Jeremijenko places science within the category of art in order to empower people to look critically at science which would otherwise appear authoritative and inaccessible to them. She believes that if science is incorporated into art, people will be more likely to form opinions about it.
a. Joseph Beuys’ 7000 Oaks (1982) established an art-historical precedent for Jereminjenko’s OneTree(s) project. The relationship between these works goes beyond the fact that both involved planting trees. For example, comparative viewing is integral to both artists’ tree projects. Beuys coupled each tree with a columnar basalt stone column, approximately four feet high. The column established a static marker against which to measure the dynamic growth of the tree. The comparative viewing activated by OneTree(s) involves a pair of cloned trees instead of stone marker and tree. Jeremijenko developed the significance of viewer scrutiny by establishing a publicly accessible information network where each tree’s growth patterns, as measured by individuals in the community, can be uploaded. The open-source site promotes environmental monitoring by a non-scientific community. Explain how these grassroots tools for monitoring the environment serve ecologically constructive ends.
b. Tree planting is also present in Pedro Reyes’s Pistols to Spades, Alan Sonfist’s Time Landscape, Herbert Bayer’s Mill Creek project, the Harrison’s Survival Series orchards, and Hundertwasser’s architecture. Select any one of these projects and compare it to Jeremijenko’s use of genetically cloned trees to critique biotechnical engineering. Is the work you selected a critique? A remediation scheme? An aesthetic embellishment? An aspect of functional infrastructure? Other?
c. Jeremijenko places science within the category of art in order to empower people to look critically at science which would otherwise appear authoritative and inaccessible to them. She believes that if science is incorporated into art, people will be more likely to form opinions about it. She comments: “The artist’s view is invaluable precisely because artists are not experts and do not have the authority granted by science. They are only as persuasive as their images. As non experts – though interested and knowledgeable -they stand in for the view of Everyman. They transcend boundaries; they transcend disciplines, issues, and expertise. With art, the viewer knows that she has a license to interpret and critically evaluate the work and that her opinion matters. The same can’t be said of science. Scientific arguments are presented in the public imagination as faits accomplis. When definitive terms such as “discovered” and “understood” are the norm, science is often a one-way conversation.”25 OneTree(s) and Molecular Invasion by CAE both pose questions, encouraging the public to participate in the pursuit of new information. In this manner they question the authority of institutionalized scientific research. CAE explains, “Science is the institution of authority regarding the production of knowledge, and tends to replace this particular social function of conventional Christianity in the west. In keeping with this position, science has slowly but surely become a key myth maker within society, thus defining for the general population the structure and dynamics of the cosmos and the origins and makings of life, or, in other words, defining nature itself. Much as religion once defined the human role in the cosmos, science does the same in such a way that the political economy of the day seems to be a part of nature and attuned to its laws and imperatives…. It is willing and able to exclusively serve the needs of capital, not just by generating knowledge that can be applied for profit, but also by not generating any knowledge or applications that could be detrimental to the maintenance and/or expansion of the system (for example, science has avoided creating a car that does not use fossil fuel).”26 Tissue Cultue & Art’s Victimless Meat also exhibits a scientific experiment without a known outcome. All these artists exhibit experimentation related to an unresolved issue. Compare Jeremijenko’s open experimentation with that of CAE and TC&A regarding the issues each addressed: cloning, genetic engineering, meat production.
d. Demonstration, instead of experimentation, is another way artists introduce scientific processes into the art context. Instead of asking a question, a pre-determined, observable outcome is displayed. One example of scientific demonstration is Haacke’s Rhinewater Purification Plant. In this work Haacke demonstrated the success of his ecological intervention into a polluted river by including a basin filled with healthy goldfish, proving that the river water had been purified. Similarly, Franceschini demonstrated algae’s successful role in liberating hydrogen from water, and Ballengée demonstrated the accomplishment of backwards breeding of frogs. These projects relegate viewers to observers of a system that excluded their participation and judgment. Would Natalie Jeremijenko object to the pedagogical authority of his mode of address? In your opinion, what are the benefits and the disadvantages of exhibiting an on-going experiment as opposed to exhibiting a proven conclusion?