Poet-artists Christian Bök and Karin Bolender pose two interventions into bioart, with radically different conceptions of the nonhumans involved. In Böks Xenotext project (2002–present), a microbe becomes an archive and writing machine through DNA manipulation. Bolender’s The Unnaming of Aliass (2002–2020) documents her life with the ass Aliass and the unexpected results it yields. Both projects attempt to establish communication with nonhumans, but their approaches have drastically different consequences. Bök ultimately ends up reinscribing well-worn anthropocentric biases. In contrast, Bolender’s capacious version of animal husbandry moves away from machines and mastery over circumstances and animals, following a principle akin to Karen Barad’s “intra-action” to suggest a course correction for bioartists’ work with nonhumans.

You do not currently have access to this content.