Biopower imagined: Biotechnological art and life engineering
(2018) Social Science Information, 57 (1), pp. 59-76.
We are witnessing profound changes in our societies via biosciences, biotechnologization, and digitalization. The influence and application of specific engineering rationality and cybernetic perspectives to the complex systems of living structures and to the language of biology are integral parts of our cultural environment. The biotechnological reproduction of life, bodies and cells, as well as AI-equipped machines, has become normal and sometimes even technically routine in contemporary societies. The biotechnologization of society and the engineering of life have also significantly influenced contemporary art fields, practices and projects. The crucial analytical scope for this article is a specific biotechnological art field – bio art. Bio art includes the works of artists who are intrigued by working with living or semi-living tissues and biotechnologies. Using specific artworks, mainly by Louis Bec, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, and Biononymous, the text investigates current forms of power over life – biopower – that imagine, classify, and govern our societies today, even on molecular and genetic levels. The text analyzes artistic reflections of the processes by which people are governed mainly as the derivatives of the body, biological and genetic data sets. In this context, the article explores artworks inspired by specific biopolitical engineering rationality and surveillance practices enabling naming, fabricating and dealing with life which is synthesized, ethnicized and monitored. © 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.
bio art; biopower; body; genetic surveillance; life; life engineering; Michel Foucault