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The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature, and Nature
We have an exciting conference and art exhibition on mimicry and crypsis planned for fall 2012. Stay tuned for the call for papers. Thanks for supporting Dactyl.
Dactyl Foundation is pleased to announce the publication of Victoria N. Alexander’s The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature and Nature.
Teleology is like a mistress to the biologist; he dare not be seen with her in public but cannot live without her –J. B. S. Haldane
Drawing on her experiences as a complexity theorist, novelist and art-theorist, Victoria N. Alexander examines the history and practices of teleology, the study of purpose, in nature as well as in human behavior. She takes us “inside” paradoxically purposeful self-organizing entities (which somehow make themselves without having selves yet to do the making), and she shows us how poetic-like relationships—things coincidentally like each other or metaphoric and things coincidentally near each other or metonymic—help form organization where there was none before. She suggests that it is these chance language-like processes that result in emergent design and selfhood, thereby offering an alternative to postmodern theories that have unfairly snubbed the purposeful artist. Alexander claims that what has been missing from the general discussion of purposefulness is a theory of creativity, without which there can be no purposeful action, only robotic execution of inherited design. Thus revising while reviving teleology, she offers us a secular, non-essentialist conception of selfhood as an achievement that can be more than a momentary stay against the second law.
The book includes anecdotes about Dactyl Foundation’s artists and history. All proceeds from book sales will be donated to the foundation to help support educational programs and research in art-science.
New Summer Hours 2011 4-6PM
The CompostModern forum is made up of artists, poets, fiction writers, playwrights, scientists, mathematicians, musicians, actors and any one else interested in joining. We meet every Friday, and at least once or twice a month, we have a featured guest or two. Instead of presenting formal lectures or panels, we open the floor to the community. Featured guests and audience members are able to talk freely and on equal terms about everything from beauty and meaning to pop-culture. As the name implies, the CompostModern forum aims to re-cycle our rich aesthetic history. If the project of postmodernism was to deconstruct traditions, it has left us with a fertile soil out of which new forms may emerge. It is with the belief that all new forms of art must evolve from a history that we approach the guiding question of the forum: What is creativity?
The Eleventh Annual International Gathering in Biosemiotics will be held from June 21 to June 26, 2011 under the auspices of the Dactyl Foundation at the Rockefeller University for Biomedical Research in New York City, USA. Biosemiotics is an interdiscipline that seeks naturalistic understandings of metalistic phenomena, grounded in biology, and, in turn, seeks understandings of biological processes in terms of a general semiotics.
What can be learned about human semiosis, interpretation, communication, creativity and meaning-making by studying less complex but analogous phenomena in cellular signaling, chemotaxis, zoosemiotics, embryonic development, or the immune system? Can the pervasive metaphoric usages of chemical “message,” genetic “information,” and “signaling” in contemporary biology be defined more precisely by taking them literally? While human symbolic representation may be species-specific–or at least unique to unusually big-brained animals–it must have emerged out of less complex semiotic processes and proto-semiotic processes. What are the antecedents of human semiosis? And how can the exploration of these antecedents help bridge the unnatural gap between body and mind that was imposed centuries ago more for religious than scientific reasons?
All are welcome to attend. For registration information click here.
Want to learn more about Biosemiotics? Visit the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies website, or listen to ISBS Vice-President Don Favareau on BBC radio.