Nano-fest Destiny 3.0: Fragments from the Post-Biotech Era

Ricardo Dominguez, 2000

*In the game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human beings, nature, and machines. I am firmly on the side of nature. But nature, I suspect, is on the side of the machines.*
—George Dyson , Darwin Among the Machines.

*MNT (”Molecular Nanotechnology”) device designs should incorporate provisions for built-in safety mechanisms, such as: 1) absolute dependence on a single artificial fuel source or artificial “vitamins” that don’t exist in any natural environment; 2) making devices that are dependent on broadcast transmissions for replication or in some cases operation; 3) routing control signal paths through out a device, so that subassemblies do not function independently; 4) programming termination dates into devices, and 5) other innovations in laboratory or device safety technology developed specifically to address the potential dangers of MNT.*
—Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology, (Revised Draft Version 3.7: June 4, 2000).

The term “Molecular Nanotechnology” (MNT) refers to the ability to program matter with molecular precision and at some point in the future scale it to three-dimensional products of arbitrary size. Nanotechnolgy is to inanimate matter what biotech is to animate matter.

Recombinant society falls quickly before nano-fest destiny. Biotechnology, like digital networks, becomes a side event before the next state of command and control society. Each of us will rapidly become the by-product of artificial Molecular Nanotechnology “vitamins,” interdependent molecular subassembly engines, and inter-linked “termination dates.” We will become more than replicants and less than nothing. The crossroads between the imaginary and all too real construction of MNT is perhaps already behind us.

Tactical media, bio-interventionist and critical theory sectors should have already been involved in disturbing nanotechnology by the late 1980s when it was first being defined for the engineering sectors as a sign moving from a speculative model to a sanctioned exploratory zone. At this point in time not even Bill Joy’s (cofounder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems) rant “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” which appeared in Wired in 2001, about the ramifications of molecular nanotechnology will do little more than alter a few micro points of a revised MNT Guidelines by the Foresight Institute.

Gone Nano

As the Biotech sectors gain command and control over 40% of the world economy in the next few years. The MNT or Nanotech sectors will seek to grab hold of the rest of the 60% of the material world during the next few decades. While, Biotech is carbon-based, Nanotech is focusing on carbon atoms. Life is carbon based. The atoms that make the molecules that structure DNA are carbon. Thus, Nanotech has the potential to encompass the entire Table of Elements. Biotech is just a backwater town compared to the command and control that Nanotech will be able to exploit for its own profit. Already several important connections between nano-biology and nano-engineering are being installed in the hybrid venture capital market. Nanotech development is now about where biotech was a quarter century ago. This does not mean it will take 25 years before it starts to attract the kind of capital investment enjoyed by the Genome market. Advances in other scientific fields, especially informatics, means that the acceleration of MNT will be rapid.

A Note About Post-Genomic Profits Today: The Empire’s New Genes

In, 1492, Christopher Columbus, was blundering about the Caribbean in search of India – he wrote home to say that the ancient mariners had erred in thinking the earth was round. Rather, he said, it was shaped like a woman’s breast, with a protuberance upon its summit in the unmistakable shape of a nipple – towards which he was slowly sailing.
—Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather

Objectivity, for the native is always against him.
—Frantz Fanon, “A Dying Colonialism”

The conquest of woman and reproduction is at the core of the old Empire—this new land was to be taken, raped, and made to give birth to a new economy. The new Empire of bio-colonialism is replaying the same tale. Only this time Christopher Columbus has planted his flag not on the beach of the Indigenous lands he accidentally discovered but on their genes. Now the flag waves deep in the pleats of matter. The fast-forward future is now a rewinding of the past into the present of post-genomic profits.

The Human Genome Project and genetic research generally, “raises serious issues of concern to indigenous peoples,” states Debra Harry, Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Bio-colonialism. She says, “Now that the sequencing project is complete more scientists will turn their attention to human genetic diversity, which includes the collection and study of the DNA of indigenous peoples. This is likely to result in patents on the genetic inheritance of indigenous peoples, and possible manipulations of their DNA, which violate the natural genetic integrity of their ancestry.”

The Indigenous are the first markers of the complex territories of what will become the growing question of bio-rights for all. Bio-colonialism breaks down the walls between the outside and inside, blood and soil, micro-ecologies and global economies—but, the flag of the recombinant Empire still waves between the two worlds established by Columbus. The value of the New World is still bound by the same dream of the Old World—to carve out spaces for profit for the Old World by mining the dark bodies and lands for that new genetic gold. The difference between the old flag with its prayer to God and new flag of Genomics is that this new flag is being planted on the bio-beach with a prayer to the Therapeutic State and its call for “Health for All.”

Dr. Jonathan King, Professor of Biology at MIT and a member of the board of directors of the Council for Responsible Genetics in Cambridge, MA states “We are concerned that the emphasis on gene sequences will be used to imply that genes are at the basis of a variety of human disease and conditions, when in fact the great body of evidence, establishes that the majority of human ill health is not inherited but is due to external insult including pollution, infection, inadequate or in appropriate diet, physical accident, or excess stress or social disruption such as wars.” King further adds, “We note that preventing damage to human genes from carcinogens is a far more effective public health strategy than allowing the disease to develop and then attempting gene therapy.”

Both colonialism and bio-colonialism pray for the poor dark ones. One prayed for their souls and that the power of the Empire would be able to save them from themselves. The other prays that they will be able to save the natives from the poor genes they have been born with and that the power of the Empire will be able to save them from themselves. Dr. Stuart Newman, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy New York Medical College notes, “Although there are potentially beneficial uses for the information gathered in the Human Genome Project, there is also the great threat that this information will be used to persuade people that they are not good enough, biologically. This will be justified by promised improvements to human health, but unless carefully monitored and regulated, this emphasis on genetics will have a divisive effect, whereby those categories and groups of people that have traditionally been marginalized will now learn that their genes are inferior and need to be improved.” In each instance those who have crossed the unknown seas dreaming new lands for the Empire fall back on the “genomic space” of the dark Other as the reason for life itself as conquest.

As was the case in the days after Columbus, so it follows in the days after the Human Genome Project—the slave ships and their gold are now beginning to cross back into the treasuries of the New Empire. Each day the genetic wealth of the New World is being added to the coffers as new biological “truths” to be patented in the name of Empire’s historically given rights to scientific research. As we all know, the human Genome can be privatized, not to benefit people’s health for corporate profits. Already, patents have been filed, and then later abandoned, on the DNA of indigenous peoples from the Solomon Islands and Panama. The U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office (PTO) actually approved a patent on the cells lines of a Hagahai man from Papua New Guinea. The patent was granted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health in March 1994. In late 1996 the NIH abandoned the patent. However, the Hagahai cell line is now available to the public at the American Type Culture Collection as ATCC Number: CRL-10528 Organism: Homo Sapiens (human) for $216 per sample. This trend is likely to continue as new potentially profitable genes are identified in indigenous populations.

Another link between the Old Empire and the New Empire is the vision that the New World is full of animal people—dark people who have been breeding with the native creatures since time began. This belief allows the New Empire, as was the case with Old Empire, to rape and reconfigure the dark native as animals—first in the name of God and now in the name of Genomics. Maori activists have already had to take a very active stance on this concern. Donna Gardiner, a Maori researcher, has written extensively on the movement of Selbourne Biological Services and PPL Therapeutics in the Tauranga area of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Selbourne Biological Services imported human DNA for insertion into sheep bred in Tauranga. Donna outlines the manipulative practices of the company to gain access to Tauranga. Her research found that the company asserted by letter to the Ministry of Environment that five members of the Ngati He/Ngai Te Ahi tribes had formalized approval of the company’s application. Four of the five tribal members identified in the letter stated that they had not given any such approval. After some probing, they realized that one of their members had indeed signed a letter composed by the company, after being convinced the research was for the “greater good of mankind.” Gardiner states, “The thought of human and animal genes being mixed was totally abhorrent and offensive both culturally and morally.” The real question is not that we as humans are part of the same Genome as all the rest of the species on the genetic beach—because we are and have always been. But now profits are being extracted from the links between human cells and those of animals.

The New Empire wears genes as a sign of wealth and objective “truth,” and as a re-play of its historical destiny. As Hegel decreed, progress in the realm of history was possible because it has always already been accomplished in the realm of “truth.” The New Empire is now on the genetic beach planting its flag. The symbol on this flag is “TM.” The trademark is now the only “truth” of this Empire. This time the local natives won’t be silent and they will slowly surround Columbus as he prays and send him back naked, wearing only his own genes.

[Fast Forward]
What Are Nanos Good For?

Nanotechnology is said to offer us an unprecedented new set of technical and economic opportunities. The opportunities include: the development of inexpensive and abundant diamond-like building materials with a strength-to-weight ratio 50 times greater than titanium, the possibility of widespread material abundance for all the Earth’s people, the development of revolutionary new techniques in medicine, and the opening of the space frontier for development. Nanotechnologist also admit that along with these new capabilities come new risks and new responsibilities. Drexler states that those working with nanotechnology must accept that, “the future capabilities of MNT also raise an unprecedented set of military, security, and environmental issues. Dealing with these issues proactively will be critical to the positive development of the field.” That’s what scientists said when talk of splitting the atom as possibility was contemplated. It did not help the outcome.

Gray Gooing the Universe

Do not adjust your mind—there is a fault in reality.
—Easy Rider, 1971

On the other side, objective scientific speculation from exploratory engineers, have a number of end of History scenarios available: one, primary assemblers will achieve A.I level rapidly and displace humanity as the dominant species. The MNT guidelines call for the containment of the primary assemblers with specific types of command and control spaces, like the Double Security Sphere Protocols (DSSP). The DSSP call for the building of double spheres that will enclose all primary assemblers within an imploding event horizon both within and without—if the containment sphere senses external rupture it automatically implodes—if the internal sphere senses a disturbance it automatically implodes.

Two, History as Assembler, could also end as a gray goo syndrome (GGS) by the reverse engineering of secondary assemblers towards the negation of all molecular programs into an endless gray biomass sea consuming everything and would finally encompass the moon after a few months of replication. This would occur if secondary assemblers or stage-two self-replicating nanobots are built to function autonomously in the natural environment they could quickly convert that natural environment (e.g., “biomass”) into replicas of themselves (e.g., “nanomass”) on a global basis, a scenario usually referred to as the “gray goo syndrome” but perhaps more properly termed “global ecophagy.” As Drexler first warned in Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (1986): “Among the cognoscenti of nanotechnology, this threat has become known as the “gray goo syndrome.” Though masses of uncontrolled replicators need not be gray or gooey, the term “gray goo” emphasizes that replicators able to obliterate life might be less inspiring than a single species of crabgrass. They might be superior in an evolutionary sense, but this need not make them valuable. The gray goo threat makes one thing perfectly clear: We cannot afford certain kinds of accidents with replicating assemblers. Gray goo would surely be a depressing ending to our human adventure on Earth, far worse than mere fire or ice, and one that could stem from a simple laboratory accident.”

Gray Gooing Capital with Anti-Market Science

Everything that can be invented has been invented.
—Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US Office of Patents, 1899

Economy as we know it will come to an end. No more scarcity.
—K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, 1986.

In mid-1999 Business Week announced that Nanotech will turn ‘matter into software.’ Right now both Japan and the European Union are on equal footing in government support of MNT growth. Britain has established a Nanotechnology Link Program and the French and Germans have created ‘Nano-valley’ in the upper Rhine. Japan is at this time the most developed MNT country. In the US research expenditures on nanotechnology have soared from US $116 million 1998 to US$220 million in 2000 and US$460 million in 2001. The US Navy is creating an Institute for Nanoscience, which will open in Washington D.C on March 2002.

The market containment of MNT is now under a double re-configuration: first, the economic enclosure of scientific speculation as a new market engine and, second, as a technological displacement of economy as a historical drive. At the same moment that MNT is being embraced as part of the general economy, its internal objective trajectory signs it speculations with a vision of material scarcity as the governing doctrine of Capital finally ending. Capital under the sign of MNT enters slow eraser. The exploratory engineers working on Nanotech see the end of Capital. Indeed History as Capital will now be re-shifted into History as Assembler. The historical shift of an economic embrace of an anti-market science will expand into assembler networks—exchange will become based on design values as distribution and not as Capital.

An Interruption: The New Luddite Challenge

First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we can’t make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. It might be argued that the human race would never be foolish enough to hand over all the power to the machines. But we are suggesting neither that the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better results than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide. On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite—just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.” Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or make them “sublimate” their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they will most certainly not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.

—The Unabomber, 1994

Machine Meat or Cut and Paste Robotics

Biological species almost never survive encounters with superior competitors. Ten million years ago, South and North America were separated by a sunken Panama isthmus. South America, like Australia today, was populated by marsupial mammals, including pouched equivalents of rats, deers, and tigers. When the isthmus connecting North and South America rose, it took only a few thousand years for the northern placental species, with slightly more effective metabolisms and reproductive and nervous systems, to displace and eliminate almost all the southern marsupials.

In a completely free marketplace, superior robots would surely affect humans as North American placentals affected South American marsupials (and as humans have affected countless species). Robotic industries would compete vigorously among themselves for matter, energy, and space, incidentally driving their price beyond human reach. Unable to afford the necessities of life, biological humans would be squeezed out of existence.

GNR: Genetics, Nanotechnology, and Robotics

We’re in a war. We’re going to bury this first wave of biotech. The first battle is labeling. The second battle is banning it.
—Activist at a protesters’ gathering, November 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

The technologies underlying the weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC)—were powerful, and the weapons are an enormous threat. But building nuclear weapons required, at least for a time, access to both rare—indeed, effectively unavailable—raw materials and highly protected information; biological and chemical weapons programs also tended to require large-scale activities.

The 21st-century technologies—genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR)—are so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. Most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them.

[Rewind to Clone Capitalism]
An Intervention: The End of the Gene or Artist as I-biology Tool

When the circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?
—Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (1967).

The gene is a concept past its time.
—William Gelbart, molecular geneticist, Science (1998).

DNA as data is now staged as a “circuit” that performs you as gene. The question of performance as a function between software and wetware breaks down with the Human Genome Project. Data harvesting with I-biology tools displace the performance of DNA as an invisible engine of wetware. The gene has now been spliced into data and distributed for profit. The gene has collapsed under the weight of data. We are now truly data bodies down to our genes.

The time between emergence of “the gene” and extinction of “the gene” was quick and efficient. Under the hyper-Darwinism of Clone Capitalism the gene becomes a concept of the past before we can even understand it in the present. It will be important and necessary to trace the process of this disappearance. We need to document the moment when the circuit became the gene. The moment when our DNA became a distributed network for the market and it no longer resides in our bodies.

“i-Biology Patent Engine (i-BPE)” and “Memoryflesh: Harvesting the Net” by Diane Ludin stages the end of the gene. She behaves as the “circuit” that has learned “your job.” She takes on the task of a search engine, a “reflective performance system,” in order to trace the collapse of the gene. She becomes an information bot, she performs as a network spider, as an automated search engine harvesting the net for the last genetic traces and the first signs of the post-Genomic system. Her auto-organic parameters seek out points of market growth and intensification around “system based biology,” not only as it functions within the scientific testing and speculation, but from the spillage of economic hype surrounding the I-biology tools and software on Wall Street.

With the E-commerce market falling into the black hole of a present which could not meet the demands of the future, the market is looking at Clone Capitalism as the next hype-zone. “Memoryflesh” crawls and gathers the inflated discourse that is being manufactured by the Wall Street media networks for the promotion of Clone Capitalism: “Point-and-Click Genes, Genetic Landlords, Genetic Profits, Genetic Rents, Impulse Buy Genes, Selling Rights To Mine The Gene, and I Own You_Therefore I Am.” Each one of these headlines brought back by the artist as search engine into a counter data base. The data base is the staging area for the performance. Ludin becomes a primitive circuit learning its job and offering the harvest for access and distribution. She becomes her own I-biology tool, her own disappearance engine, and deposits the documentation for all to witness.

While, it may not be possible to fully perform within the scientific networks that float in the inaccessible atmosphere of “scientific objectivity,” one possible zone for intervention and re-reading by artists and activists is the space between “system based biology” and the networks that Clone Capitalism is now interlocking into the old E-Capitalism data base sharing tools in order to create new speculations bubbles. The intersection between the “gene” as data and the bio-tech market volatility may offer us an important circuit to shift the social teleology that is mining our bodies for profit. Ludin’s “i-BPE” and “Memoryflesh” project traces the possibility of understanding this brief window of opportunity for network_art and tactical bio-media in the future.


[Fast Forwarding to the End of Nano History]
No Longer Science or Forget Mapping

Science aims to understand how things work; engineering aims to make things work. Science takes the thing as given and studies its behavior; engineering takes a behavior as given and studies how to make something that will act that way.
—K. Eric Drexler ,”Exploratory Engineering,” 1988.

The diagram is highly unstable or fluid, continually churning up matter and functions in a way likely to create change. But, first one must fine visibilities and thresholds.
—Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, 1988

With MNT we are no longer in the space of science, but in the space of engineering, two very different conditions and goals. Science is about mapping the process, the transmission, the in-between state between the message sent and the message received. Engineering on the other hand is about building diagrams. A diagram is a layered mapping, a transparent map floating between a number of maps. A Naval prison hospital is a diagram of multiple maps at work within one space. Engineering does not seek to map, but to build the mechanisms, or diagrams, necessary to send and receive, translate, and archive the input and the output defined by the maps.

While the force of scientific mapping is difficult to re-define or displace, the diagram function of “exploratory engineering” offers segmentation’s and visibilities to create counter-diagrams. Inside the diagram, knowledge is a practical assemblage, a mechanism of visibilities, and thresholds for re-drawing the lines. The space of exploratory engineering creates a possible space for tactical assemblages for change and resistance to the Nanotech diagram. Critical interventionist need to develop community research initiatives for counter-diagram constructions and distribution of counter-top-down or bottom-up diagrams. Counter-MNT interventions cannot not stop the mapping process, but they can create limited tactical actions to re-shift the diagram of Nanotech. Tactical actions will have to be developed based on finding the points of visibilities and thresholds within the emerging Nanotech diagram.

Bad Nanos in the Genes

If it’s new, they hate it.
—Ronald Bailey “Rebels Against the Future,” Reason Magazine, 2001.

Imagine if young Nanos (or Nannites) become nostalgic and desire body architectures for themselves. Using old style genomeic transitivity, the Nannities can create the DNA of their desired representations. Perhaps the latest fads at the end of 3000 A.D. among young Nannites will be coagulating as Elvises and Madonnas. Conservative Nanos would be unable to stop the rage for gene replication of popular human icons. No longer would the small and invisible rein, the body Nannites gangs would call for a brave new world of big genes. Bad Nanos would become human, party all night, and forget to rearrange reality the next day.

Ricardo Dominguez (2000)

The Berlin Nanoscript

Ricardo Dominguez and Amy Sara Carroll


In 2007 curator André Lepecki invited the just-formed project *particle group* to participate in the Nomadic New York exhibition at the House of World Cultures in Berlin, Germany. *particle group* created a “particle sniffer” installation and also developed “The Berlin Nanoscript” (an agit-prop gesture in three scenes) that attempted to offer a performative nanoscape to address: (1) our multifarious concerns with unregulated nanoproducts currently found on the market shelves, (2) growing questions about the new science of nanotoxicology (our voices, part of a much larger chorus), and (3) our experiments with the para/literary, at this time taking the form of trans_patents (micro-tales of nano futures).1 “The Berlin Nanoscript” was performed in various venues in Berlin—at the House of World Cultures, at a large mall in front of a pharmacy (the mall police escorted us out), and finally in the middle of Alexanderplatz (near its main metro stop). Our concerns, then and now, are NOT about a possible “Nanocaust,” but about the nano(cost)s of new technologies that remain invisible to large segments of the population, costs which disproportionately effect those deemed most “Othered” (and/or most “vulnerable”). Always-already, again “then and now,” we cup/ped the question—what can be done?—in the palms of ours hands… to let it flutter forth still indeterminate: how can we route around both the seductions of nanotopias and the fears of nanopocalypses to stage critical encounters with particle capitalism, which encourage transdisciplinary alliances between nanotechnological and artivist communities?


1 The trans_patent is a direct descendent of another project by Diane Ludin, that of the “i-Biology Patent Engine” (i-BPE). In “i-BPE Strategy Text: sketches towards Deep Harmonization,” Diane has written of the relationship between i-BPE and European surrealism’s “Exquisite Corpse” gaming, a process she quotes Max Ernst as naming, “mental contagion” (in Pandilovski, Melentie, ed. Art in the Biotech Era. Australia: Experimental Art Foundation, 2008. 35).

Berlin Nanoscript: Act One

Dr. Ludin:
Particle! Particle! Burning bright

In the labs of the night
What posthuman hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful trans_patenttry?

Dr. Dominguez:
In 2005 researchers in the University of Texas in the United States found that carbon nanotubes squirted into the trachea of mice caused inflammation of the lungs and granulomas (tumour-like nodules of bloated white blood cells in the lining of the lungs), and five of the nine mice treated with the higher dose died almost immediately.

Dr. Ludin:
In what gene deeps or skies
 Burnt the ownership of thine eyes?
On what code dare it aspire?
What IP dare seize the fire?
And what patent, and what part,
Could twist the WIPO of thy heart?
And when thy particles began to beat,
What dread sensor? And what dread fleet?

Dr. Dominguez:
In another nanotoxicity experiment in 2006 at Tottori University, Japan, researchers showed that within a minute of contacting the mice’s tiniest airways, carbon nanotubes began to burrow through gaps between the surface lining cells and into the blood capillaries, where the negatively charged nanoparticles latched onto the normally positively charged red blood cells’ surface, thereby potentially causing the red blood cells to clump and the blood to clot.

Dr. Ludin:
What the atomic force hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the chip? What circuit grasp
/ Dare its deadly errors clasp? When the nanities threw down their gears /
And watered ownership with their tears / Did K. Eric Drexler smile his work to see?
Did nano-carbon 60 who made the Lamb make thee?

Dr. Dominguez:
Researchers from the University of Rochester, New York, in 2006 reported an increased susceptibility to blood clotting in rabbits that had inhaled carbon nanospheres (buckyballs, an isotope of carbon shaped like a tiny football). Buckyballs present in water at 0.5 parts per million were taken up by largemouth bass, which suffered severe brain damage 48 hours later, the extent of the damage being 17 times greater than that seen in non-nano scale particles tested.

Dr. Ludin:
Particle! Particle! Burning bright

In the labs of the night
What posthuman hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful trans_patenttry?

Dr. Dominguez:
Nanoparticles in the lungs are translocated to the circulatory system and from there throughout the body, accumulating in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. Nanoparticles inhaled through the nose and air passages are translocated to the brain through the olfactory nerves, and accumulate in the brain. Nanoparticles can enter the body through the skin; and quantum dots injected into the skin accumulate in lymph nodes with potential effects on the immune system.

Dr. Ludin:
Particle! Particle! Burning bright

In the labs of the night
What posthuman hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful trans_patenttry?

Berlin Nanoscript: Act Two

(First lab image appears on the screen.)

Dr. Dominguez:
Particle Capitalism! Particle Capitalism!
Burning bright In the labs of the night
What posthuman hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful trans_patenttry?

Dr. Ludin:
“It is true that one cannot patent an element found in its natural form; however, if you create a purified form of it that has industrial uses-say, oxygen-you can certainly secure a patent.”-Lila Feisee, Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Director for Government Relations and Intellectual Property (2006).

Dr. Dominguez:
We are no longer under the sign of natural selection or even artificial selection-we are now under the force of particle selection. Everything on the planet, from indigenous aromas to public spaces to our atoms, is now forced to march into the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) filters of globalization. The neo-liberal matrix that started to emerge fully in the 90’s has played itself out on three stages: digital/Virtual Capitalism, genetic/Clone Capitalism and nanotechnology/Particle Capitalism. Each of these stages of techno-capital is being integrated via a new “deep harmonization” of the global Intellectual Property agenda: copyright laws, trademark laws and patent laws. A process that starts in the research chambers and ends in ownership enclosures, from patenting technology to patenting life, from patenting information to patenting atoms and creation of Trans_patents.

Dr. Ludin:
Particle Claimed! Particle Claimed!
Burning bright In the labs of the night
What posthuman hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful trans_patenttry 3,156,523?

“What is claimed is Element 95.”—from Glenn Seaborg’s US patent 3,156,523, issued November 10, 1964—the shortest patent claim on record.

Dr. Dominguez:
Remember that almost as soon as scientists figured out how to manipulate life through genetic engineering, corporations figured out how to monopolize it. A dangerous precedent was set back in the 1960s when a Nobel Prize-winning physicist “invented” the chemical element Americium (element no. 95 on the periodic table) and acquired US patent #3,156,523. In the US alone, patents awarded annually on nano-scale products and processes have tripled since 1996. The current nanotech patent grab is reminiscent of the early days of biotech-“it’s like biotech on steroids” in the words of one patent attorney. At stake is control over innovations that span all industry sectors-from electronics, energy, mining and defense to new materials, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. As the Wall St. Journal put it, “companies that hold pioneering patents could potentially put up tolls on entire industries.”

Dr. Carroll (recorded):
Trans_Patent 6608386: Sub-nanoscale electronic devices and bacterial processes
July 12, 2006
By Assignee(s) Yale University/YU (New Haven, CT)
Inventors: Reed; Mark A. (Southport, CT); Tour; James M. (Columbia, SC)

Sometimes Lila would feel a bit itchy as she floated in her partner a few hours before integration-birth. Most birthing was now a trans_patented condition involving sub-nanoscale trading-it was the only way to pay the cost of life now. So every hour during this last trimester Lila and her partner would ferment mass nanowire production on her in-vitro skin in collaboration with the Yale University Inc., nanoteria colonies. She could feel the oldest most sustainable microbes on the planet staging WIPO-2 contracts for the latest off-scale metal-changing particles. Hundreds upon hundreds of Yale University Inc., products were waiting impatiently for Lila to catch a bit of crying air at the edges of her partner’s canal to install and run-for just-in-time delivery. Delivery was all that mattered now.

Dr. Ludin:
Governments, industry and scientific institutions have allowed nanotech products to come to market in the absence of public debate and regulatory oversight. An estimated 500 plus products containing invisible, unregulated and unlabeled nano-scale particles are already commercially available (including food products, pesticides, cosmetics, sunscreens and more)-and thousands more are in the pipeline. Meanwhile, no government has developed a regulatory regime that addresses the nano-scale or the societal impacts of the invisibly small. This unregulated agenda is being driven by the new protocols of Venture Science the core of Particle Capitalism.

Dr. Dominguez:
Only a handful of toxicological studies exist on engineered nanoparticles, but it appears that nanoparticles as a class are more toxic than larger versions of the same compound because of their mobility and increased reactivity. This raises serious health concerns because nanoparticles can slip past guardians of the body’s immune system, across protective membranes such as skin, the blood brain barrier or perhaps the placenta.

Dr. Ludin:
Some governments and scientists are belatedly conceding that nano-scale particles raise unique risks for health, safety and the environment. Given the knowledge gap, some experts recommend that release of engineered nanoparticles be minimized or prohibited in the environment:

“Release of nano-particles should be restricted due to the potential effects on environment and human health.”—Nanotechnology and Regulation within the framework of the Precautionary Principle. Final Report for ITRE Committee of the European Parliament, February 2006.

Dr Dominguez:
“Until more is known about their environmental impact we are keen that the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes in the environment is avoided as far as possible. Specifically we recommend as a precautionary measure that factories and research laboratories treat manufactured nanoparticles and nanotubes as if they were hazardous waster streams and that the use of free nanoparticles in environmental applications such as remediation of groundwater by prohibited.—Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, “Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and uncertainties,” July 2007.

Dr. Carroll (recorded):
Late Onset of Particle Capitalism (i)

27 07 2006
Strike when the iron is hot: the spot bubbles to the surface-red-faced-some malicious, illicit strawberry, singed below a soft cap of hair, I discover it there by accident, demand an explanation. Vague mumblings of scalp stimulation, postpartum emotion in high gear. I dream of an embedded chip, my son’s induction into the matter market. What matters is this: He is okay. Well, temporarily. Weeks later, the market crashes, so to speak-in the ER, we become parental footnotes while the real work is done-intubation, a central line, the social worker in talcum tones. The doctor lays down her hand, a pack of worst case scenarios that fan out across the table. He may not make it through the night and if he does we cannot predict the extent of the “devastation.” Devastation? Loss of limbs, loss of hearing, loss of vision, permanent brain damage, multiple organ failure. Unable to process listing-as-event, I adhere to my own paranoid versions of the tale: they are removing the chip*, deactivating the product. He is temporarily checked into an upscale refurbishing clinic. On a respirator to regain consciousness, he manufactures nipple dreams, which intersect with my own fantasies of his lopsided smile, an escape-artist’s grin. In other words: recycling lines pared out to me, choking on their saccharine-sweet cadences, I wish first that he might live and then greedily branch out to demand additional reassurance. The white-coated herds that hoard expertise like pocket change prove all too accommodating, commodity-trading interpellation: late onset GBS, bacterial meningitis; each one of us, a petri-dish, navigating the birth canal.

Berlin Nanoscript: Act Three

Dr. Ludin:
“We wish we could take grey goo off the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology’s list of dangers, but we can’t. It eventually may become a concern requiring special policy. Grey goo will be highly difficult to build, however, and non-replicating nano-weaponry may be substantially more dangerous and more imminent.”

We identified several severe risks.

Economic disruption from an abundance of cheap products

Economic oppression from artificially inflated prices

Personal risk from criminal or terrorist use

Personal or social risk from abusive restrictions

Social disruption from new products/lifestyles

Unstable arms race

Collective environmental damage from unregulated products

Free-range self-replicators (grey goo)

Black market in nanotech (increases other risks)

Competing nanotech programs (increases other risks)


Some of the dangers described here are existential risks, that is, they may threaten the continued existence of humankind. Others could produce significant disruption but not cause our extinction. A combination of several risks could exacerbate the seriousness of each; any solution must take into account its effect on other risks. Some of these risks arise from too little regulation on a global scale.

Dr. Dominguez:
Working nanotechnology will be a significant breakthrough, comparable perhaps to the Industrial Revolution-but compressed into a few years. This has the potential to disrupt many aspects of society and politics. The power of the technology may cause two competing nations to enter a disruptive and unstable arms race. Weapons and surveillance devices could be made small, cheap, powerful, and numerous. Cheap manufacturing and duplication of designs could lead to economic upheaval. Overuse of inexpensive products could cause widespread environmental damage. Attempts to control these and other risks may lead to abusive restrictions, or create demand for a black market that would be very risky and almost impossible to stop; small nanofactories will be very easy to smuggle, and fully dangerous. There are numerous severe risks-including several different kinds of risk-that cannot all be prevented with the same approach. Simple, one-track solutions cannot work. The right answer is unlikely to evolve without careful planning.

Dr. Carroll (recorded):
When Lily was lucky, she got a contract for weapons. The pay was good because it was dangerous. The weapons would come gushing suddenly out of her with much loss of blood, usually in the middle of the night: an avalanche of glossy, freckled, somewhat transparent bits of weapon goo-particles, each one with a number of soft blue eyes and rows of bright sharp teeth. No matter how ill or exhausted Lily felt, she would shovel them, immediately, into rusted tin cans or milk cubes and tie down the lids with auto-clean tape. If she didn’t do that, immediately, if she fell asleep, the particles would eat her. Thrashing in their containers as she carried them down the steps, the particles would speed eat each other, till nothing was left-the last one left would always eat itself-“the highest state of artificial evolution,” her sister would whisper to her before the accident. She would have to hurry, shuffling as fast as she could under the weight of so many containers, to the Neighbors. The Neighbors only paid her for the ones that were left alive. It was piecework.

Dr. Ludin:
It’s a Small World After all-Nanoera Inc.

Dr. Dominguez:
Particle Capitalism does not represent a new phase of capitalism in a temporal sense-yet, at the same time there is an uncanny sense that something new is happening here.

Dr. Ludin:
Your Matter Is Our Market-NanoMiX Corp.

Dr. Dominguez:
Particle Capitalism is not just an encroachment of capital on a new domain of science. But that this new domain of precise atomic and molecular manipulation is now being constituted as a business plan about what constitutes material reality-as just another tale of the matter market.

Dr. Ludin:
Reassembling Your World One Atom at a Time-NanitesNow Inc.

Dr. Dominguez:
Particle Capitalism functions as unregulated form of venture science that implodes the ethos of science to the valuation of life-as-matter with the valuation of the market.

Dr. Ludin:
Market Catch Your Self-NanoCatch Inc.

Dr. Dominguez:
Recombinant society falls quickly before nano-fest destiny. Biotechnology, like digital networks, becomes a side event before the next state of command and control society. Each of us will rapidly become the by product of artificial nanotechnology “vitamins”, interdependent molecular subassembly engines, and marked by inter-linked “termination dates.” We will become more than replicants and less than nothing. The cross-roads between the imaginary and all too real construction of nanotechnology is perhaps already behind us.

Dr. Ludin:
In the game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human beings, nature, and machines. I am firmly on the side of nature. But nature, I suspect, is on the side of the machines.

Dr. Dominguez:
Not much difference between a banana and a human. Same Atoms, just arranged differently.

Dr. Ludin:
Not much difference.

Dr. Dominguez:
Not much difference at all.

(Both lab workers shut down their computers, eat a banana, and walk away.)

Illuminated Nanoscripts

Text: Amy Sara Carroll
Design: Ricardo Dominguez and Amy Sara Carroll
Occasional Contributor: Diane Ludin

In descriptions of nanofabrication and the making of integrated circuits (silicon chips), references abound to William Blake’s “illuminated manuscripts.”1 Before realizing the frequency of Blake-as-apparition, we too began to riff on his alternative sources of energy, imagining the scrolling texts we’d designed for iPod nanos as “illuminated nanoscripts.” Thus, just as nano-R & D gold-filigree their “texts,” privileging the alchemized miniaturization of metallurgy as agglutinating method and metaphor, we, vis-à-vis our scrolling nanoscripts, reverse-shoot Blakean influence (also channeling Blake’s materialism), projecting a cinematics of constellation, mashing up the movement-sound-word-image to honor “prehistoric digital poetry” as “archaeologies of the future.”2 “NANO BANANA,” “TIN Y PLURI- BUS [+ UNAM],” “NÃO→NANO-OBJETO,” and “POST-PANGEA INCONTINENCE” function alone and in conjunction with *particle group*’s larger investigations into nanotoxicologies and science’s silenced fictions. Invested in the particularization (particle-ization) of language, in the performative visualization of las artes y las letras (codeswtiching as somatic scripts at the advent of the twenty-first century), *particle group*’s “illuminated nanoscripts” are legible as post-concrete-poetry thought experiments in the concretization of poetry as “transparent” (a.k.a. “neoliberal”) narratives’ ghostly Otherworlds. Neither transparent nor opaque, for the time-becoming, they “fake” the foreplay of light and shadow, advocating translucency as a temporary place-holder for something beyond dialectical scanning and the book-as-object.


1 See, for instance, Richard A. L. Jones’ Soft Machines: nanotechnology and life (Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2004, 43-45).

2 The catch-in-your-throat phrase, “prehistoric digital poetry,” came into being, courtesy of C. T. Funkhouser (Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007). We decouple it from “an archaeology of forms” here, re/pairing it with Fredric Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London and New York: Verso, 2005) to género-bend (to subtend to one of the original declensions of the “paraliterary”-science fiction).

Particles of Interest: An Interview with *particle group*

an interview with Eduardo Navas

*particle group* is a collective consisting of Principal Investigators Ricardo Dominguez and Diane Ludin, as well as Principal Researchers Nina Waisman (Interactive Sound Installation design)and Amy Sara Carroll, with a number of others flowing in and out. The collective draws from the hard and social sciences to develop installations that are critically engaged with the politics of science and its market. Their aim with the installation “Particles of Interest” is to shed light on the lack of regulation of nanoparticles in consumer goods. In the following interview the *particle group* shares its views on the current state of nanotechnology production, as well as a possible future that we may all be facing, in which nanomachines just might make difficult decisions for us.

[Eduardo Navas]: How does collaboration take place within the *particle group*? You describe members’ roles as Investigators and Researchers. Could you explain how these terms are relevant to each collaborator’s contribution to the project?

[*particle group*]: We mimic the structure of a research and development model for a university laboratory. By laboratory we mean a group of individuals who pursue conceptual investigations determined by a chronology of work that the Investigators have determined. Here, though, it should be noted that already we morph the template as Principal Investigators become Principle Investigators, homonymically signalling our investments in science’s narrative “engines of creation,” the aesthetic/ized practices and/or “naturalized” conceptualisms inherent in research, investigation, discovery and data transfer within scientific communities’ “normalized” articulations of self.

Generally the researchers participate from the beginning stages of materializing/performing/manifesting the work that the collective *particle group* eventually presents in counter/public spheres as varied as the art museum, the mall, and/or the scientific meeting. Researchers work in tandem with Investigators to develop their interpretations of the subject matter under investigation, augmentation, and/or erasure. So each time we are invited (or invite ourselves) to stage an iteration of our research, we meet and discuss via Skype or email what our intentions should be for the “performance.” To date we have had a different crew of researchers for each presentation, so inherent in particle group’s particularization and particle-ization is a revolving/open door policy toward creative maelstroming. This project was produced in large part by Calit2, and so it made aesthetic sense to us to approach the project as would-be art(is)cientists and to stage a series of p(our)-us epistemologies (on the testbeds of these strange viroids of art and science) and not to see the gesture of art and science as two bunkers at war—but as possible thought-scapes of concern under the sign of “nano-ethics and nano-constructions.” Each one as blind as the other, each one helping the other over the rocking shoals of Particle Capitalism(s).

In response to your interest in “each collaborator’s contribution”… We begin shaping each of our presentations by engaging in a series of group conversations. This generates a kind of “group mind” regarding the key ideas guiding that presentation. We then leave researchers free to move from these common concerns to authoring, through medium-specific research/experience, which threads these ideas into play. In this phase of development, each researcher authors, builds, programs, designs, records, writes, shoots or appropriates material as s/he sees fit, according to his/her particular skills/facilities/whims. Thus the iPod nano videos were authored by members of the group focused on video and textual interplay, on visual and concrete poetries; the interactive installation was created by members more attuned to sonic/bodily interactions and programming. Yet these works draw on particulate matter previously generated by other members of the group, as well as material newly discovered by the researchers out on the web, in scientific journals, in popular media, in dreamscapes, and waking, Otherworldly out-of-body experiments. In this way, each particular work bears the traces of both a group and individual (political) un/consciousness. Following the traditions of laboratory research and post-contemporary cultural production, we build on prior investigations through appropriation, critical re-framing and outright speculation.

[EN]: Your installation appears as a conscious effort to balance out aesthetics in the tradition of minimal art and the performance often linked to it historically, while also presenting questions about the responsibility of researchers developing nanotechnology. Could you elaborate on your decisions in trying to reflect on an art movement and a scientific field of research?

[*pg*]: We are in an age when scientific inquiry connotes a relatively less questioned authority than that of an artist. It is that liminality in what can be titled a knowledge industry of artistic production and the knowledge industry of scientific research/inquiry that we are exploring in the particle group’s work. Since we have so much lateral access to the scientific research that feeds industrial development, we decided to apply artful techniques to the scientific representation that is publicly available. We also apply simple, scientific principles to that same media collection and role play with it to make it more human somehow—a kind of performance-equals-empirical-expression approach. By recombining the rational and the impulsive we come up with situations and media designed to reawaken the question of what we know about what we are surrounded by, buy, use, live in, etc. The commodification of new technology has become a system akin to corporate branding and identity construction for objects and ideas. The way in which our sense of material awareness is questioned needs to be redrawn and we are ‘sketching out frames’ to make that possible.

Regarding your specific question about the place of minimalism in this piece, each iteration of this project is, as much as possible, formally and structurally site-specific. This version of the piece functions as an access route to Calit2’s gallery, so we became interested in the pedestal and the host of scripts it serves in the gallery or museum. Pedestals are used to elevate that which the institution has designated to be of value; they are used practically to create a viewer choreography through the gallery space that casts the viewer in the role of participant-observer; they set off that which is presented from the mundane; they make what is proffered untouchable, and thus unknowable in many ways. And here in the Nano3 labs at Calit2, we find the laboratory cousin of the pedestal—the clean white (or aluminum) counter, whose contents may only be intimately accessed by professionals. Visitors to Calit2’s nanolabs are positioned to watch skilled nanolab professionals perform a range of interactions with nanoparticles. In our piece, we wanted our “unskilled” visitors to perform this meeting with the untouchable in a different way. We wanted to bring the clean room and the gallery pedestal together, to see what they might have to say to each other. Doing so puts into play some of the forms and concerns of minimalism.

We also wanted to tweak the pedestal’s scripts by crossing them with some of the scripts of control and manipulation we feel are driving the nanotech industry. The incantation of newly coined nanoparticle names (nano diamonds, sublimed fullerenes, electro-exploded gold nanopowders, etc.) in hypnotic, seductive or chirpy voices is not unlike the outside world’s steady feed of cleverly written sonic advertising, garnering attention by promising control over wealth, happiness, and the next big problems. The voices we employed might lure one towards the pedestals from which they emerge, while blasts of air spewed from these same sound sources might move visitors into a more self-consciously manipulated state. The desire to know the “truth” that a pedestal promises may, in this installation, lead visitors to focus on the bodily scripting required to make the pedestal talk. The resulting sound—a mix of air circulation effects and propagandistic texts (from all sides of the nano-battles)—penetrates the body invisibly, as do the nanoparticles currently buried in transparent sunblocks, clothing, baby lotions, etc. The more time you spend in the piece, or with nanoproducts, the more your body is host to a range of interactions run by unseen, speculative scripts.

We hope that the more time you spend with the piece, the more you might realize the fallacies of the optic. As the adage goes, “there’s more than meets the eye.” While a certain “minimalism” might be measured vis-a-vis visual economies of re/presentation, in the larger sense/s, there is nothing minimal or minimalistic about this iteration of the *particle group*. To the contrary, the aural/oral/textual borders on the excessive or ultra-baroque here. The participant-observer is bombarded with constellating and im/exploding languages—be it in the guise of the above-mentioned persuasive re-scripting of a “steady-feed” of “sonic advertising,” in the streaming poetics of the illuminated nanoscripts, or in the the nano-janitor’s eerily accented improvisation of science’s racialized borderization. The ideal interlocutor is able to codeswitch between the pedestals-turned-towers-of-babble and the project’s other assemblages, is able to navigate the variety of aural/oral/textual (versus purely focal) ranges conjured up/against/and through the false vision of a cleanroom’s *minimalist* aesthetics (and politics). But the overall ambience is meant to be one of bombardment, surround-sound, sensory overload, replicated in and through the sprawling parallel tracks of *particles of interest*’s concomitant website.

Here’s another way to tell the story, brought to you vis-a-vis popular culture and the ancillary investigations of our “smallest” researcher Dr. Ze: in Dr. Seuss’s beloved classic Horton Hears a Who, the protagonist must convince those around him that “people are people no matter how small,” that there are teeming worlds that ostensibly are illegible or, in the best-case scenario, read as *invisible.* This is a story about the “nano,” about the excessively miniature, about the convenience of a minimalist dismissal of that which resides in and beyond “normal” focal ranges. Similarly, *particle group* seeks to unpack expansive vistas often quarantined within the hallowed laboratories of nanotechnological innovation, to point out the simple logic of cause-and-effect, the reverberating echoes of experimentation (positive and negative) on even the tiniest of scales. Such a project demands an innovative relationship to the baroque, one that evokes more than meets the eye/I: a de/construction of the pedestal in the hopes of interrupting business-as-usual, a sonic seance that channels the spooks outside and inside the room (as well as those residing in the doorjamb–the better to withstand the magnitude of the quakes, quirks, and quantum leaps and bounds to come!), scrolling de/compositions that seek to “dirty” clean images.

[EN]: Your text “Particle Philosophy” explains that artists and responsible citizens who become aware of the implications of nanotechnology need not understand everything with the same intimacy that a scientist dedicated to the field would, but that “while it may be possible to fully perform within the scientific networks that float in the inaccessible atmosphere of scientific objectivity, one possible zone for intervention and re-reading by artists and activists is the space between system-based biology and the networks that Clone Capitalism is now interlocking into the old E-Capitalism database, sharing tools in order to create new speculation bubbles.”

[*pg*]: The contrasts/unities of art and science are also of core interest for us. Some of our questions could be noted as such: why is the type of reality a scientific researcher creates through empiric method given more value? Because it is reproducible and therefore closer to a commodifiable product? It would seem that way. Our present day technological development has been the result of artistic, scientific, and engineering research and investigation. What happens to our understanding of each when we assume an empiricism that falls within the time-frame of performance and/or transmission (performance, inspiration, chance occurrence, and the first stage of a discovery procedure)? How close can we get to that which we are given to accept as representations of reality, when it is being redefined by the likes of training that is scientific and not within the realm of (post)humanistic traditions? What can the culturally sanctioned artistic frame/situation of emerging/exclusive scientific research and method bring to multiple counter/publics? One possible staging area is around the shared conditions that art and science find themselves in—the distributed condition of the post-contemporary; it is there that small possibilities may come to the foreground in order to disturb and re-frame the nature of “research” both within Particle Capitalism, science/art and the nano-scales with(out)—what can be imagined as “research” not completely bound or better yet unbound by the Scylla and Charybdis of post-contemporary “venture science” and for-profit “research.” As we stated before, are there not other “engines of creation” possible that are at play with the pulsing scales of an impossible art(is)cience and its reverse?

[EN]: Could you explain how this can be possible when it is access, understanding, and implementation of knowledge that allows the scientists to have power? What are some of the effective ways in which an artist or activist who does not have mastery of scientific language can have power within the system-based biology? How can one effectively contribute or question a discourse in which one may be accused of misunderstanding the issues at hand due to the limitations of knowledge? Could you elaborate on how Particles of Interest is related to this conundrum?

[*pg*]: It is important to understand that science itself is bound to issues of representation, discourse,
economic drives and definitions, to social distinctions, and that it is not somehow completely unbound from these frames by its “objectivity” and “testability.” Every form of knowledge has its limits and fault lines, some of which can only be outlined by those who lack complete “mastery”of its epistemological categories. As artists and activists, we are not trying to shift the process of scientific production, but to ask what is not being tested and why? And, how are the processes being narrated? In our case, why is nano-toxicology receiving so little funding on a national and global scale? Why are so many everyday products ranging from cosmetics to tennis balls being brought to market with little to no long-term testing of their effects on the human body? Just recently the BBC reported on a U.K. report that links an asbestos trajectory to the nanotubes that are being used in many products without any warnings attached.

“Carbon nanotubes, the poster child of the burgeoning nanotechnology industry, could trigger diseases similar to those caused by asbestos,” a study suggests. Specific lengths of the tiny fibers were found to cause ‘asbestos-like’ inflammation and lesions in mice. Use of asbestos triggered a pandemic of lung disease in the 20th Century.”

A number of science-studies scholars, including Chela Sandoval and Donna Haraway, have consistently diagrammed the possibility of re-framing science from the “technologies that see from below.” This form of intervention opens this empirical system of knowledge to other “meanings and bodies” that are “unimaginable from the vantage point of the cyclopian, self-satiated eye of the master subject” of the imaginary condition of science as “pure and completely objective.” Like most of us around the world, it is also bound to the top-down controls of neoliberal-isms—systems’ theories that may not be seeking the best science for science’s sake, but only what is needed to sell something to and on market continua (where the ideal formula for Coca-Cola in the U.S. is not identical to the ideal in Zimbabwe, i.e., one needs to “sweeten the pot”). In this multiverse, we work from “by-any-means-possible-or-necessary positions,” i.e., suiting up and disposing of a master/slave dialectic and/or the contradictory attitudes that “The Master’s Tools Will Never (but just might) Dismantle the Master’s House.”

[EN]: Particles of Interest is presented as an extension of Capital and Colonialism. At one point it is reminiscent of the Terminator movies, in which the machines take over the world. In this fashion, the article “Particle Philosophy” outlines the possibility that machines might end up making decisions for human beings because we might reach a state so complex in cultural production that it would be impossible for humans to make decisions. If this were to happen, would the machines, because they were initially programmed by humans, simply reinforce already-established ideologies?

[*pg*]: Yes, the reproduction of our all-too-human desires, visions, and faults will no doubt become part of the viroids and nanites that we are assembling now, in much the same way that our early post-human cells were assembled by the entanglement of/with hot star stuff and
strange encounters with those “potato spindle tuber viroids” which we call life. We often like to quote: “In the game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human beings, nature, and machines. I am firmly on the side of nature. But nature, I suspect, is on the side of the machines.” — George Dyson, “Darwin Among the Machines”

This indeed creates speculative hints we like to call “trans_patent tales” that point to the new potentials at play of machinic desire seeking at the nano-scale to become their own forms of being and becoming (which do often mimic our post-contemporary currents) in order to survive, to invent, to keep their young under control. In our “trans_patent tales” our very bodies become factories for other forms that see, seethe, and seize their own freedoms, their own communities, their own rights:

“Trans_Patent 6608386: Sub-nanoscale electronic devices and bacterial processes
July 12, 2006
By Assignee(s) Yale University/YU (New Haven, CT)
Inventors: Reed, Mark A. (Southport, CT); Tour, James M. (Columbia, SC). Sometimes Lila would feel a bit itchy as she floated in her partner a few hours before integration. Most birthing was now a trans_patented condition involving sub-nanoscale trading—it was the only way to pay the cost of life now. So every hour during this last trimester Lila and her partner would ferment mass nanowire production on her in-vitro skin in collaboration with the YU bacteria colonies. She could feel the oldest most sustainable microbes on the planet staging WIPO-2 contracts for the latest off-scale metal-changing particles. Hundreds upon hundreds of YU products were waiting impatiently for her to catch a bit of crying air at the edges of her partner’s canal to install and run—for just in time delivery. Delivery was all that mattered now.”


Ricardo Dominguez and Amy Sara Carroll

Nanofabric is the new black in fashion apparel and accessories.
—Hugo Boss, 2005

Patenting particles makes everyone smile around here.
—Harris & Harris Group (Nasdaq:TINY), 21 September 2005

“Think small, think really small and then think even smaller” and you almost will hit the miniscule trans-b.a.n.g.s (bits, atoms, neurons, and genes) at the core of today’s particle transvergence. There’s a rush to patent and fabricate particles, currently found in cosmetics, baby lotions, sunscreen, fabrics, paints, and inkjet paper. Industries now claim to control the vertical and horizontal axes of structures far smaller than “angels’ dancing on the head of a pin.” The sliding scale of the nano-world is one nanometer, a billionth of a meter, or about one twenty-fifth-millionth of an inch (far smaller than the world of everyday objects described by Newton’s laws of motion, but bigger than an atom or a simple molecule).

Reality raincheck: these tiny trans-b.a.n.g.s are rapidly transforming what constitutes the everyday. *particle group* seeks to data-mine transperversal tales of the global Matter Market, to re-tell and re-own them in ways that unhinge the vested interests of venture sciences’ speculative fictions. To this end, we privilege the poetic (paratactically speaking) in an attempt to slip the false binary qua dialectic of database/narrative aesthetics. Drawing upon varied traditions of performance art and poetry (including concrete poetries, visual poetry, flarf, e-poetry, more generally speaking, experimental film, Zapatista communiqués, the artivist gesture), dance, movement studies, critical theory, we think small, really small, even smaller (the pharmakon), “reason[ing] deeply to forcibly feel,” it takes one to know one profane illumination (to another).

Read: every aesthetic has its politics, too. Recalling Denise Ferreira da Silva’s rejoinder to Paul Gilroy’s interpretation of “the tragic story of Henrietta Lacks,” what Gilroy characterizes as “the passage from the ‘biopolitics of race’ to ‘nano-politics,'”1 we understand “the new black” of “nano-fabric” as itself a discursively loaded gun, where, to quote Ferreira da Silva once again, “That cancer cells do not indicate dark brown skin or flat noses can be conceived of as emancipatory only if one forgets, or minimizes, the political context within which lab materials will be collected and the benefits of biotechnological research will be distributed.”2

Contagion, indeed! The endlessly proliferating constitution of “disposability,” writ large (one cannot not inhale) and small, smaller, even smaller on the bodies of the most vulnerable (women, people of color, the poor, children, so-called sexual minorities, the disenfranchised, The Spooks Who Sat By the Door), adds fuel to the fire of the counter-core of *particle group*’s transpatentry.

1 Paul Gilroy, Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000) 20.

2 Denise Ferreira da Silva, Toward a Global Idea of Race. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. 8-9.