by Jacqueline Keren

West Hall, Rensselaer Polytechnic institute,
through May 31

MEART: The Semi Living Artist

Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary
Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic institute,
through May 31

Two new exhibits at RPI explore the confluence of
science and art. While one exhibit is housed in the
art department’s West Hall, the other is in the public
lobby of the new Center for Biotechnology and
Interdisciplinary Studies. By exhibiting art outside
the Department of Integrated Electronic Arts, chair
Kathy High hopes to encourage more collaboration
between artists and scientists on campus, with
eventual one-on-one exchanges in the labs. At RPI,
where most of the art students have backgrounds in
science and engineering, the connections are close,
and High hopes new efforts aimed at integrating the
two will “bridge cultures.” MFA candidate Boryana
Rossa, curator of the shows, hopes to attract
non-students from Troy as well.

In West Hall, a bioart retrospective serves as an
introduction to this broad genre. The exhibit, In the
Presence of the Body, brings together documentation on
15 projects from as far away as Russia, Australia,
Germany, Canada, Bulgaria and Spain, as well as the
United States. As the title suggests, each work
involves the use of biological substances, either as
source material or subject matter. A video by the
group Utrafuturo, an Eastern European-based bio-art
collective, captures the artists as they draw blood,
load it into a neon lightbulb with other materials,
and then set the light aglow. Like many of the pieces,
it’s both fascinating and disturbing. Other projects
include work by seminal bioartist Eduardo Kac, and
Critical Art Ensemble, another collective. In a world
where we expect order in everything, the exhibit shows
the randomness of biology and how easily it can be

In the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary
Studies, MEART: the Semi Living Artist—a combination
of cultured rat nerve cells, and a robotic arm that
travels from gallery to gallery, drawing when exposed
to models and other stimuli—raises questions about
qualities we consider uniquely human. MEART’s
drawings, housed in movable displays, can be viewed
from the ground floor on which they rest, and from the
staircase that winds above. That the brain at work is
rudimentary is a given. But the repetition of style
and image from drawing to drawing is an eerie
indication of personality. A project of SymbioticA
Research Lab, a bioart lab in Western Australia, MEART
is a head- scratcher about just what it means to




Metroland 2007

by Nadine Wasserman, Metroland 2007