ephemeropteræ 2013/11 – Anna Artaker, Josef Penninger

This evening featured a double conference by artist Anna Artaker and genetic scientist Josef Penninger. In WHAT TO GET FROM WHAT YOU SEE Anna Artaker conducted personal, one to one conversations in a specially designed stage setting to investigate different experiences with the visual arts, relying entirely on her spoken word, the ability to appeal to the imagination and to conjure up images without showing them, while the rest of the audience was left to observe the dialogue from the outside like a shadow play. Simultaneously, Josef Penninger shared the secrets of life and his work in modeling diseases at the genome level in his lecture The Renaissance of Biology and Genetics. He elaborated on the need for humans to return back to deep oceans and ocean volcanoes to discover new life forms, “ […] possibly (allowing) us to define our evolution […] and maybe define entirely new medicines for the future.”
Anna Artaker
For this ephemeropteræ session at Augarten, Austrian artistAnna Artaker disclosed the complex structural relationships between the visible (the stage) and the say-able (the performance). WHAT TO GET FROM WHAT YOU SEE was the artist’s premiere on stage and was conceived as a one-to-one performance. The set-up aimed at separating the visual from the conceptual, verbally transmitted experience. Visitors could sign up on location to be received by the artist behind a screen. In each meeting (max. 20 min.) Artaker described different experiences with the visual arts, relying entirely on her spoken word, the ability to appeal to the imagination and to conjure (up) images without showing them. This attempt to translate visual art into spoken word could also be experienced visually as shadow play: the conversations behind the screen could not be overheard from outside, but the interlocutors sitting right next to the screen in a beam of light cast shadows on the screen, creating a live projection for visitors on the other side. 

Anna Artaker’s conceptual practice is focused on questions of “historicizing”, more precisely around the excluded and unsaid in history. The material of her analyses is mostly (historical) photography –often considered a superior means of chronicling reality –as she is concerned with the way in which representation, images and reality relate to one another. Artaker investigates photographic images as well as other forms of presentation and classification, through which they become part of a certain historiography – shown in projects such as 48 Köpfe aus dem Merkurov Museum, an ensuing exhibition at Secession and her ongoing research project ATLAS VON ARKADIEN. The Atlas works like a visual montage that explores the construction of history that serves hegemonic ideologies, offering a method of analysis that withstands hierarchies. Referencing Benjamin’s idea of “reading something that was never written” merged with Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne-Atlas as a form of cultural history via images, the project comprises contemporary issues of an increasingly visual universe in the digital age: “What does it mean when digital cameras in mobile phones document every moment of our lives in images that are immediately made public in the worldwide web? How does our living together change if the gathering function of real places has been taken over by social networks?”. 

Anna Artaker, born 1976 in Austria, lives and works in Vienna. She studied philosophy and political science at the University of Vienna and Paris, and conceptual art at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. She currently is a research assistant at the department of cultural studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna (together with Meike S. Gleim for the research project ATLAS VON ARKADIEN). 
Josef Penninger
Josef Penninger, Austrian genetic engineer, researcher of molecular medicine, founder and director of Vienna’s IMBA shared with us the secrets of life and his work in modeling diseases and cures at the genome level. In The Renaissance of Biology and Genetics he talked about his scientific approach in understanding humans not as “closed genetic organisms” but being in constant contact and communication with their natural and bacterial environment. According to Penninger bacteria are the “true chemists of this world”, harboring entirely new fields of biology and chemistry to be discovered. However, to access these, humans must (re)turn to what the geneticist terms “the frontier places of this planet”- deep oceans, ocean volcanoes- places where organisms and bacteria throughout the evolutionary history of our planets have learned to survive under the most extreme conditions. This has led to Penninger’s collaboration with the TBA21–Academy project. Having recently embarked on a trip to the Galapagos Islands on the Academy’s vessel Dardanella, the scientist described the project as offering a platform for research into a “place where we might really be able to find completely new life forms, new biology(…) possibly (allowing) us to define our evolution …and maybe define entirely new medicines for the future.” 

Penninger, allegedly planning a “local revolution” in genetics, leads a research group which breaks paradigms of biology, such as the creation of a stem cell carrying only a single set of chromosomes, to explore the functions and roles of genes. Through genetic manipulation and alteration in organisms such as mice or flies, the group models diseases at the whole genome level and compares such models with human SNP maps to establish basic principles in physiology and mechanisms of disease pathogenesis- focusing particularly on heart, lung and autoimmune diseases, bone metabolism disorders, as well as cancer. 

Josef Penninger was born in 1964 in Gurten, Austria. He studied Medicine, Immunology, and History of Arts in Innsbruck, Austria. From 1994 to 2002, Penninger worked as a lead researcher at the Amgen Research Institute in Toronto affiliated with the University of Toronto and the Ontario Cancer Institute. In 2002, he accepted the appointment as director of the newly established Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, IMBA, and moved back to Vienna. Currently, Josef Penninger is Full Professor at the Departments of Immunology and Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, Professor of Genetics at the University of Vienna, Austria, and Honorary Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences/Peking Union Medical College.
13. September 2013 um 19:00 Uhr
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary,
TBA21–Augarten, Scherzergasse 1A, 1020 Wien
free entry
curated by
Daniela Zyman und Boris Ondreička
Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein