“From Wetware Art to Greenness Studies” presented by Hauser


Session Title:

  • ISEA Keynotes

Presentation Title:

  • From Wetware Art to Greenness Studies




  • After the disentanglement of the terms ‘life’ and ‘nature’ – both terms putatively non-technological – the concepts ‘green’ and ‘nature’ need to be uncoupled as well. Investigations into biomediality have shown that contemporary art forms which employ biotechnologies as a point of departure, emphasize – paradoxically – both their ‘aliveness’ and authenticity on the one hand, and their explicit technicity and artificiality on the other. We encounter a similar problem with the culturally pervasive greenness trope: Aliveness and greenness are linked through ‘biofacticity’, the idea of biological artifacts that at the same time grow and indeed are technically constructed from the beginning.

    In this media archaeological talk, ‘green’, symbolically associated with the ‘natural’ and employed to hyper-compensate for what humans feel they have lost, will be addressed as the most anthropocentric of all colours, in its inherent ambiguity between alleged naturalness and artificiality. As ‘green’ has become a pervasive trope across a broad range of disciplines, and its meanings have migrated across different cultures of knowledge, inherent contradictions have emerged. Far from having universal meaning, ‘green’ marks a dramatic knowledge gap prone to systematic misunderstandings: Engineers brand ‘green technologies’ as ecologically benign, while climate researchers point to the ‘greening of the earth’ itself as the alarming effect of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. ‘Green growth’ aims to reconcile economic and ecologically sustainable development, while in philosophy ‘prismatic ecology’ rebukes the use of green to represent binary ideas of the other-than-human world as an idealized nature. More concept than colour, ‘green’ is frequently being reduced to a mere metaphor stripped of its material, epistemological and historical referents.

    There has been little reflection upon – and much abuse of – ‘green’ in its migration across different knowledge cultures. The resultant confusion increasingly obstructs, rather than enables, an interdisciplinary dialogue between the humanities and the natural sciences – a dialogue which is urgently required in light of anthropogenic effects on climate and biodiversity: Researchers, policymakers and citizens lack a common terminology to address real world problems, meanwhile green-washing greenhouse effects away. This interdisciplinary paper presents a novel art, media studies, science and technology studies, and natural sciences based approach to reinvestigate the unique role of greenness in human self-understanding as colour, percept, medium, material biological agency, semantic construct and ideology.