I tend to associate the concept of poetry with education and higher social status. When I think of poetry, I envision a wealthy, handsome, Victorian man reading to the female object of his affection (who, by the way, is wearing a lacy, white gown) in a flowery meadow in the Springtime. Obviously, this transcendental picture encompasses only a fraction of what poetry is and represents, but it is indicative of the aloofness and elite status that has surrounded poetry for centuries. Now, of course, the layman can take ownership of poetry, both in terms of its creation and the appreciation of it, but the historical connotations of poetry make Eduardo Kac’s concept of biopoetry so much more powerful.
With biopoetry, which Kac describes as employing, “biotechnology and living organisms in poetry as a new realm of verbal, paraverbal and nonverbal creation,” Kac brings into question the purpose, audience, form, and even the definition of poetry. Thinking of our own theoretical forms of biopoetry was a very interesting and creative thought experiment. In doing so, and in reading Kac’s own theoretical biopoetry proposals, I realized that I was surrounded by some realized art pieces that one could consider biopoetry. Indeed, I think that Eduardo Kac would consider them as such.
(Grow Love with Me)
Yoko Ono has a piece, entitled “Grow Love With Me,” in which she laser cuts the word “love” onto a seed, and as it grows through each stage of life, love stays imprinted on the plant, until it finally grows a leaf, that also says love. In this case, the plant acts as both the form and, in part, the audience of the poem. In a way, though, the plant’s lifespan, from seedling until its eventual death is, itself, the poetry, and Ono just draws our attention to that.
Joe Davis’s piece, “Microvenus,” which we learned about in the first lecture, explores mass production of information on a small scale. Connecting to Mick’s presentation about the show, "Wetware," it’s interesting to think of Microvenus as being part of the cycle of the dissemination of poetry, which is a product of all the different “-wares”: poetry started out being reproduced through wetware (the brain) by the processes of oral storytelling and memory, then poetry was reproduced through hardware (the printing press), then through software (the internet), and now through wetware again (the E.coli).
Bartholomäus Traubeck has a piece, entitled “Years” (which actually inspired one of the biopoetry ideas that I proposed in class), in which he cut tree trunks into discs, spun them on a record player, and developed a special camera/ software that translated the rings into sounds. This piece reminded me of the hours I spent in Latin class, slaving away, attempting to translate Vergil and Homer, searching for meaning and sense in their foreign poetry (which was separated from me both by language and time).
Victoria’s project, “Bird Song Diamond,” acts as biopoetry in the same was as Traubeck’s piece, although the execution is very different. She and her team attempt to visualize and make sense of the poetry of birdsong. Dr. Charles Taylor, with whom she collaborated, even attempts to understand the syntax and meaning of bird songs in his research.
As technology progresses, it will be interesting to see how poetry, the definition of “life,” and the art of biopoetry will all change. I could see the introduction of A.I. as a widely accepted life form eventually, and the paradigm shift of computer-generated poetry acting as a form (or at least branch) of biopoetry.
Davis, Joe. "Microvenus." Genetics and Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2016.
Larusso, Mick, et al.. "Wetware: Art | Agency | Animation." Beall Center for Art + Technology. University of California, Irvine, n.d. Web. Apr. 2016.
Kac, Eduardo. "Biopoetry." Kac Web, n.d. Web. Apr. 2016.
Ono, Yoko. "Grow Love With Me." Serpentine Galleries. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2016.
Traubeck, Bartholomäus. "Years." Traubeck.com. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2016.
Vesna, Victoria, et al.. "BIRD SONG DIAMOND: The Acoustic Mapping of Bird Song Networks." Art|Sci Center. UCLA, July 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.