The Second Annual Naturally Hypernatural international conference, this year subtitled “Visions of Nature,” was held at SVA from November 14 – 16. Suzanne Anker, chair of BFA Fine Arts, organized and hosted the interdisciplinary event, which explored the intersection of biology and geology with art. In her opening remarks, Anker cited how difficult it is to find a satisfying definition for the term “hypernatural.” The prefix hyper in itself, she explained, can sometimes have negative connotations, especially attached to such a revered word as natural. Defining and exploring, even amplifying, how art and the sciences converge and reshape our views of “nature” and that which is “natural” were a hallmark of panel discussions.
The conference also addressed bio art’s relationship to fundamental human questions, such as, How did we get here? Where does our food come from? What does the future hold? During the first panel, entitled “The Biotech Species,” Melentie Pandilovski, director of Video Pool Media Arts Centre in Winnipeg, Canada, offered an overview of the field’s reach and variety on a global scale and spoke of artwork and advances in Australia, the United States and Canada. Pandilovski compared the recent rise of bio art to that of video art, which decades ago was a niche field and now is a popular staple in contemporary expositions. For the panel “Bio Art and Creative Biotechnology in the Anthropocene: Some Innovative Misunderstandings,” Lucas Evers, who leads Waag Society’s Open Wetlab in Amsterdam, focused on the movement in Europe.
Other prominent panelists during the three-day conference included MFA Design for Social Innovation faculty member Marco Castro, who discussed his urban-community project Bus Roots, a mobile garden on a bus rooftop; BFA Fine Arts faculty member Gary Sherman (MFA 1998 Fine Arts), who gave a talk on Artificial Sublime, the representation of space and its manipulation in film; and BFA Fine Arts faculty member Raul Valverde, who talked about his Adapted Landscape, a garden in Cartagena, Columbia consisting of plant life transplanted from the city of the same name in Spain.
Other conference attendees included artists, scientists, historians, curators and philosophers. An exhibition entitled “Blue Egg: Visions of Nature” accompanied the conference, featuring work created by students, alumni and faculty at SVA’s Bio Art Lab, the first laboratory of its kind in the United States.
Image: Suzanne Anker, Astroculture (Shelf Life), 2011/2014.