Amy Karle is an award winning bioartist who utilizes the relationships among the mind, body, science and technology as the platform from which to create work that examines material and spiritual aspects of life. Her work examines a future as yet unknown in which the digital, physical and biological systems are inextricably interwoven. Working across a variety of platforms she engages questions about what it means to be human by creating projects on, around, or about the body; it is the subject and the medium. Emulating patterns in physiology, psychology and nature, Karle's artwork questions our concepts of what it means to be human and to occupy a body, expressing internal, ephemeral experiences in artistic forms.
As an artist and designer, Karle imagines and examines the possibilities present in technology to support and advance humanity. Named one of the “Most Influential Women in 3D Printing” she is also the Co-Founder of Conceptual Art Technologies and has shown her work in 53 international exhibitions. She is regularly invited to share her innovations and insights as an expert speaker at prestigious events including the X-Summit and in think tanks including The Future Innovators Summit. Karle's work as a bioartist has contributed to the establishment of this new discipline in the art world, and recently, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Karle for our Spotlight on Women series.
Can you tell me a little about your personal background and upbringing? How do you think those things might have helped form your current artistic and technological interests?
“I was born with a life threatening birth defect, aplasia cutis, missing skin on the top of my head, which left me open and susceptible to infection. My parents were pharmacists and biochemists that took great care of me and sought out the best medical professionals. I had a number of experimental surgeries until one worked when I was a teenager. This experience influenced me in so many ways, first and foremost healing the body – I wanted to solve the “problem”, I wanted to be like other kids, I wanted to have hair on that spot on my head, I wanted to heal. I couldn’t do a lot of things that other kids did so it also made me very cognizant of the constraints and the limitations of the body. This was more of a metaphysical kind of understanding and a mind body understanding – how to find freedom within the limitations of the body – that many aren't forced to face until they are older.
I also had a lot of death growing up. I spent my young years with my grandmother while my parents worked. I used to go with her to see her friends. When they got sick we would visit them in the hospital, and when they died we would go to the funerals. I was witnessing rituals about the body and learning ways we deal with these human experiences, publicly and personally, in our minds, bodies, emotions, and spirit.
I grew up in Endicott, NY, the home of I.B.M. When I was a kid we would take field trips to see people's dads that worked there. We would see these rooms filled with giant super computers and were told stories of a future – this promise of technology – that by time we were adults, we would have computers that would be able to solve our problems for us, do work for us, and we would be able to live an easier, better life and pursue a life of community service, leisure, the arts – or whatever our hearts desire. We have achieved this is many ways – but there is still so much poverty and suffering in the world, pollution, a lot of problems that we could employ our technology to support us with for the good of our world but we have not chosen to do so. I still carry this romantic vision of what technology can do from us from that influence, as well as an awareness that we have to be cognizant to use it for our best and highest good.
My family was my biggest influence. My mother was a biochemist, my father was a pharmacist. I grew up in the lab in the pharmacy next to them. Although it was clear from a very young age that art was the language that I spoke the best, I always had a flirtation with science – I would go in the lab with my mom and when I wasn't helping her with tasks like gel staining, I would make my own little experiments.”
I have covered your work before; I particularly enjoyed writing about your work on 3D printed scaffolding for cell growth into human bone during your time as Artist in Residence at Autodesk. Can you tell me about something(s) that you are currently working on?
“I have been working along two paths: bioprinting and collaborating with AI (artificial intelligence) to create artwork, with the intention that I can merge these two paths. The specific work I'm pursing with bioprinting is the heart and vasculature. The heart is one of those areas that really corresponds to the mind, body and emotions '“ it is both a vital organ and a seat of emotional consciousness. It is a rich area to explore.
I’m also getting ready for a solo exhibition – The Body & Technology: A Conversational Metamorphosis – its both a retrospective and new work. I am showing 3D printed work and pieces created in collaboration with artificial intelligence, anatomical drawings and paintings made with neural networking. What I’m exploring is how we can creatively collaborate with technology and use it to enhance us and learn about ourselves in the process. In this case I utilized a neural network to create art work in the way that I would think and create art work but it surprises me in the process. It becomes another tool in the art making process and art form in itself.