Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in | 0 comments

Today, the first steps in the fledgling field of synthetic biology have rekindled the debate surrounding the design and manipulation of nature. In Zero Park artist Sascha Pohflepp explores these issues through an installation based on a fictitious landscape in northern California. A visual narrative describes the flora and fauna of a nature site that has been restored to its original state by means of an elaborate engineering process. The breathtakingly beautiful landscape is enhanced by a traveling camera shot that guides us across a wilderness in an apparent state of equilibrium. The narrator offers a detailed description of the setting and the species that populate it, conveyed in a neutral tone that might be the typical voice of a garrulous naturalist, an expert biologist or even, perhaps, the CEO of a major biotech corporation. Pohflepp’s work explores the hybrid realities and myths that grow out of the development of new technology, and how that technology tends to create its own narratives. In Zero Park he constructs a natural scene with an undercurrent of artificiality that illustrates the fantasies spawned by advanced technical and scientific breakthroughs, whose cultural interpretation has yet to be defined. At the same time, Zero Park underscores the urgent need to discuss the role that synthetic biology should play in our culture and how its application might affect the configuration of existing ecosystems. Zero Park asks viewers to reflect on and respond to the natural/artificial dichotomy, but it also alludes to a new concept of landscape that presents an unprecedented version of nature at the mercy of the new possibilities of scientific manipulation. Pohflepp, who won an honorable mention in VIDA 12.0 (2009) for the work Growth Assembly, created in collaboration with Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, is an artist whose insightful analysis of the idea of nature in the contemporary era serves to enrich the territory of art and artificial life.

About the author

Sascha Pohflepp is an artist, designer and writer whose work has been known to probe the role of technology in our efforts to understand and influence our environment. Sascha Pohflepp holds a degree from UDK Berlin and an MA from RCA London.

His interest extends across both historical aspects and visions of the future and his practice often involves collaboration with other artists and scientists, creating work on subjects ranging from synthetic biology to geo-engineering and space exploration. Grants and Residencies include an EPSRC Knowledge Transfer grant in 2011 and residencies in the Synthetic Aesthetics project and at Art Center College Pasadena in 2010. In 2013 Sascha Pohflepp was an artist-in-residence at Eyebeam, New York City. Recent exhibitions include “Bunny Smash” at MOT Tokyo, “Grow Your Own” at Science Gallery Dublin, “Talk To Me” at MoMA New York, and “Pre-history of the Image” at STUK Kunstencentrum, Leuven. From 2004 to 2007 he was a contributing editor to We-Make-Money-Not-Art and his writing has since been published on various platforms including Volume, Under/Current and VVVNT. His essay on the notion of living machines is part of the book “Synthetic Aesthetics” published in 2014 for MIT Press.