Ars Electronica 1993
Festival-Program 1993
Back to:
Festival 1979-2007


DADA in Scene

'Johannes Voggenhuber Johannes Voggenhuber

The special fascination of gene technology is to be found in the assertion made by its advocates, that it makes the fabrication, tuning and designing of organisms, plants, and animals possible, exactly as desired. The idea of helping the environmentally contaminated universe itself, of producing refuse-eating super-bacteria, herbicide-resistant plants or waste water-proof giant trout, nourishes the omnipotent feeling of early childhood: In this manner, the hibernation reserved until now for poikilothermic animals – to be more exact, a gene which researchers think causes hibernation – will be packed into cattle genoms so that animal keepers can save on feeding costs in winter in cold regions with longer periods of vegetation lulls.

Nevertheless, the greyish practical experience can never keep up with the bright, dazzling theory, as the results can hardly be predicted, and with complex organisms it is uncertain as to where and how genes are inserted, activated and/or deactivated: Theoretically, even in gene technology two plus two is still four, but practically speaking, the sum generally deviates from this result as we mainly have to reckon with biological random numbers.

Through the haphazard combination of very different genetic offset pieces, gene technology is simply the science of post modernism, the chance encounter of sewing machines and umbrellas on a dissecting table. It is the advent of DA in science. Whereas the Dadaists are defined as being anti-artists, having put new life into art by means of provocation and fun, the gene technologists get down seriously to their biological lotto game. It didn't occur to the inexhaustible imagination of the Dadaists to secure exclusive rights for alphabets and letters, scales and sounds, such fun only becomes a matter of course for the new biologists who are not afraid of patenting genes, plants and living beings as inventions to introduce a kind of genetic bondage.

The awareness that the isolated contemplation of individual aspects is insufficient as the earth forms a complicated ecosytem, makes the gene technician's promise that their instrumentation could solve all environmental, waste, food, propagation and other life problems, seems to be a lack of experience. The blind dealing with life, which appears to be lacking and in need of improvement in the cold light of scientific interest, turns out to be a dangerous shortsightendness. For, while evolution slowly but surely creates new relationships, with organisms mutually developing and getting used to each other, cautious displacements are taking place in the ecostructure, gene technologists want to turn the universe upside down, over night.

The big danger behind gene technology is its lack of error sympathy: Organisms manipulated by gene technology once set free at some point, can never fully be called back, can multiply and spread out, can supersede natural organisms and completely upset the sensitive ecosystem.