In this study, I try to draw up a topographic map of the discourses on medium (media),new media, and the post-media condition, to examine the features of bio-media used in bioart and its significance as a medium. By combining the artistic media with the very different areas, digital technology and biologic technology, bioart has opened a new world of media that has not yet existed.
In other words, bioart groups together the biological media using living cells and culture, not only with the artistic role which expresses the ideas, information, image,sound, color and texture, but also with digital function which encompass both biological content and artistic expression. Thus, Eugene Thacker defines biomedia as “the informatic recontextualization of biological components and processes.” This is because in contemporary biology, concepts related to biological material are informaticized in some kind of form, and reversely, information can also be transformed into biological material in some way. That is, the technologies of bio-informatics and bio-computing,under an inverse relationship, both actually illustrate how biology can become media.
I have explained the features of biomedia, combining biology and digital technology,with Peter Weibel”s concept of the second phase of the condition of post-media,“the mixing of the media”. Media-specificity will disappear and all media will be fused together, stimulated by universal digital computer technology. This can, on one hand,be explained through the phenomena of media convergence. Biological methods,computer technology and esthetic meanings, previously disparate, become converged through each media layer. That is, even though they are living biological media, they can be reverted into linguistic code or data, and can be considered also as the convergence of layers producing the socio-cultural meanings and content, closely related to them.
I have actually applied them to bioart works to substitute the layer of “Wetware”as the physical layer, the layer of “Dryware” as code-logical layer, and the layer of “Meaningware” as the cultural layer. Wetware, that is bio-media from the physical layer perspective, signifies the biological media encompassing the culture, cells, bacteria, and all experimental instruments while dryware, the bio-media seen from code-logic layer of biocomputing technology, becomes integrated into language, data, and logic along with DNA nucleotide codes, and finally, meaningware, the biomedia from the cultural layer,presents the content and meaning produced through the work. However, the media which has meaning in each layer become fused in bioart and is placed within converged media.
The meaning of bioart is further emphasized through the “aliveness” of media which is the art and life in bioart works. However, media which is dependent on being alive also has the living being’s destiny to die one day. Bioartists place their biomedia upon the boundaries of life and death, to make us again perceive life, to expose technology which manipulates living organisms, and rethink about the hidden capital and conspiracy of ideology behind bio-technology. In other words, although they borrow technology from bio-technology, they emphasize the “natural” law of “death”, despite bio-technology”s aim for lengthening human life. The “aliveness” of the media enforces a certain burden and responsibility to the artists. This is related to the technology dealing with organisms,the expression forms and content of their art, and the message they want to deliver.
The “aliveness” of biomedia not only gives influence to the convergence of different media, but becomes a greater burden and significant content to the viewer who has to read it as one converged entity.
The producers of biomedia aim for viewers to possess a critical position for themselves as they realize the present state of scientific research in this area and view the various arguments and perspectives of such developments by artists. They will be fundamental meaning related to how we will accept new subjects or beings created by genetic engineering technology, what relationship human beings will make with them,and how the new demands, persistently generated by ethics and epistemology, will be solved.