Answer one of the questions below following the Critical Reflections Guidelines Module sheet. Please note that prompts 2 and 3 below offer a DRAWING or MODELING alternative.
Option 1: Art Engagement with Biomatter
Wilson (page 87) quotes Roger Malina saying, in 1996, that he wished more artists would work with “moist reality” (biological matter or what some call “wetware”). In the past 25 years, many more artists have taken up biomaterials. Discuss one or more artworks or series covered either in the Wilson chapter, the Anker essay, or the PowerPoint/lecture (Week 3: Biology and Art): to (a) explain how the work engages with biomatter and with biology based research methods and theory; and (b) describe and analyze how the artist brings “cultural frameworks” (88-90) to the bioscience questions and methods they take up in the work. Focus on a specific work or series so you can analyze it in some detail. The key is not simply to say THAT a work of art does these things, but to describe exactly HOW it does so, and what the significance is for science and for culture more broadly. Don’t forget to answer the “cultural frameworks” part of the question.
Option 2: Your cyborg future
In the Information Arts reading this week, Wilson quotes from Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” (as essay also on our list this week) on the issue of dualisms:
…certain dualisms have been persistent in Western traditions…. It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine. It is not clear what is mind and what body in machines that resolve into coding practices.” Haraway (and Wilson) insist that dualisms, including science and culture, male and female, able and disabled, are in fact complex and multiple relations, with each “part” dependent on as well as helping the other to exist and even defining it, so the “parts” are fully interdependent or “co-constitutive” of the person. Haraway elsewhere in the essay describes the cyborg as a kind of triad that is part human, part animal, part machine — and she says she would rather be a cyborg than a goddess! The cyborg figure on the cover of the book is a computer, in fact — a worker, and not a goddess figure. For this critical reflection option, draw, map, or describe your own body as a cyborg three years from now. The drawing or map does not need to look like you. It should include all of the “parts” of you that think you will have or need — including human biological aspects, animal parts or attachments, and machine extensions or parts. Show how all of these parts will make or “constitute” you as a person in 2023. Your “cyborgian” condition of being in the world may be described instead of mapped or drawn in you prefer words to pictures.
Option 3: Modeling and imaging “messy” aesthetic form in biology
Wilson (p. 84-88) discusses the place of aesthetics in biology, and focuses in particular on the DNA model and its simplicity, its construction by Crick and Watson out of Tinker Toy parts, and quotes Root-Berstein on the question of whether the DNA mode was “right” or “wrong.” For this essay, please AVOID arguing the “right or wrong” question and instead address the underlying issue: the question of how to model structures that are in reality messy, chimeric, and complicated. Citing Stephen J Gould, Wilson warns that “the facile belief in classical shapes such as triangles and circles, derived from Renaissance thinking, can be misleading. “Beauty,” Gould wrote, “as prejudicially defined by simplicity and symmetry, does not always pervade natural objects, which may be stochastically or contingently messy, or quantifiable in the different languages of fractals and chaos” (Wilson 86). Tell us about a biological model we have viewed or which you know about that is “messy” or “complicated” or “chimeric” and tell us how the method for modeling it helps to capture these qualities, rather than being reductive. The model you describe may be an artwork, or it may be a science example. Alternatively, take up a substance we have discussed and make your own speculative model of it. Capture its complexity or messiness in your drawing or model.
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