Biomatter Unfixed

Date: Summer 2019
Location: Venice, Italy (TBD)


Universal socio-political tensions, most immediately manifested in a return of conservative forms of nationalism together with simultaneous rapid intensification of environmental crises, have been defining today’s being in the world. These pressing matters seem to essentially stem from the constructed binary oppositions, such as self/ other or human/non-human as well as increasing prioritisation of the human agency. They serve as a bedrock for our current understanding of the dynamics of life itself. But as the current state of our political, sociological and environmental reality attests, this perception is fundamentally inaccurate. In order to begin addressing universal matters, we first need to get to the root of these problems — our perception of our human selves as well as the way we relate to our surroundings.

Our bodies, including our minds, are the only medium through which each individual comprehends him/herself as well as the environment around. Fascinatingly, however, for the last two millennia that what meant being fundamentally and exceptionally human was not related much to our bodies. They were commonly perceived as sole physical vessels holding a unique and exclusive to humans essence, the soul. A large part of the world’s population still believe that humans are special because they are endowed with a spirit, and an even larger part of the population views their inner being as ranking higher on the hierarchy ladder than those of other humans because of what they believe in. But if we can now safely say that our bodies is what we are — in all the marvellous perplexity and intricacy of their mental and physical functions — perhaps getting to know our tactile selves in an uncompromising, earthly and fleshly way, could completely transform the manner in which we see ourselves in the total workings of our political, social and environmental reality. What happens if we start treating human bodies in a way we treat bodies of other living beings?

In fact, in the wake of rapid scientific and technological developments, be it DNA manipulation, genomics or cloning, body in its entirety is slowly losing the understanding towards its materiality as fixed and somewhat universally sacred and, instead, acquiring fluid properties. Consequently, discussions concerning the use of human body tend to focus on the problematics connected to the body as a commodity, since body parts and its extractable materials, such as blood, hair, sperm or eggs, are starting to acquire monetary value. The general response to these new developments circles around the ideas about seeming dehumanising or losing of the self as side effects, especially since an appropriate legal framework in connection to utilisation of human biomatter is practically absent, resulting into its abuse. However, paradoxically, approaching human biological matter as a resource that can be repurposed and given a new meaning as well as function, could also highlight its fragile translucence and aid in eliminating the hierarchical boundary between ourselves, the others and the environment.

Titled Biomatter Unfixed, the first instalment of Unbore project series, consisting of an exhibition and a symposium, will investigate the paradox of the human body — as human beings, we are simultaneously secured by and trapped within physical boundaries, which raises questions about the necessity of maintaining or dissolving identities, defined by selves and others. Bodies seem to contain a subject in a vessel, which keeps the other outside. Yet, when we negotiate the boundary of the self through taking our bodies apart, it becomes difficult to define who is who, which, in turn, can open a way to a possible reconfiguration of our place in the total life fabric. Therefore, it is crucial to ask whether the fluidity of bodily boundaries that may result in depersonalisation could herald new forms of self-transformation and an expanded awareness of the self?

Moreover, with the growth in demand on human biomatter intensifying, one can only assume that the new approach of seeing the human body as a sort of raw material or even a natural resource, will also become ever-increasingly relevant from an economical standpoint. Therefore, it may be useful, if not crucial, to understand these new properties of our own bodies and their utilisation in unknown contexts not only in relation to minimising anthropocentric tendencies but also from a pragmatic point of view. As a result, Biomatter Unfixed further seeks to inquire how can we as individuals productively and resourcefully use our own biomatter readily available to us, and how does ownership and manipulation of ourselves play out in the context of current governmental control of such endeavours? Does such increased awareness of our bodies and its uses should be perceived as a revolt or a compliance with the trending commodification? How can meanings and prejudices attached to human tissues, organs and cells but also secondary bodily products, such as sweat, urine, semen or tears, be turned around through their various uses in more familiar contexts? Unbore will examine these and a myriad of other questions through an exhibition and a series of talks from artists, designers, scholars and researchers working in the context of arts, sciences and technology intersections.

More information coming soon.

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