[ISEA2008] Paper: Christina Nguyen Hung – American Vectors


[also artist talk]

In my recent work, I combine techniques borrowed from bioengineering with images of cultural and political icons and maps. The process results in an unusual hybrid: the scientific “visualization” with overtly sociopolitical content. Currently, I am working with a graduate student in the bioengineering lab at Clemson University to create images using several cell imaging processes including a system that allows us to place and observe live neuron cells as they grow to form connections and “communicate” with each other, and a soft lithography technique which allows cells to be printed in precise shapes. The lithography process is a more refined version of a process I developed within my studio practice and which I used to create works like McCarshcroft: a morphology of extremism and stay the course. A new work-in-progress is American Vectors, in which I use the bacterium Serratia marcescens and the soft lithography method to represent airbases, currently in use by the American military in Iraq. Images of these “micro airbases” are streamed via live web cam on the American Vectors website. A blog component provides a forum for the discussion and interpretation of the work.

Though critical, the work is less a critique of science and more a form of science fiction, in which the technologies of bioengineering stand-in for all brave-new-world-making enterprises, from the microscopic recombination of cells to the macroscopic reassembling of cultures. For example in the work TJMAQS I map elements of globalization’s infrastructure (Maquiladoras in the Tijuana region of Mexico) using bacteria. Thus, like biological entities such as viruses and biochemical materials, the infrastructure of globalization, which simultaneously which perforate as it connects cultures, is presented as a living entity which grows and spreads as it consumes resources around it.

  • Christina Nguyen Hung, Assistant Professor, Clemson University, USA

Full text (PDF) p. 236-237