Soft Power. Art and Technologies in The Biopolitical Age

Soft Power. Art and Technologies in The Biopolitical Age

Date posted: 2009-12-07 16:05:00

Soft Power is a program of activities on art, technologies and biopolitcs curated by Maria Ptqk for Amarika Project at Vitoria-Gasteiz (Baskenland, Spain).

With the development of genetic engineering and the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries, biotechnology has definitely entered everyday life. Today, we consume on a regular basis genetically modified food containing hormones, antibiotics and/or chemical substances. We design our bodies through prosthesis, implants, plastic surgery, anti-aging cosmetics. We modify our mental state and our behaviour with legal or illegal drugs and our sexuality with hormonal treatments like Viagra, contraceptive pills or testosterone. In 2003 the Human Genome Project completed the decodification of the human genome, indicating the beginning of what is already known as The Century of Biology, an age supposed to question the limits of the natural and the very idea of the living.

Biotechnology, embodied in the culture of the design of the self, takes us back to the old dream of a re-programmable subjectivity, the possibility of a destiny driven by genetics and life sciences. With its promise of a high-tech humanity, it opens a new chapter in the never-ending conversation initiated by Michel Foucault around the concept of biopolitics: the governance of population through the control of the body, the mind and every aspect of life, specially those directly related to subjectivity. Today the myth of the cyborg returns in the form of commodities supplied by the bioindustry global market. Research centers stock and classify biological resources like cells, seeds, sperm, ovules, organs and tissues. Intellectual property laws exclude them from the public domain while the pharmaceutical and agro-industrial complex patents, manipulates and distributes them in health centers and supermarket shelves. In the biotech age, we/cyborgs are not only the result of a set of technologies and scientific protocols but a compilation of cultural codes, as well as social and economic relations playing on a global ground. A biopolitical narrative that, in the last decade, has also been joined by the arts.

Soft Power as a cultural program positions itself right in this frame, where artistic practices meet the new language of biopolitics. Practices exploring the interdisciplinary crossing of art and science, but also the real conditions of scientific research today: its impact on the lifestyles and the categories of imagination that are put into work by it and the international network of bioindustry.

Bureau d'Etudes
Boryana Rossa
Rachel Mayeri
Sally Gutierrez