Adam Zaretsky

Bioartist, performer, researcher and art theorist

Adam Zaretsky is a Vivoartist working in Biology and Art Wet Lab Practice. This involves biological lab immersion as a process towards inspired artistic projects. His personal research interests revolve around life, living systems, exploration into the mysteries of life and interrogating varied cultural definitions that stratify life's popular categorizations. He also focuses on legal, ethical and social implications of some of the newer biotechnological materials and methods: Molecular Biology, ART [Assisted Reproductive Technology] and Transgenic Protocols. Zaretsky also teaches Vivoarts: Ecology, Biotechnology, Non-human Relations, Live Art and Gastronomy. Focus is on artistic uses and the social implications of molecular biology, tissue culture, genomics and developmental biology.

Adam Zaretsky graduated in Art Studio from University of California at Davis, 1995. He has an Art and Technology MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, 1999. He has two years experience as a Research Associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Arnold Demain Laboratory for Microbiology and Industrial Fermentation, 1999-2001. He has two years experience as an Organic Farmer, working to aid subsistence farmers in such disparate climes as Guatemala, Sumatra, New York and Hawaii, 1993-1995. He also has two years experience as a sex worker/activist, gleaning the underbelly of our human behavioral repertoire for biological commentary on sexual variety, 1996-1998.

Adam Zaretsky has been published in Nature Magazine, Red Herring, Leonardo, The Washington Post and Johnny’s Unstoppable Bathroom Reader. He has spoken at Harvard, NYU, CAA and SCIARC.

Why Biotechnology and the Arts?

For artists (and the public in general), laboratories are the most intimidating and foreign sites of bio-interface. We are also in the center of a wave of biological fetishism, which is likely to unfold into spurts of unbelievable difference in the coming years. Assuming we have not annihilated ourselves in aggressive tech-war maneuvers, there is a good chance that our kindred ten to twenty generations from now will be appear to be of non-human origin. For this reason, these places and the headspaces of their inhabitants need to be anthropologically explored before intelligent commentary can be made.

Art and Biology Research:

While immersed as a Researcher in the MIT Biology Labs, Adam created (in the lab) MicroSushi, First Attempts at Embryonic Transplant Surgery and The PostHuman Herald all three of which were presented at SEAFair 2001 Skopje Electronic Arts Fair, Society and Genomic Culture, Museum of Contemporary Arts, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. During his time at MIT, Adam also teamed up with Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr of Tissue Culture and Art in the Vacanti Lab of Mass General Hospital to design a proof of concept experimental ‘Dynamic Seeding Musical Bioreactor’ based on Adam’s Experimental Fermentations known as The Humperdinck Effect.

His time spent in the lab gave him the impetus to craft the concepts behind The Workhorse Zoo and MMMM…, both of which were funded by The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology. The grant in the amount of $20,000 was awarded to these support projects. The WorkHorse Zoo was presented at Unmediated Vision, Salina Art Center, Salina, Kansas, 2001 and MMMM… was presented at Biofeel, Biennial of Electronic Arts Perth, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, August 1-25 2002. The Pig Wings Project by the Tissue Culture & Art Project in collaboration with Adam Zaretsky was displayed at the DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA on March 8 - May 25, 2003. This included a video of our dancing Biopolymers.

The Langlois Foundation also helped fund Adam’s BioArt Practice as an Honorary Visiting Researcher in the Department of Human Anatomy, University of Western Australia as a part of SymbioticA. While immersed as a Researcher in these labs, Adam created (in the lab), The Pineal Extendor, The Brainus/Analolly Complex and GLACK! These projects have gone on to exhibit in Australia, Macedonia and the USA.

What is VivoArts?

The goal of this course is to create an open ended interface between life and the arts. To keep all expressive options dilated, the focus of the class is not on the logic of the biologic. Instead, our cultural relationships to the world of life are exposed in their contradictory and slippery illogics. The interfaces between human society and the ecosphere are identified, rethought and collaged together to form signs of definitional breakdown. Some initial categories for treating to artistic xenophilia: Food, Nature, Laboratory, Our Bodies and Pets. By defining where and how we interface with these lifeforms and by mixing these logics we arrive at unusual conceptual re-evaluations.

Vivoarts and the Body:

Throughout his Career, Adam has consitantly explored Body Art, Sexuality, Sex Activism, ArtPorn and Fetishism as guiding forces for technological innovation and arenas to de-repress in the name of more pleasurable futures. His collaborative video Squart (w. Yoshie Suzuki) was confiscated from the PORN AR(t)OUND THE WORLD festival, 2002 by the Moral Police of Mechelen, Belgium. And he was the Curator of the Flesh Pod and Moderator of the panel: Transhumanism from the Inside Out: Flesh Creatives and the Ethics of Body Design at Version>03, Museum of Contemporary Art and Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois, 2003.

While teaching at RPI, Adam wrote pFARM, the Power Farm conceptual sketch. He was funded by two radical, independent, local Woodstockers a total of $20,000 to develop and shoot the weeklong performance. pFARM is a Biotech-Intensive Fetish Powered Organic Farm Incorporated Cult Corporation. PFARM seems to incorporate the critical vantage points of Biotechnology, Fetish Industry/Underground and Alternative Farming… Three Subcultures that Adam has spent Ethnographic Quality Time immersed in. In many ways pFARM represents a thorough conglomeration of all the disparate complexity which informs Adam’s visions of an erotically charged post-human vivocentrism.

VivoArts and Animal Relations:

Adam will continue to be an interested commentator on and practitioner of cultural aspects of biotechnological applications from both inside and outside the laboratory. But, in his course and art productions, he has expanded the realm of Biology to be inclusive of the entirety of the life world, hence VivoArts. Beyond the Biotechnological Arts, VivoArts includes… Ecology Arts, Gastronomic Arts, Body Arts, Breeding Arts and Animal Relation Arts. These subsets have become foci for his work, both professional and pedagogical.

'Rewilding from the Urban Out.'

Concepts of Rewilding and Enrichment have come to inform Adam’s Ideas about the process of enculturation and the hopes for a life after deprogramming. The projects I will describe in the last segment of this application stem from the ecological, environmental and cultural oddity of ‘our natural world’ conceptualized through concepts of Rewilding, Enrichment and Wilderness Refuges.