report facebook event: Q&A session with Karen Verschooren

Last week we organized a live q&a session on Facebook with “AlterNature: We can” curator Karen Verschooren. In case you couldn’t make it to our event, here is a summary of what has been discussed.

Firstly, Karen told us how she became a curator for Z33. After a master in Cultural Science at the VUB, Karen spent two years at the well-known Master of Comparative Media Studies at the MIT (Massachusets Institute of Technology). She also worked as a project manager in one of MIT’s Humanities Lab, and by the time she came back to Belgium, in the summer of 2008, Z33 was looking for new project coordinators.  

One of the questions was on what are the most difficult tasks when organising an exhibition such as “AlterNature: We Can”. Karen revealed that one of the trickiest things was finding a balance between art and science: “It’s not a science exhibition, but it’s an art exhibition of works that are created with a knowldge of and against a backdrop of the progress made in bioscience and technology”. Another issue that Karen had to take into account was the current debate on genetic engineering and manipulating nature. As there are some strong opinions on both sides of the debate, Z33 tried to “go beyond the polarization”. The purpose of the exhibition was not to respond to ethical questions or take sides, but rather offers different perspectives on the topic of changing nature.

Another participant brought into discussion the blurring boundaries between art/science/design that at a certain point can alienate the visitor of the exhibition. In other words, the question was if this is an “art” exhibition, doesn’t it affect the scientific credibility of the works? On the contrary, Karen replied. By specifically positioning the works “in-between”, the critical framework is enriched by the various disciplines: “thus, not limiting the questions and issues raised to the exhibition space (and art circles) only, but also within the labs, in production conversations, etc..”

An “undiplomatic” question was what are Karen’s favourite works in the exhibition. Even though she admited she likes all of them, Karen suggested a few anchor points such Secret Garden, Shiki1 and Frozen Shiki, Acoustic Botany or the Center for Postnatural history. These can offer an insight into what the exhibition is about for visitors in a hurry.

The discussion also touched upon the legal frameworks under which “nature” is regulated in different countries. For example, zebrafishes that are modified so that they glow [], are available in pet shops around North America, even though they are forbidden in Europe.




contributed by: Sabina Baciu

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