keynote - Sensuous Knowledge 7
Three keynotes, together with the collections and exhibitions within the Art Museums of Bergen, provided a thought provoking background for the conference.
Esther Leslie Professor in
Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London
"See with a feeling eye: feel with a seeing hand"
Setting out from the Goethe's 'discovery' long ago of the Urpflanze, a font of all future form, this illustrated talk investigates, in a series of relays across time, the impulses for transformation and modified forms. These emerge, in our epoch, in the quest for new materials and in contemporary science's explorations at nanoscopic scales, where the usual laws of physics recede.
As molecular biology and nanotechnology converge, promising a proliferation of new, designed biological forms and smart materials, this reshaped matter in turn shapes our dreams, as well our visual, tactile world. How might engagement with new forms and modes of material performance conjure into existence unseen materialities, narratives and possibilities, or do we witness just repetitions of old Promethean fantasies?
Contemporary science re-imagines biological and chemical function as an engineering substrate, a complex fully programmable animate object, opening up a potential for us to 'grow' any form. Goethe's idea of the Urpflanze - a primordial plant that contains within itself an infinity of potential forms - recurs startlingly in the present moment when matter, from the molecule up, is coerced to adopt fantastical forms and exhibit new behaviours, while the senses of sight and touch enter into new constellations and repartitions.
Through a presentation of elements of an art collaboration between Esther Leslie and Melanie Jackson, the history, mythology and ideology of form's reforming and the senses' recalibration will be explored.
SUPERFLEX is an artists' group founded in 1993 by three danes,
Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen.
The following text by Doris Berger (2003, Superflex Tools book) gives us insight into the groups work:
"They see their work as something to be put to use. Thus the artists become tool-makers; they take note of the way the tools are used and have a partial say in their use. At the same time they also avail themselves of certain tools found in social and artistic praxis. It is the intention here to turn SUPERFLEX's notion of a tool back on itself: to shed light on the conditions of production, the influences, areas of discourse and strategies - the tools that is - that SUPERFLEX use in their own artistic praxis. And to ask, what discourse informs their work, what methods do they use, how do they fit into an art-historical context? In doing so it will only be possible to touch on wider themes since their function here is simply to encourage a multi-faceted approach to the work of SUPERFLEX. Let us begin by glancing into the SUPERFLEX tool box, to glean an insight into the discourse that applies to their work."
Anke Bangma, curator contemporary art for the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.
Exhibitions and a growing circulation of images have historically played an important role in informing collective imaginaries of 'other' places. One impression that persists is that of a natural relation between place and cultural identity. But the accelerated mobility of people and of images complicates this relationship. As more and more individual and collective existences are shaped by displacement and multiple belongings, finding new understandings of our relation to place becomes a pressing cultural, and political, necessity. How can we imagine the dispersed space in which modern lives take place? To answer this question I will look at artists such as Bouchra Khalili, Zineb Sedira and Claudia Cristovao.