From Materiality to Machines

Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings

Authored by: Dorothy R. Santos

The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138919341
eBook ISBN: 9781315687896
Adobe ISBN: 9781317419518


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In 2013, Charlie Brooker wrote an episode for the series Black Mirror titled “Be Right Back,” about a women distraught and heartbroken from her boyfriend’s untimely death. Based on the advice of a friend, she calls on a service that sends a physical avatar that seemingly resembles a human-sized doll. Much like an expandable water toy, the human-like avatar must be kept in bath water. The doll arrives pre-programmed to perform based on the social media activity and online persona of the deceased person, a simulacrum of the lived experience. Although the series was short-lived, it raised questions about life, death, memories, and how people are thinking about human existence. Most importantly, how are various forms of the biological sciences and technology meshing together to help us form new ways of being and imagine the future alongside machines and devices? The artworks discussed in this chapter delve into artistic practices that invigorate awareness of how scientific and creative methodologies create new ways of looking, how technologies are used to manufacture and engineer memories through augmented reality (AR), how they create new organisms through machinery and turn seemingly indescribable human expressions into sculpture, and how DNA phenotyping helps reveal age-old systemic racist models.

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