We get the directions to our room, which is situated with a beautiful mountain view outside the window. The mountains are imposing in their majestic splendor. I am charged with energy. Let's climb a mountain...but there is no time...we have to report in at the conference. We are lead into a dark dank room that's been arranged much like a school classroom. Rows of chairs are arranged facing the front - where we find the traditional desk replaced with a couch surrounded by audio/visual devices. At a side table, Radio 90-Cellular Pirate Radio http://radio90.fm is preparing to broadcast a radio/and web stream of the summit. I have an aversion to the classroom setting and the beautiful mountains are beckoning, I'm thinking...this better be good. The atmosphere in the room seems serious, as if we are about to discover or embark on something very important, and we are.

Growing Things: The Cultures of Nano Tech, Bio Tech and Eco Tech Meat Art. An invaluable, inspirational, info-condensed, exceptional event. What makes this exceptional? It is the largest gathering of artists using biotechnologies in their artworks. Scientists will be discussing their ideas alongside with artists. The artists race to catch up with new technologies that the scientists are now developing - often through the support of big business. An exhaustive, comprehensive think-tank of 'reaction/diffusion patterns'.

The genesis and cultural guru spearheading the project is the visionary, funky, prophetess, Sara Diamond; Artistic Director of Television, and New Media at the Centre for the Arts.

The programme was initiated almost five years ago and brings together artists from cross-disciplinary practices. She had a strong interest in technologies of the body/flesh for over 10 years, as a video artist, curator, and as cultural critic. This lead to the 'Flesh-Eating Technologies' show which Sara curated. A dialogue grew from bringing people together who are worked from the perspective of the sciences, a cultural perspective, critical social-science perspective, and an activist perspective, to think about the implications of emerging technologies of the 'biosphere'.

She states she was "motivated by the keen interest in the marriage of art and science as a kind of utopian prospect" and how this unifying process is posed, and how in a sense you can unpack that utopianism without destroying the sense of possibility you have with visionary disciplines; "and there are parts of science, arts and cultural practices which are really visionary, and out of that you can build and develop models".

With a past history of 'activism', Sara Diamond now thinks of herself as an 'institutional activist'. Her position at Banff, working with phenomenal people, has enabled her to put together an international group of thinkers and doers, creating dialogues between respective disciplines. Reflecting back from a critical perspective, she feels that "the activism that I was aligned with wasn't able to envision a future, or the utopias were so far away from the reality we lived in, that there wasn't a sense of pathway".
TOP: Bruce Damer tours Banff with participants of summit
MIDDLE: Joe Davis during his presentation
BOTTOM: A scene from Damer's virtual community 'Biota'
Heath Bunting
BELOW: Illustration from the 'Ram's Horn', presenters Brewster and Cathleen Kneen's monthly journal of food analyisis
The themes at the Growing Things summit were in part looking at the technologies and cultures of:
>> land/agriculture - such as Brewster and Cathleen Kneen's "Farmageddon, Food and the Culture of Biotech" and Heath Bunting's "SuperWeed";
>> biotechnologies of the body - such as Char Davies "Immersence Project" and Nina Czegledy's "Digital Bodies - Virtual Spectacles"
>> sexiness of data-visualization - such as Marcelo Walters "Automatic Generation of Patterned Animals" and Patrick Clancy "the Science of Alchemy and the Engendering of Simulacra"


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