Toward an Art of Evolution
How humans' aesthetic perceptions have shaped other life forms, from racehorses to ornamental plants.
Humans have bred plants and animals with an eye to aesthetics for centuries: flowers are selected for colorful blossoms or luxuriant foliage; racehorses are prized 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 pleasure gardens of the Aztecs, cultivated for intoxicating fragrance; the aesthetic standards promoted by national plant societies; a daffodil that looks like a rose; and praise for weeds and wildflowers.
Hardcover$6.75 S | £5.99 ISBN: 9780262014144 264 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 9 b&w photos, 8 halftones, 13 line drawings, 1 table
Paperback$13.95 S | £10.99 ISBN: 9780262517300 264 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 9 b&w photos, 8 halftones, 13 line drawings, 1 table
[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.
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 things and, through bio art, 'imagine ourselves into the future
xClinic, New York University