2015, Thu, Jan 29

Made to Measure

with Jens Hauser, Tuur Van Balen, Paul Feigelfeld, Tobias Cheung, and Revital Cohen

A discussion of the impacts of standardization and engineering logics applied to living systems in the cultural contexts of the West and the East.

Measuring living systems goes hand in hand with organisms made to measure, as stated by Sigfried Giedion in 1948, as soon as “mechanization takes command.” Since Marey’s and Gilbreth’s measurements of movement, standardization, interchangeability and the hierarchization of parts have increasingly transformed creatures into commodities. And while the biological sciences today shift their focus from analysis to synthesis, the resulting language of engineering focuses less on living beings than on ‘components’ or ‘circuits.’

Departing from Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen’s performative installations, provocative objects and aestheticized documentary films shown in the exhibition assemble | standard | minimal at the project space of the Schering Foundation and at transmediale, the artists, the curator Jens Hauser, philosopher of science Tobias Cheung and media theoretician Paul Feigelfeld discuss the impacts of standardization and engineering logics applied to living systems in the cultural contexts of the West and the East.

But hasn’t the very notion of organization itself always played a role in the concept of what accounts for an organism? What are the historical drives behind today’s biobricks, mackerels engineered to produce tuna, or egg freezing for female employees in Silicon Valley? And how do artists deal with the posture of complicity when manipulating living systems themselves?

For Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen’s new work Sterile, albino goldfish without any reproductive organs are being specifically designed, paralleled by a machine capable of extracting sperm and eggs to reproduce sterile fish infinitively – but not (yet) switched on. In 75 Watt and Pigeon d’Or, human and animal organisms are being used in highly controlled (dys)functional processes.

More information: www.transmediale.de