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Hardcover | $24.95 Trade | £30.95 | ISBN: 9780262014144 | 264 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 9 b&w photos, 8 halftones, 13 line drawings, 1 table| March 2010
 
Paperback | $12.95 Trade | £30.95 | ISBN: 9780262517300 | 264 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 9 b&w photos, 8 halftones, 13 line drawings, 1 table| February 2012
 

Essential Info

Green Light

Toward an Art of Evolution

Overview

Humans have bred plants and animals with an eye to aesthetics for centuries: flowers are selected for colorful blossoms or luxuriant foliage; racehorses are bred for the elegance of their frames. Hybridized plants were first exhibited as fine art in 1936, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York showed Edward Steichen's hybrid delphiniums. Since then, bio art has become a genre; artists work with a variety of living things, including plants, animals, bacteria, slime molds, and fungi. Many commentators have addressed the social and political concerns raised by making art out of living material. In Green Light, however, George Gessert examines the role that aesthetic perception has played in bio art and other interventions in evolution.

Gessert looks at a variety of life forms that humans have helped shape, focusing on plants—the most widely domesticated form of life and the one that has been crucial to his own work as an artist. We learn about Onagadori chickens, bred to have tail feathers twenty or more feet long; pleasure gardens of the Aztecs, cultivated for intoxicating fragrance; Darwin's relationship to the arts; the rise and fall of eugenics; the aesthetic standards promoted by national plant societies; a daffodil that looks like a rose; and praise for weeds and wildflowers. Gessert surveys recent bio art and its accompanying philosophical problems, the "slow art" of plant breeding, and how to create new life that takes into account what we know about ecology, aesthetics, and ourselves.

A Leonardo Book

About the Author

George Gessert is an artist whose work focuses on the overlap between art and genetics. His exhibits often involve plants he has hybridized or documentation of breeding projects. His writings have appeared in Leonardo, Art Papers, Design Issues, Massachusetts Review, Hortus, Best American Essays 2007, Pushcart Prize XXX, and other publications.

Table of Contents

  • Green Light
  • Leonardo
  • Roger F. Malina, Executive Editor
  • Sean Cubitt, Editor-in-Chief
  • The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet
  • ,
  • edited by Ken Goldberg, 2000
  • The Language of New Media
  • ,
  • Lev Manovich, 2001
  • Metal and Flesh: The Evolution of Man: Technology Takes Over
  • ,
  • Ollivier Dyens, 2001
  • Uncanny Networks: Dialogues with the Virtual Intelligentsia
  • ,
  • Geert Lovink, 2002
  • Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology
  • ,
  • Stephen Wilson, 2002
  • Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion
  • ,
  • Oliver Grau, 2003
  • Women, Art, and Technology
  • ,
  • edited by Judy Malloy, 2003
  • Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization
  • ,
  • Alexander R. Galloway, 2004
  • At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet
  • ,
  • edited by Annmarie Chandler and Norie Neumark, 2005
  • The Visual Mind II
  • ,
  • edited by Michele Emmer, 2005
  • CODE: Collaborative Ownership and the Digital Economy
  • edited by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, 2005
  • The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture
  • ,
  • Eugene Thacker, 2005
  • Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture
  • ,
  • Matthew Fuller, 2005
  • New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories
  • ,
  • edited by Adalaide Morris and Thomas Swiss, 2006
  • Aesthetic Computing
  • ,
  • edited by Paul A. Fishwick, 2006
  • Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation
  • ,
  • Steve Dixon, 2006
  • MediaArtHistories
  • ,
  • edited by Oliver Grau, 2006
  • From Technological to Virtual Art
  • ,
  • Frank Popper, 2007
  • META/DATA: A Digital Poetics
  • ,
  • Mark Amerika, 2007
  • Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond
  • ,
  • Eduardo Kac, 2007
  • The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science
  • ,
  • Cretien van Campen, 2007
  • Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology
  • ,
  • Susan Kozel, 2007
  • Video: The Reflexive Medium
  • ,
  • Yvonne Spielmann, 2007
  • Software Studies: A Lexicon
  • ,
  • Matthew Fuller, 2008
  • Tactical Biopolitics: Theory, Practice, and the Life Sciences
  • ,
  • edited by Beatriz da Costa and Kavita Philip, 2008
  • White Heat and Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960–1980
  • ,
  • edited by Paul Brown, Charlie Gere, Nicholas Lambert, and Catherine Mason, 2008
  • Curating New Media Art
  • ,
  • Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook 2010
  • Green Light: Toward an Art of Evolution
  • ,
  • George Gessert, 2010
  • See <http://mitpress.mit.edu> for a complete list of titles in this series.
  • Green Light
  • Toward an Art of Evolution
  • George Gessert
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • © 2010
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please email special_sales@mitpress.mit.edu
  • This book was set in Stone Serif and Stone Sans by the MIT Press.
  • Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Gessert, George, 1944– Green light : toward an art of evolution / George Gessert. p. cm.—(Leonardo books) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-262-01414-4 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Art and biology. 2. Biotechnology in art. 3. Nature (Aesthetics). 4. Evolution (Biology)— Philosophy. I. Title. II. Title: Toward an art of evolution. N72.B5G47 2010 701'.08—dc22 2009037617
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • “We dwell on a largely unexplored planet.”
  • —E. O. Wilson
  • “See how they wake without a question
  • Even though the whole world is burning.”
  • —W. S. Merwin
  • “Learn the flowers
  • Go light”
  • —Gary Snyder
  • Contents
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Publication History xv
  • Introduction xix
  • 1 Divine Plants and Magical Animals 1
  • 2 Aesthetic Effects of Domestication 11
  • 3 The Rainforests of Domestication 21
  • 4 The Rise of Ornamental Plants 33
  • 5 Darwin’s Sublime 41
  • 6 Playing God 47
  • 7 Standards of Excellence 53
  • 8 Doubles 61
  • 9 Kitsch Plants 81
  • 10 Bastard Flowers, Genetic Goofies, and Freud’s Bow Wows 93
  • 11 Biotechnology in the Garden 107
  • 12 Recent Art Involving DNA 111
  • 13 Naming Life 125
  • 14 Anthropocentrism and Genetic Art 133
  • 15 The Angel of Extinction 143
  • 16 Seven Breeding Complexes 153
  • 17 The Slowest Art 171
  • 18 Breeding for Wildness 177
  • Appendix 1
  • Organisms in Bio Art 185
  • Appendix 2
  • Bio Art Terminology 191
  • Appendix 3
  • The Four Main Types of Double Flowers 193
  • Appendix 4
  • Books and Catalogs on Biotech Art Published since 2000 195
  • Notes 197
  • Index 219

Reviews

“[A] more than fascinating collection of notes about genetics and evolution in the context of art, and vice versa, and the aesthetic interventions of Homo sapiens.” , Craig Hilton, Leonardo Reviews

Endorsements

"Green Light is a richly articulated argument that aesthetics is an evolutionary force at work in bio art, biotechnology, and ethics. This splendid book is replete with the sensual details of plants and other critters who are entangled with artists, breeders, scientists, and the rest of us in the ongoing evolution of terran life. Gessert's comprehensive art-historical knowledge and his own innovative aesthetics and art practices invite non-anthropocentric response to the myriad living beings becoming with each other on this vulnerable earth."
Donna Haraway, University of California Santa Cruz, author of When Species Meet

"Green Light is a richly articulated argument that aesthetics is an evolutionary force at work in bio art, biotechnology, and ethics. This splendid book is replete with the sensual details of plants and other critters who are entangled with artists, breeders, scientists, and the rest of us in the ongoing evolution of terran life. Gessert's comprehensive art-historical knowledge and his own innovative aesthetics and art practices invite non-anthropocentric response to the myriad living beings becoming with each other on this vulnerable earth."
Donna Haraway, University of California Santa Cruz, author of When Species Meet

"Manipulating the sexual organs of plants is where we've intervened in evolution, where we see the most durable marks of our cultures. Gessert's stunningly clear and delicately poetic series of notes presents the durable preoccupations that have informed the manipulation of life, including a comprehensive survey of contemporary biotech art and the patient multigenerational folk art of plant and animal breeders. Green Light illuminates that we can continue to re-imagine our relationship with other living thingsand, through bio art, 'imagine ourselves into the future.'"
Natalie Jeremijenko, xClinic, New York University