Last week, I was at the Waag Society in Amsterdam for its EcoArt lecture event, with Andy Gracie, Brandon Ballengee and Boo Chapple. The lectures were held in a historic anatomy theatre, where autopsies used to take place in front of a public audience, in the extraordinary building the Waag Society occupies, a former weighing station in the heart of Amsterdam.
The delightful Boo Chapple modeled her wearable carbon-offsetting outfit and discussed other personal waste recycling schemes for the environmentally anxious. Andy Gracie explained some of the ideas behind his fascinating ecology-robot systems, including biohacking (which perhaps more aptly describes parasitic activity than the current biopunk usage), artificial ecologies and biosemiotics. He described how his installations – digital artworks that invite technological sytems to dialogue with natural living systems or phenomena – provoke interlinked emergent behaviours in both robots and organisms. Brandon Ballengee, whose book and exhibition of his recent work in the UK will be launched at the Royal Institution in the spring, discussed theories on declining and deformed amphibians, his work as an artist studying these and the alternative theory that he and his scientific collaborator have come up with (a joint scientific paper is being published).
The EcoArts event was organised as part of a residency at Waag by the astonishingly inventive Adam Zaretsky, an artist who can stretch the boundaries of taste in a profession characterized by transgressors (rendering a recent media arts panel almost speechless by starting his presentation with a biotech porn video), whose ability to produce a staggering and apparently endless flow of ideas is second to none. Adam will be speaking at our Eye of the Storm conference at Tate Britain this month.