Carrie Marie Schneider’s Survival Creativity in Scale Models, aquariums as mini-cinematic theaters, asks participants to play and reimagine life in a post-Harvey Houston. Lina Dib’s recent sound installation, North to South and Back, of bird songs and of people making bird calls becomes, from an ornithological perspective, sonic-art, transforming into an avian taxonomic system. Shrimp Boat Projects, by Eric Leshinsky and Zach Moser, was a working shrimp boat the artists harnessed for seasonal fishing, and allowed access for the public to gain a rare waterscape experience. Dean Ruck’s Big Bubble, in downtown Houston’s Buffalo Bayou, is a consistent presence for the unaware tourist while oxygenating the waterway.
In fact, the first show at the newly built Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 1972 exhibited pioneers at the intersection of art and natural science. Historically, Texan artists are known for bringing natural elements as medium into their work. But is the use of natural material as medium enough to fulfill an expanded definition of bio-art?
Sudhoff, Lartigue and Almendárez’s specific personal history, heritage, gender and cultural practices, combined with an ethical concern for the bio-material, indeed contribute to expanding definitions of bio-art. They reveal facets of the science-art aesthetic which intersect with spiritual and sociological speculations, suggest metaphorical loss, and explore bodily intimacy mediated through technology. These types of frontiers in art-making multiply the purposes of bio-art beyond an interdisciplinary practice with theory, and give greater meaning to the “cultural imaginary” in bio-art today.
Henry G. Sanchez is a Houston-based artist. Sanchez’s recent BioArt Bayoutorium — a social-practice, bio-art project located along Buffalo Bayou in the 2nd Ward of Houston — included a shipping container outfitted with microscopes, imaging equipment and nature tours on pontoon boats.
Anker, Suzanne and Flach, Sabine, The Glass Veil: Seven Adventures in Wonderland, Art / Knowledge / Theory. Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers. Bern, Switzerland, 2015.
Gershon, Pete, Collision: The Contemporary Art Scene in Houston, 1972-1985, Texas A&M University Press, 2018.