More notes from my conversation with Antonio Cerveira Pinto, the curator of Bios 4. It's probably the first time that so many unstable art works are being shown for several months in a museum (as opposed to a few days in an art gallery during a festival) and, as Antonio notes, the experience has shown that there's a whole new relationship to be built between on the one hand, artists who use technology in their practice and on the other hand, museums which are usually wary of showing works that are not static and "quiet" like paintings are.


The existence of bio art, environmental art and in general new media art constitutes a challenge for museums. They have to be aware that art is evolving, and open up to new artistic forms. New expertise is needed to deal with machines and living things. Robots need to "rest", for example. Otherwise their electro-circuit dies. Museum curators and directors also have to accept that if you want to hide a computer in a sleek box just because it is "ugly", the container should be big enough to avoid any crash when the machine heats up.

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When preparing an exhibition, Antonio Cerveira Pinto likes to set up a small workshop with the museum employees, to explain them what the works are about, how the public should interact with them, what they must be cautious of, etc. I often noticed that exhibition attendants (how do you call them? guards?) seem to be quite happy when they have to keep an eye on interactive pieces. They are proud of showing you how to play with the art work, which buttons should be pushed and how, propose to take a picture of you when you play with a screen-based work, smile when they see how much kids or adults engage with the work, etc. Suddenly they have something to do, they have a knowledge to share.

Artists on the other hand, have to specify clearly how the museum has to manage and take care of the electronic, digital or living bits of their work when they are exhibited over a long period of time (as these pieces are usually shown in the context of a one-week festival). Another challenge for artists is to become experts in usability and design clear interfaces that tell visitors how to interact with their pieces.

The public too has to learn how to engage with these art pieces, adults in particular have spent decades being told "Don't touch!" "Don't go too close!", etc. Both museums and artists will have to take these challenges into account.

First image is from C-Lab's project The Martian Rose. See also their interview and the report they wrote of Bios 4.

Second set of images is from the installation Do robotic cats dream of electric fish? by France Cadet.

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0machinicoo0.jpgThe first Biosphere is Gaia, the planet Earth.

Biosphere 2 was an artificial closed ecological system constructed in 1987/89 in Arizona. It was used to test how people could live and work in a closed biosphere, while carrying out scientific experiments. It explored the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization, and also allowed the study and manipulation of a biosphere without harming Earth's.

was a closed ecosystem at the Institute of Biophysics built between 1965 and 1972 in Siberia. It consisted of a 315-cubic-metre habitat suitable for up to three persons.

BIOS is also a computer term that stands for Basic Input/Output System.

Bios 4 is the exhibition on bio and environmental art currently running in Sevilla and if you trust dear old aunt Régine, you should book a flight to Sevilla and visit the show because you're not going to see anything like that anytime soon.

The Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (image by Amy Youngs)

Here's the blurb about the exhibition:

The launch of the Human Genome Project in 1990 -the identification of the 20.000-25.000 genes of human ADN- would have been difficult to realize in only 13 years without the power and speed of digital computers. That's also the moment when environmental and biological art started to emerge. Bios 4 is an exhibition and an information platform that showcases a selection of examples of these two important categories of art on the 21st century.

The close collaboration between artists, scientists and technology experts to develop new creative projects characterizes this recent area of investigation that brings the art closer to knowledge. That's what the curator of the exhibition, Antonio Cerveira Pinto, calls "cognitive art." Cognitive Art emerges when artists have to build up specific scientific or technological set of skills and knowledge in order to use them in their own artistic process. The use of this new knowledge and cognition symbolises a "post-contemporary" culture. The artists' work is not always perfect in terms of form, what matters is the questions that arise from it.

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A statuette of Eduardo Kac with Alba (!!) and Mark Cypher's spectacular Biophilia

The raw material of artistic expression of biotechnological art or bioart, which has some roots in the Body Art of the 1960-70, is life itself or its components (genes, organs, organisms, tissues), or the virtual living matter, digital stimulation of ADN, of proteins, and of course it can also be the result of the intersection of those two realities. A philosophical and ethical debate has recently sparkled from the interest for the new potential for manipulating the living. Bioart takes part into the discussion with works that often reflect an ironic metaphorical exercise or a clearly critical one.

For the art of nature/ecologiy/environment or of sustainability, which antecedents can be traced to the Land Art of the '70s, the medium of artistic creation is the natural sphere in all its extensions and complexities. The idea of the close connectivity between all the organisms that represent terrestrial life for billions of years inspire the dynamic definition of this new artistic field. Issues of pollution, the exhaustion of fossil fuels of energy sources and global warming are turning into the main areas of concern of the environmental artists of this new century.

Antonio Cerveira Pinto points out that the art arising from post-contemporary complexity does not focus on the forms spawned by technology but focuses on the worlds that are possible for a humanity surrounded by technology while threatened by energy exhaustion and ecological imbalances. The works selected in Bios 4 bear witness to a way of making art that embodies both scientific curiosity and the poetical formulation of a new type of knowledge.

Image on top left corner is Machinic Diatoms by Ken Rinaldo. The 3D irrealities envision the day when designer molecular constructors will permit unicellular machines, nano machines to co-inhabit (invited or not) and maintain the body.

Bios 4 - Technological and Environmental Art runs until September 2 at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Sevilla.

0putridaaa.jpgAnother work seen at the Bios 4 exhibition:

Decon, Marta de Menezes's latest project is a series of "living" artworks inspired by Piet Mondrian’s geometric paintings.

The colors from those paintings are progressively degraded by the bacteria Pseudomonas putida MET94, a "microorganism of putrefaction." With an appetite for organic pollutants, this soil microbe has the potential to be used for bioremediation, a process that uses microorganisms, fungi, green plants or their enzymes to return the environment altered by contaminants to its original condition. The artist collaborated with Lígia Martins whose research lab investigates the use of inoffensive bacterias to "clean" up textiles which are coloured with nocive chemicals. Cleaning and de-toxing them means that the textiles can then be recycled.


The "paintings" only exist while they are being degraded by the bacterias which are living, and dying in the gallery space. Thus, one can interpret those paintings as a process of death and decomposition of the artwork. The strange thing was to see how some colours were fading faster than other. While the blue, for example seems to be literally eaten up, the yellow was covered with dark stains.

Yesterday i spent a few fantastic hours with Antonio Cerveira Pinto in Sevilla. He showed me around Bios4, the exhibition about bio and environmental art he curated at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo. I am going to write about it from A to Z, focussing on some of my favourite pieces and bits of my conversation with Antonio. But let's start the lazy way with just an appetizer of what i've discovered there.


Alexithymia is a term that means the incapacity to verbalize emotions. When some sufferers want to talk but are unable to utter the words, they start sweating to manifest the desire to communicate.

Alexitimia is also the name that Paula Gaetano, an artist from Buenos Aires, gave to her robot. It's a big blob that feels like rubber when you touch it. But it also sweats when you caress its surface. Paula Gaetano has a background in fine art but collaborated with scientists and techno experts to develop the robot. The only sensors are for touch and the only output is water that runs from a tank hidden in the base of the work.

It is creative intuition that permits both the artist and the viewer to leap over logic, whether scientific or artistic, and emotionally experience the problem laid out here of reconciling the "wet" domain of nature with the "dry" domain of electronics.

Winner of Vida 9.0.
Image mas de arte. The robot is not physically in the exhibition but only documented. Flickr set from the exhibition.

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