1. The main indicator that manifests the end of a certain historic period is the emergence of strong tendencies of the system’s transition onto a more complex level - tendencies which are radically incompatible with the fundamental structures of that period. Incorporating those trends into the reality invariably leads to the systemic catastrophe, followed by the whole environment’s shift to the new development phase. According to John Von Neumann, “any system’s development occurs in the circumstances when it is on the verge of a catastrophe”.
2. This characteristic is applicable to the state-of-the-art of man’s technological and socio-cultural sphere. Introducing the definition, we understand the Third Modernization as the next stage in the development of the socio-economic and cultural Modernistic project, which is taking shape under radicalization and redundancy of the technological and scientific progress. At present the Third Modernization process is concurrently supported by two long-term tendencies, equally constituting a structural revolution, both in the socio-economic sphere, and in man’s psychophysical organization.
3. Firstly, this is the on-going revolution in the information science that already now enables handling of immense data arrays, and put forward the intellectual production, leading to an exceptionally fast and continuous renewal of the technosphere, and to an “instantaneous”, from the point of view of ordinary perception, change of social and economic configurations. Radicalization which defines this process is well illustrated not only by the applications of Moore’s law on the exponential growth of the computing power, but also by the change of technological paradigms substantiating it. The list of such paradigms, based on the five generations of the counting devices, is given by Ray Kurzweil: electromechanics, relay devices, electronic valves, transistors, integrated circuits etc. Every time the next paradigm exhausts its potential, it is replaced by the next one, starting from the point where its predecessor is “used up”. Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century mankind was doubling the computing power every three years, while at the start of the 21st century we are doubling it every year. The redundancy level in this area (as well as in a whole series of other areas) can be described as the transition to nanotechnologies, operating fundamentally new properties of structures that are on the brink of merge between the smallest of man-made devices, and the biggest molecules of living organisms.
4. Secondly, this is the revolution in biology bringing forth by means of biomedical technologies (genetic engineering, implantology, stem cell engineering, cloning etc.) the flexibility of the very species of “homo sapiens”. The evolutionary potential contained in this trend secures not only the euhominid’s breakaway from some of his primarily inorganic biological properties, but also his acquisition of features of “inhuman” character, and, consequently, – the modification of the very anthropomorphic pattern of the civilization. This tendency is radicalized by means of man’s practical mastering of the transfer from the pro-creative position in generation of homothetic (and other living) creatures, which still preserved a play field for spontaneous natural forces, towards a rationally controlled techno-biological production. As for the redundancy of this trend, it can be characterized not only by the growing evolution speed of techno-biological individuals, who are by-passing the natural selection in the ecosystem, but also by the “qualitative” change of the very definition of evolution. The “new” biology will be forced to assess the development of the new entities by their economic, not evolutional, success.
5. Despite of the evolutionally imminent and historically “positive” character of the inceptive aromorphosis (i.e. the system’s transition onto a more complicated level), both of these long-term trends, the informational and the biological, are equally catastrophic. At least because from the point of view of the said “ordinary” perception they carry a practical systemic novelty, incompatible with the realities of yesterday. In order to eliminate such disbalance, the system needs an enhancement of humanitarian technologies, which is accompanied by intensive simulation of physical technologies losing their systemic properties.
6. This very type of models in the sphere of contemporary art is represented by artworks generated with the help of biomedical and information technologies. In order to describe them, let’s use the following “style” definition. We understand the Third Moderne as the general name for art tendencies which declare new constructive approaches, consolidating qualitative and quantitative characteristics of artefacts through organization, simulation or consideration of impact of the metabolic processes. In biology, metabolism, as is known, is understood as the exchange of substance, energy, and information. When we note that the main systemic requirement of the Third Moderne is metabolism of artworks, we thus speak of the necessity to provide embodied artefacts with the properties of growth, variability, self-preservation, and reproductivity. All these qualities of metabolas help to proceed from observation of discrete objects in a discrete area to the description of materialized dynamic systems in the area of relations.
7. Important to note is the fundamental distinction of techno-biological artworks from biological organisms. The main criterion to distinguish a biological organism is his possession of the information on self-reproduction that exists in the genotype inseparably from the individual. As is known, this allows biological organisms to evolve at a low rate set by the “blind” nature of the interspecific informational (natural) selection. The nature of selection in this case is defined by the absence of a rational agent, and its rate is set by the physical inseparability of the genotype (information on the species) from the individual.
8. The techno-biological artwork combines the features of both a living organism, and a technical product. It means that, on the one hand, an artwork possesses the information on self-reproduction, in-built in its genotype, while, on the other hand, it has the “genetic” information, physically separated from it and existing as a document. The combination of these properties brings forth multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary artistic approaches, which earlier, in the context of the previous stages in art history, were totally unrealizable. Interaction with the living as technical (variability) allows to perform an elementary act of the workpiece selection at the level of documentation (at the information level, with no physical realization). Interaction with the technical as living (responsibility) creates a certain moral and ethical attitude towards the technological individual, adopting man to it likewise to a living entity. Finally, interpretation activity (involvement) is the integration of this entity into a certain social framework by describing the origin of “life” created by the artist.
9. Speaking about Extra Ear Stelarc’s project, I would like to note the following. Today, one possible artistic strategy is the investigation not of what art also can do (in the sense of hi-tech things) but of what art alone can do. In such a way the central point of the activity moves from production of “wet” bio-objects (with what science and bio-industry are occupied) to the research in the conditions for the emergence of the techno-biological artworks. As a result of such an approach, artwork must fail first, in order to be beautified later; art must lose its practical value in order to obtain artistic value. Stelarc’s third ear is an example of such inusability. The conscious uncompletedness of the project (the ear does not hear) points to the fact that it is precisely the pre-programmed inusability of the third ear, that is ear only by form, but are not designed for hearing in its essence and inner construction, which makes it a fact of art. This Extra Ear by Stelarc refer to a long list of historical 'failures' of artists, among which are Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine, constructions by Tatlin and Tingueli, and others. This kind of art engineering has a distinct preventive character because, reporting the failure of contemporary science and technology, it also gains a human dimension and contributes to our idea that the world has once been different and is still able to become totally different than it is.
10. The paradoxical combination in a techno-biological artwork of properties of a living organism and of a technical object brings us, at least, to the following conclusions:
– It makes no sense any more to oppose the notions of the “artificial” and “natural” life, just as strive for further combining of life and art. With the emergence of a whole series of techno-biological artworks this debate is given a count-down. As David Kremers said, “… we are rapidly moving from the manipulation of more or less inanimate objects to the generation of more or less living organisms.”
– Since the technology implanted into organic substance on the basis of symbiosis generates a new type of evolutionary synthesis, techno-biological creatures are no longer bound to “reflect” life, or “represent” it. What they are supposed to do is to participate pari passu with us in its impetuous flow.
– We have to learn to perceive techno-biological artworks “flowably”. It means that the differences between authenticity and falsification, reality and virtuality will now be of impulsive character, depending only upon us. Thus we find ourselves in the situation of an elaborate and unceasing game which localizes new correlations of mobility in granting and withdrawal of the gift of authenticity, and hence - the gift of existence.
11. I would like to conclude this text with the following statement. The basic law of technology, which has been repeatedly uttered by the philosophy and sociology of the 20th century, says that each new technical advance considered by itself appears to be desirable, while technological process as a hole continually narrows the common sphere of freedom. One cannot say that the representatives of technocratic fields are not familiar with this thesis. However, positivism peculiar to these specialists cherishes our hope for an auspicious outcome. This, actually, distinguishes scientists from the artists that work in the filed of contemporary technologies. Because the last imagine very clearly (and as a spectacle) the consequences of continuous creation of the positive: when the negative gives birth to crisis and criticism, the positive being exalted to the level of hyperbole gives birth to catastrophe.
The author would like to record his gratitude to the artists who granted the rights for publishing their works in Russia; Art and Technology Department, Ohio State University (Columbus) and personally professor Ken Rinaldo professor Amy Youngs; and also the Kaliningrad Branch of NCCA for informational and creative support.
„THE THIRD MODERNIZATION: A TECHNO-BIOLOGICAL ARTWORK“
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