ART: Path from Photo to Bio
text published in CYBERPHOTO 2012 festival catalogue
At first glance, it may seem that biotechnology and photography are in no way related, however, when we realize that these technologies are included in the field of art, certain similarities become apparent. By analogy, the reader may get the impression that, when writing here on the subject of art, I make too many references to the field of science, which has nothing to do with art. To explain why this impression is entirely wrong, I would need space and time exceeding my current opportunities, while everyone who has the knowledge of the texts and activities of such artists as Wojciech Bruszewski, Eduardo Kac, Victoria Vesna or Roy Ascott will find no difficulty in discovering therein certain examples illustrating this cohesive and pithy line of thought. We will notice that both in the first and the second case, we are dealing with human creative activity which does not consist in autonomous and manual production, but rather in the application of advanced devices which define the end product to a larger extent than chisel or brush alone. This becomes exactly the issue: to a larger or lesser extent? Who has more power over the created object? The photographer or the painter? Nowadays, this questions appears anachronical on multiple levels. First of all, creative photography, mise en scene and the art of operating light in photography sometimes produce more possibilities than just the brush which requires not only the skill, but also visionariness ? so limited in humans. Human imagination has some constraints apparent in pre-avant-garde paintings. Upon the birth of avant-garde and photography (where one is closely linked to the other), there was an explosion of pictorial imagination, set free from the fetters of reproduction of visible forms or metaphorical structures replacing perspective with the symbolism of structure. The meaning of size, color, location with reference to the center… all this was important not only within the category of perception aiming at a maximum level of realism in figurativeness. These features were often significant as a concealed structure of symbolism of power. Photography allowed for experimenting and departing from those symbolic structures, as well as from the reproduction of realistic images. Painting and photography combined created a duet of mutual inspiration in search for new forms and structures in the area of the avant-garde. A new language was born, based on the specificity of the tool and not on the language indoctrinated by the system or the power of the senses. The tool spoke for itself, therefore it was placed between the author and the work. It became another subject. The tool was spoken to, its ?truth? was discovered, a ?truth? impressed on the ?truth? of the works, thus, ideology of the media broadcasts was excluded. The truth became an ideology. Ideology became an option selected from a catalogue of the ?faces of truth?. Thus, a cognitive bubble burst, a bubble which was to carry the human kind towards a superhuman existence, and it turned out that superhuman abilities denote the possibility of creating an incidental and arbitrary language of power over matter. This was expressed in the construction of the processor and programming languages. A man equipped with a computer became a superhuman construction. Thus, digital photography provided another tool of creative manipulation and proved right all those who advocated the thesis of absence of truth in photography. Photography and film were combined into one art by means of a computer, which endowed them with a new dimension. It blew up the old structures of the narrative culture. The Bible, the entire history and knowledge about the world put in a linear order stopped making any sense. It turned out that the new type of narration established on databases does not require a narrator. It requires a database and a processor, it needs a fragmented story which may be then composed into new units. In the course of tool evolution, the parts composing stories were shattered, while a computer was ever better at putting them back together, incorporating knowledge derived from diverse cognitive domains. This eventually leads to the elimination of a human as the sender of a message. A human becomes a programmer, engineer, a human is moved to the metanarrative level, establishes the methodology of narration, determines the stylistics, influences the generation of a visual story. Such process operations in the field of visual arts significantly precede the changes in the area of literature, and thus, in the area of humanities which, as a matter of fact, include branches defined by literature, despite the scientific appearance constantly questioning its usefulness and cognitive possibilities. Knowledge of the object becomes its production and design, shaping an artefact which is beyond cognitive possibilities. Within those cognitive areas, computers appear more apt, as they are equipped with sensors possessing analytical abilities, performing sampling, scanning, temperature control, 3D invoices, chemical analyses, and multiple types of analyses and data processing, which makes it possible for the formed object to be described by a great, but definite, number of symbols, and, when needed, may have its molecular structure reproduced by assembling its replica atom by atom. At this point, we approach biotechnology, which is the next stage of development of art and science at the same time. Reproducing an object will not bring it to life. Biotechnology, or molecular biology, to be more exact, analyzes life processes from a programming perspective as processes of execution of the code included in a DNA or RNA sequence, and this is precisely why the essence of the so-called bio-art may only be grasped through accessing biotechnology from the area of interactive art. Each transgenic form of life presented as an artefact is a living example of operation of a code whose structure we do not yet comprehend but which will be fully controlled by the type of languages of a higher level, similar to the code of processor and programming languages originating from the C language, i.e., C++, Java, C#, and any modifications thereof, such as PHP, ActionScript, Processing, Pure Data. Nowadays, programming languages are used with great ease due to their modularity or the objectivity consisting in the fact that programmers only deal with the operation of the code and use ready-made libraries prepared by their predecessors. This is why the common area of agreement between hackers and bio-hackers and BIO D.I.Y. movements is the fight against patent rights in IT and biotechnology which hinder the development of those areas and give corporations monopoly on life.