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Naturally Hypernatural I: Concepts of Nature

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Edited By Suzanne Anker and Sabine Flach

Nature, a topic central to art history, is concurrently a dominant concept in contemporary art, art theory and its related disciplines such as cultural theory, philosophy, aesthetic theory and environmental studies. The project Naturally Hypernatural questions lines of tradition and predetermined categories that coexist with the topic of nature. Currently, nature in art surpasses the simple depiction of art as a material or object. To clarify and analyze the interrelations between nature and art is the aim of the project Naturally Hypernatural. Concepts of Nature – the first volume of this project – argues that contemporary art is predominantly concerned with concepts of nature regarding the depth of their implications in order to reveal and analyze their internal structure.

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Petri(e)’s Panoply

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1

SUZANNE ANKER

The Petri dish, like a Rorschach inkblot or DNA’s double helix, has become a popular cultural icon. While denotatively, the Petri dish is a covered glass plate used in scientific laboratories, connotatively, it alludes to something brewing under investigation. In this real or imagined container a concept or a substance, if allowed to ferment, will sprout its hidden dimensions. From seeds, to politics, to toxic environments inside such a dish brings forth a host of arresting results.

Employed as a container for working with fungi, bacteria and even embryos, this discreat glass dish has revolutionized scientific research. Composed of two interlocking circular, yet separate halves, this humble scientific apparatus is, in effect, unchanged since its invention in the 19th century. In addition, it has become a standard accoutrement in Bio Art and Design practices. Many artists are currently working with this object, sometimes as conceptual signifiers of scientific nomenclature with its processes, and at other times as sterile containers for microbes and cells. Microscopic entities have also become prominent in research, possessing an ability to act as sensors, generate fabric, produce ecofriendly renewable materials, as well as being engaged in art as a revolutionary painting medium.

The Petri dish was invented by scientist Julius Richard Petri while he was working for the German army under the direction of the eminent bacteriologist Robert Koch. Robert Koch, along with Louis Pasteur and Ferdinand Julius Cohn, is one of the significant innovators...

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