PRINT January 2016

“Life Itself”

Curated by Daniel Birnbaum, Carsten Höller, and Jo Widoff

Though motivated by the question What is life?, “Life Itself” will look beyond the science undergirding recent bio-art, favoring more oblique approaches to understanding organic forms and processes. So in lieu of genomic sequences, cell cultures, and high-tech bodily prosthetics, we will find some seventy works from the early twentieth century onward in a variety of surprisingly traditional media. These include Katja Novitskova’s post-Internet sculptural fauna (Approximations, 2012–) and Pierre Huyghe’s postapocalyptic video investigation of primate behavior, Untitled (Human Mask), 2014. Noting that the definitions of life offered by Western science and philosophy “have proven unsatisfactory,” the curators—including Höller, who holds an advanced degree in agricultural entomology—suggest that “life itself” may prove ineffable. That said, life is also the dynamic product of established and emerging discourses, as indicated by the show’s corresponding reader, comprising 173 texts by authors hailing from myriad fields.