Diemut Strebe is an artist in residence at the MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology, and has collaborated with several MIT faculty including Noam Chomsky, Robert Langer, Brian L. Wardle, and many others.
ALI CLE program attorney, Jaimee Taibi, had the opportunity to speak with Diemut Strebe following her keynote presentation to the sold out Legal Issues in Museum Administration 2018 conference in Boston. Below are some excerpts from their conversation:
Jaimee: Would you mind telling me a little about yourself?
Diemut: So my name is Diemut Strebe. I’m an artist-in-residence at MIT, currently. I work, in particular, with Brian Wardle’s lab, Robert Langer’s lab, and with Alan Guth. I’m working on the intersection of art and science, actually addressing quite a broad variety of the different strands in science, involving it into the artistic perspective. …I feel compelled to reaffirm the romantic idea of the new in the arts. And to do this through the means and the combination with the arts. So kind of reaffirming, basically, ideas of avant-gard art that go back to the romantic times.
Jaimee: Wonderful. And can you briefly describe your presentation?
Diemut: My talk was structured presenting a range of … a very heterogeneous works involving bioengineering, tissue engineering, genetics, physics, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, I think we had everything. (laughs)
And so I presented these projects. Started off with a little issue of administration I had with one of my artworks that died during the show … a backup piece of living art piece “Sugababe” that was forgotten to be sent back on time to the US and then died due to a lack of oxygen. So I think and imagine that museums have sometimes a hard time handling certain materials in an appropriate way that are frail, that are much more sensitive to certain environmental circumstances rather than painting or sculpture. And so, I was kind of interested in how museums would address these kind of topics.
Jaimee: Wonderful. And what did you hope the audience would take away from your presentation?
Diemut: Now I think, first of all, the awareness of the impact that we live in a scientific age and its underlying questions and mysteries. A scientific matrix that replaces our “natural” nature, we often use more like an app. We only use the surface structure but we are not aware about the concept that stands behind them. You can really start this very simple idea for example with the GPS that we use every day, which involves Einstein’s special and general relativity calculating our motion through space that pulls on time. So does the earth as a massive object.
I think it’s interesting and important in many respects to be aware of what science really means, what it does, at least understand basic concepts. I think this is in particular important in biotechnology to understand in which direction our future will head.
And for example, the “Sugababe” work addresses this in a substantial question, because the technology that I use there related to the Theseus paradox (and in a broader sense the meaning of authenticity). Replacement of DNA instead of wooden planks means that we could really recreate the physical appearance of a person after death, extinct species and so on. I think these are really profound questions … where you want to go with these kinds of technologies. I think that people should be more aware of this.
Or other topics like privacy: the Facebook scandal (reference to recent Cambridge Analytica data breach), for example. That’s really a massive avalanche you could call it, but it has not the visual impact of an avalanche. You much more understand what data transfer and usage on the internet imply in terms of privacy, of course, aspects… you know, that this kind of things have shifted substantially in the contemporary scientific age. Privacy will be gone.That’s what it is heading to. Consider the implications!
Two different states. An avalanche has an essential impact, but now we deal with much more abstract things that do not touch us directly, but I think it is in aesthetic terms like… we are coping more with a mathematical sublime, rather than with a natural sublime.
Jaimee: Well, thank you so much from ALI CLE and the Smithsonian and we really found value in you being here.
Diemut: Oh, thank you very much. I very much enjoyed being here for the talk and speaking with you.
The Legal Issues in Museum Administration 2018 conference is now available to stream on-demand, in its entirety or by session. Just click below and make your selections, and watch it on your schedule.