International Colloquium in Lund, Sweden, March 13-14 2014
This is an interdisciplinary scholarly meeting about creativity, law and human biology. Art and law are in many ways opposites. Law is rule making, restrictive and aims at a common standard for all, while art is norm breaking and seeks the exceptional and unique. And yet art and law mirror each other. Art issues aesthetic regimes and semiotic rule systems. The authority of law, in turn, depends on a creative, performative declaration: “This is the law!” In the last instance, law and art compete for sovereignty, refusing subservience.
Into this superimposition and tension between creativity and rule, the colloquium inserts the question of human biology. Biopolitics has emerged as a cornerstone for understanding modern society, from the invention of health care systems to the construction of concentration camps. Law divides human life into citizens and aliens, through postulating citizenship as a birthright and through granting or refusing migrants and refugees legal protection and access to healthcare. On another level, the biosciences’ dismantling of the body into parts and particles—from kidneys to stem cells and neurons—has legal institutions struggling to regulate organ trade and to find new definitions of human dignity, as seen in the recent EU ban on patents based on embryonic stem cell research. Law faces a human biology that transgresses bodily and national boundaries alike; perhaps it is not surprising that legal and biological meaning merge in theoretical concepts such as “immunity”.
Art, in turn, has always held its gaze on the human body. For Renaissance and Enlightenment culture, the depicted anatomical body served as conceptual model for imagining cosmos and society as harmonious unities. During World War II, painters like Fautrier and Bacon channelled the despair of the era into explorations of the human as a vulnerable and mute body-thing. Today, artists like Abramović, Hatoum, Stelarc, and Catts and Zurr investigate new meanings of bodily existence in late modernity—from commoditized biology to machine-animal hybridity.
The colloquium will bring together around twenty scholars from around the world in a dialogue about art and law, each with its inherent tension between rule and creativity, how they shed light on each other, and how they inform our understanding of the facts, politics and aesthetics of human biology, today and in history.
Conveners: Leif Dahlberg, The School of Computer Science and Communication, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.
Max Liljefors, the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University.
Susanne Lundin, Deniz Kirik, Håkan Hydén, Max Liljefors, The human stem cell: Hope, health, bioeconomy project, Lund University.