«SLSA 2011 Program Sept 15, 2011 Please see the website for last-minute changes: Session 1 - Thurs 1:30pm - ...»
SLSA 2011 Program
Sept 15, 2011
Please see the website for last-minute changes: http://litsciarts.org/slsa11/changes.php
Session 1 - Thurs 1:30pm - 3pm
Session 1 (A) Museum Classroom
Informational Animals with Material Bodies: Biosensors, Genome Scans, and Non-Determining Technologies
Chair: Scout Calvert
Thick networks of laws, standards, and practices define human and animal relations in contemporary North
American livestock production. Billions of animals are raised in North America each year for food and fiber, posing challenges for food safety, biosecurity, animal welfare, and human livelihoods. Consumer interest in food quality, animal welfare, and food safety is on the rise. Voluntary and mandatory certification practices address some consumer concerns, but contentiously. In the wake of high profile diseases like BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis, or ―mad cow disease‖), avian flu virus H5N1, E. coli, and salmonella, demands for new technologies for disease surveillance are emerging. Meanwhile, improvements in genetic technologies have made genetic testing and tracking more cost effective. This panel considers the ways animals and their bodies are understood and husbanded within information and biotechnical systems, including with major advances in genetically-mediated cattle pure-breeding, and the development of biosensors for use in animal welfare monitoring and disease surveillance. But these technologies are ambivalent, as in the case of Angus cattle breeding: phenotype prediction databases can prevent the spread of genetic disease or promote it. Biosensors can have the potential to monitor animal health and welfare but what will be monitored will contentious, with more powerful actors setting priorities.
And reliance on such technologies for preventing safety breaches in the food chain could encourage large-scale production systems that push the technologies past our abilities to predict and control the outcomes.
Standardization on the Hoof: Purity, Degeneration, and Genomic-Enhanced Pedigrees For decades, beef breed associations have been gathering performance data on pure-bred animals that have become the basis for ―expected progeny differences,‖ calculations made by comparing animals in electronic pedigrees, or herdbooks. The American Angus Association began digitizing its herdbook in the late 1960s. In 1978, it launched the Certified Angus Beef branding program, a marketing promotion that has successfully made the Angus breed coextensive with succulent beef through a voluntary certification process. Angus has become the predominant cattle breed in the U.S., and ―seedstock‖ production (breeding bulls and cows for their gametes or ―genetics‖) has become lucrative. The traffic in semen and embryos has flourished as performance pedigrees have become more robust, enabling ranchers to breed cattle that conform to industry standards. As EPDs became popular tools for the selection of artificial insemination sires, three genetic diseases reached frequencies up to 10% in the pure-bred population.
EPDs coordinated a shared quest for Angus certification that also resulted in a catastrophic narrowing of the Angus gene pool. Although use of performance pedigrees are implicated in the frequencies of these diseases, pedigrees can also be used to breed them out. Breeders struggled to determine if the inbreeding practices that produced prized ―genetics‖ skirted too close to the incest taboo and created genetic defects. Which breeding practices lead to purity, and which to degeneration? Can what is lost be restored?
The Animal Vehicle in the Work of John McEwen The Animal Vehicle in the Work of John McEwen In 1978, working within and against the cultural climate of minimalism, Canadian sculptor John McEwen created Marconi, a steel slab sculpture, 2.5‖ thick, in the shape of a German Shepherd. With this he established the idea of the animal vehicle, which offers the bare bones of a narrative structure understood as contingent and constrained. McEwen describes his as an ‗impure Minimalism,‘ that best works in an in between space where ideas, materials, the imagination and the concrete merge. The result is never didactic nor fixed: the real animal is implied, the actual animal is steel: the quickening that the viewer experiences when approaching the animal is halted by the hardness of the inert material, but the animal continues to live on in the imagination of the viewer who has engaged with the sculpture. My paper discusses the more recent, and highly SLSA 2011 - Page |2 controversial, 1991 installation Babylon commissioned by the McMichael Collection of Canadian Art to bridge the traditional landscapes of the collection with the contemporary world of sculpture. The resulting work juxtaposes language and the art object, the animal and a ‗working minimalist‘ sculpture, nature, technology, the natural world and the civilized one into a single installation. It challenges the idea of wilderness and offers a more complex reading of our place within it, and our relationship to it. Through analysis, and by positioning McEwen‘s work along that of contemporary philosophical thinking on the animal, I will highlight the important contribution that McEwen‘s work overall, and Babylon in particular has made for the discourse surrounding the animal.
The Use of Biosensors in Animal Production: Possible Implications for Animal Welfare In the field of animal production, the United States is known for lagging behind Europe in the adoption of voluntary or legislated standards for the care and treatment of animals on farms. Currently there is no national legislation in the US that sets minimum standards for housing and care of animals on farms. However, in 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) expanded its animal disease traceability efforts by initiating the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS allowed producers who were not part of a disease program to voluntarily participate in national animal health safeguarding efforts. Although so far there is no discussion of the possibility of animal welfare monitoring being incorporated into this government led initiative, it should be taken into account. The development and implementation of efficient and low cost monitoring technologies, such as nanobiosensors, would allow for the simultaneous monitoring of health, production and welfare that are a common interest for government, producers, and consumers alike. The Europe based Welfare Quality® Project is discussed as a recent example of relevant integrated research in animal welfare, as the findings of this project may provide valuable information in predicting possible outcomes of the integration of animal welfare monitoring with animal disease surveillance through the use of biosensor technologies. This paper discusses some of the potential impacts of the integrated use of these technologies on animal welfare science and policy in the United States.
Why Did the Chicken No longer Cross the Road?: Broiler Chickens, Pharmakon, and a Critique of the Epistemic Foundations of Genetic Modification Margaret Atwood, in her biotech apocalyptic novel Oryx and Crake, depicts a future where genetic engineering has twisted the animal kingdom into something much different than it is today. Atwood's world is a place where scientists create hybrid species such as ―pigoons‖ (pig-like creatures engineered for organ harvest), ―snats‖ (a hybrid between a rat and snake), and genetically engineered chickens that have been practically reduced to a blob of breast meat. Here the practice of genetic modification is used to heal but it also brings about the destruction of the human race. Although this is a work of fiction, in the real world great strides have been made in the modification of animals for medical purposes and food use (Prather et al. 2008, 246). This makes Atwood‘s picture of the future seem more plausible than one may have first thought. Within this paper, I will specifically critique the history of the modification of the broiler chicken in an attempt to show how such modifications, when taken too far, can actually destroy the organism being modified. I will utilize the work of feminist epistemologists in this critique to forward the argument that the understanding of what it means to be a chicken shapes our conceptions of what modifications are acceptable. In addition, I will argue that moving away from propositional knowledge (or knowing that) and including other types of knowledge, such as knowing how, will give us new insights that can help us better determine which types of modifications should be allowed and which types should be deemed unethical. The practice of the genetic modification of animals is not going away any time soon. However, without critiquing the epistemic foundations of such a practice, I fear that we are in danger of a future like the one depicted in Atwood's novel.
Session 1 (B) Artery Gallery The Multispecies Salon Chair: Eben Kirksey The swarm is a network with no center to dictate order. While structurally innovative, swarming is a politically unstable mutation of the body politic. Might this military tactic, a hallmark of the Bush and Obama war on terror, be reappropriated by a multitude of creative agents to cure the ills of Empire? Might the poison be the cure? Swarming became the tactic, rather than the theme, of The Multispecies Salon—a series of art exhibits in San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York City. More than one hundred artists—hailing from the far reaches of the United States, Europe, and Australia—explored human entanglements with other creatures during these shows. Rather than being a static exhibit, the Multispecies Salon went through a lifecycle of growth and decay. Blurring the boundaries between SLSA 2011 - Page |3 bioart and ecoart, art practices that ―take non-humans seriously,‖ the Salon showcased original artworks that illustrated human entanglements with plants, microbes, and animals. We displayed art forms that will help us think about living with, and in, multispecies worlds. New organisms that have been created by humans, or are dependent upon on us for their very survival, animated the Multispecies Salon. We showcased creatures living and dying in industrial runoff, and the life support technologies that help keep endangered organisms alive beyond the reach of deadly pathogens and toxins. Bringing the Salon to SLSA we propose staging an ethnographic para-site. Blurring the boundaries between an anthropological field site and an academic conference, we will welcome noisy, parasitic, interruptions.
Anti-Rabbit Art Spectacular multispecies relations fueling the dreams and schemes of biocapitalism animate a collage, ―Anti-Rabbit Art‖, by Cameron Michel, Vashti Windish, and Eben Kirksey. Anti-rabbits, the molecules used to make images in this collaborative artwork, brought us down a proverbial rabbit hole and into the Wonderland of immunochemistry.
We found that the immune systems of multiple species – donkeys, cows, chickens, mice, and goats – were laboring at biotechnology corporations to manufacture these glowing commodities. Anti-rabbits were being widely used in research laboratories around the world, to make molecular structures visible to the human eye. In this piece we used anti-rabbits to illustrate the elusive lure of promissory capital, a driving force that is oriented away from production and toward future knowledge, technologies of life, and promise. Purloining images made with anti-rabbits from a laboratory that was developing a drug for elephantiasis, we explored ethical articulations of biocapital. Drawn into the uncanny worlds illuminated by anti-rabbits, we found microbial agents that were generating queer becomings in insectoid bodies.
Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn; Kathy High.
Embracing Animal as an Architecture of Care Transgenic laboratory animals, the laboratory workhorses of biotechnological advancements, are under-represented and rarely even seen. Embracing Animal was an environment purpose-built by Kathy High for transgenic laboratory rats to live in art galleries. The rats were chimera—a fusion of DNA from another species (in this case human).
Traveling under the technical name of HLA-B27/β2m, these creatures were produced by Hammer et al in 1990 to develop drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory diseases. Kathy High suffers from a related disease and regarded the rats in her installation—Star, Tara, Matilda, Flowers, and Echo—as adopted kin, her sisters in suffering. After her sisters passed away, High had them cremated and enclosed in glass globes. This memorial, which is currently being exhibited in the Multispecies Salon in New York City, gives presence to a multitude of other animals. There are over 80 million lab rodents used every year in scientific research in the United States. By making these laboratory laborers more visible, Embracing Animal sparked ethical debates. It asked viewers to develop a radically different mode of attentiveness to animals that are usually feared or used instrumentally, but rarely approached with empathy. Transgenic rats embody the logic of the pharmakon—they are born to suffer and die so that a cure for diseased human bodies might be found.
The Gospel of Nano Bio Info Cogno Bringing fantastical prophecy, a cyborg ritual, and an outrageous sermon to the SLSA meetings, the Reverend of Nano Bio Info Cogo will invert phobic cries for a pre-cautionary principle. Paging back to texts from the dawn of the Enlightenment—such as Man, A Machine from 1748—the Reverend will channel the messianic spirit of our age.
Her Church proclaims the liturgy that drives emergent technologies - Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Neuroscience - forward into the neoteric millennium. An opportunity to imagine the ultimate techno-communion - the moment when humans will transcend their bodies by uploading their minds to hardware, leaving the meatware behind - this performance will incite audience members to dwell on the pharmakological dimensions of the post-human singularity. In this imagined future, the death of the body promises immortality through technology. If the Gospel of Nano Bio Info Cogno promises an ultimate cure, an end to the ailments of biological embodiment, her prophecy of technological rapture is haunted by the specter of apocalyptic death.
Eben Kirksey; Deanna Pindell.