jeremy Rifkin.

The fact that the ethical discussion – for example via genetic tests – is demonstrated by individual, personal case studies, and urges the social framework into the background, the curators are quite awarded: “I seem to be the best way to think about personal elections, because people can thus better identify themselves”, so lasalle. “We will not see social change without the personal decision, and thinking about that we want to stimulate here.”

Conditions for storing DNA samples

The exhibition wants to make clear that the genome research is one of the most rapid technology developments of human history. Ironically, the scientific renunoration itself is a victim, which was conceived two years ago. It appears that the researcher optimism of the Humergenom project is reflected that it also derive its functions from the sequencing of the human genome. This optimism was spattered after the envision in February 2001, humans have only about 35.000 Instead of the originally adopted 100.000 genes. That the interaction between genes, proteins and the environment is much more complicated than previously thought, despite customized data and rhetorical cross-references in the work show hardly expression.

It is possible here the boundary of the feasible is achieved, which is to present to complex ies in a digestible and still optically appealing way. What makes it clear that scientific exhibitions are art. The AMNH is the BRUCKE from the place of scientific education but still in another way: SPAB makes the AMNH exhibition especially where you can experience as a performance: in the extra designed molecular biological laboratory for DNA sequencing. There are attractively colorful laboratory tables – for each DNA base one’s own color – boy, latex-handed ladies and simulate the research company. Are scientists in action therefore the time-made performance artists, or vice versa?

Are scientists in action the temporary performance artists?


Science Sociologists have pointed to the performative character of biological research for a long time. ‘Nature’ is not discovered, but scientific knowledge is generated in social interaction. The same applies to art. If the new biology is therefore the art form of the future, then the AMNH is one of the few museums, which art is not only able to show, but also fabricated themselves. At the beginning of the exhibition, the AMNH experienced the opening of an institute of Comparative Genomics (ICG). In the museum-based laboratory tracts, 40 scientists and numerous aid fuss works on one Tree of Life, the pedigree of the development history of life. For this purpose, a half millions of tie samples of animals, plants and microorganisms are stored in liquid nitrogen, gene realtys are subjected and then considered as data in the in-house supercomputers.

DNA Learning Lab

The need for biotechnology performance can be found in the accompanying program of the exhibition again. The racer are the already booked workshops for introduction to the techniques of molecular biology. Where the culturally interested New Yorker finished Fruher TPFER or painting courses, he will devote himself to the course of his own inheritance in the future. In a sensual distraction not exactly poor city will The Genomic Revolution provide another building block to the edutainment spectacle. ”

“The spectacle can not be considered averting a world of looking, as product of the techniques of mass distribution of images. Rather, it is an indeed, in material transfer worldview.”

What Guy Debord 1967 still generally over “The company of the spectacle” formulated, also makes the double character of the AMNH exhibition. On the one hand, it shows that nowadays no presentation of genomics is more without critical accompanying music. On the other hand, she presents critics as commutations on the same side when it comes to feasibility alleviations. With geary metaphors over the DNA as “Code of the codes” After all, she contributes to a material-looking world view.

At the end of the exhibition, the visitor runs through the visual field of a camera and looks on a screen its own outline, represented by a multi-color DNA sequence. This brings the initial question, to the point that was damaged: is behind the colorful flickers to G, A, C, T more than a shadow of our self?

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