Liminal Lives: Life in the Age of Permanent Bio-transgression

Attractors: Maciej Ozog & Ryszard W. Kluszczynski

Development of life sciences and biotechnology entails the need for rethinking and redefining of several categories that till recently have seemed easily comprehensible, stable and obvious. In our proposal we want to focus on re-configurations of the category of life itself. Term liminal lives, taken from the book of Susan Merrill Squier, emphasizes openness, fluidity and instability of this category, and also its ambiguity. Liminal lives are boundary beings whose ontological status is not clear and is subject to continuous transgressions; they exceed and challenge dichotomies: organic – artificial, autonomous – dependent, human – non-human, living – inanimate, coherent – hybrid. Their existence, though often unnoticed outside the context of the laboratory, has a real impact on how we understand ourselves, and the world around us. Art has a particular significance and plays an important role in the public debate on the challenges arising from the existence of liminal forms of life. On the one hand, art can be regarded as cultural translation of procedures and scientific discourse, on the other provides critical analysis of cultural, social and political consequences of techno-scientific achievements. In our proposal, we would like to present and analyze various examples of the latter attitude within bioart.

Methodology: Goal of the project is to select a research group consisting of theorists and artists whose research and artistic practices allow for a multidimensional analysis of the very phenomenon of liminal lives as well as the socio-cultural context and consequences of the development of this branch of modern biology. This group would be selected in the “call for papers”. Work of the group would consist in the preparation of individual papers, but also we would like to initiate a platform for creative discussion and presentation of opinions and actions, pointing especially to the transgressive dimension of the liminal lives issue.


Ryszard W. Kluszczynski, PhD, new media art scholar, writer and curator. Professor of media and cultural studies, Lodz University, Poland, Head of Department of Media and Audiovisual Culture. He publishes widely about media and multimedia arts, cyberculture, and on the contemporary art theory. In the years 1990-2001 Kluszczynski was a Chief Curator of film, video and multimedia arts at the Centre for Contemporary Art – Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw. Curator of International Biennale of Contemporary Art ‘Mediations’ in Poznan 2010. Artistic Director of Art & Science Meeting Project, CCA Gdansk 2011-2016.

Maciej Ozog, PhD, media theorist, researcher and musician. He works at the Electronic Media Department, Lodz University. His research focuses on history and theory of media arts, panoptic / postoptic surveillance culture, information society and posthumanism. He has published many articles on aesthetics of interactive art, history and theory of avant-garde film and video art, and experimental music. His book “Surveillance as Theme and Method of New Media Art” will be published in 2012.

(Semi-Living Steak by The Tissue Culture and Art Project)

Confronting the Bacterial Sublime: Whole Genome Sequencing, Microbiology and Bioart









Attractor: Anna Dumitriu

There is a sense that the world is heading towards a new pandemic, that an unknown disease will emerge or that an existing pathogen will evolve strategies to resist our limited antibiotic cures and strike us down. However, new developments in whole genome sequencing of bacteria and viruses offer us hope, potentially enabling doctors to diagnose and precisely treat diseases in a matter of hours. But the implementation of whole genome sequencing (WGS) technology in microbiology raises a number of complex technical and ethical issues from processing and understanding vast amounts of data to potential privacy issues revealed by the specific organisms an individual may be carrying and passing on, and even in the way genomic data is pieced together jigsaw puzzle-like. The cost of WGS technology is continually being reduced whilst processing speed is increasing exponentially at an unexpected rate, and it will begin to be implemented across healthcare providers worldwide within the next five to ten years. We are in the midst of a quiet revolution that may have as big an impact on our lives as the industrial revolution had on our ancestors’ lives.

Methodology: This stream invites artists, scientists, philosophers and bioinformaticians to provide a variety of perspectives on whole genome sequencing of bacteria and viruses through talks, practical workshops and artworks.

We aim to:
· Provide a clear description of the work currently being undertaken
· Lay out the current issues for the research
· Look at the potential impacts of WGS on global healthcare
· Discuss the ethical issues from privacy to provision of technology in developing countries
· Discuss how to widen public engagement into the debates around WGS
· Investigate how WGS is inspiring artists and provide a review of current art practice in the area
· And lead to the development of new interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations

Biography: Anna Dumitriu is an artist whose work is concerned with the ethical implications of new technologies. Her installations, interventions and performances use a range of digital, biological and traditional media including live bacteria and textiles. She is currently working on a Wellcome Trust funded art project entitled “Communicating Bacteria”, collaborating as a Visiting Research Fellow: Artist in Residence with the Adaptive Systems Research Group at The University of Hertfordshire and Artist in Residence on the on the UK Clinical Research Consortium Project “Modernising Medical Microbiology” (looking at whole genome sequencing of bacteria) at the University of Oxford.