Stephanie Rothenberg

Stephanie Rothenberg’s interdisciplinary art draws from digital culture, science and economics to explore relationships between human designed systems and biological ecosystems. Moving between real and virtual spaces her work investigates the power dynamics of techno utopias, global economics and outsourced labor. She has exhibited throughout the US and internationally in venues including Eyebeam (US), Sundance Film Festival (US), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art / MASS MoCA (US), House of Electronic Arts / HeK (CH), LABoral (ES), Transmediale (DE), and ZKM Center for Art & Media (DE). She is a recipient of numerous awards, most recently from the Harpo Foundation and Creative Capital. Residencies include ZK/U Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik in Berlin, TOKAS / Tokyo Art and Space, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace, Eyebeam Art and Technology and the Santa Fe Art Institute. Her work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art and has been widely reviewed including Artforum, Artnet, The Brooklyn Rail and Hyperallergic. She is an ongoing participant and organizer in the MoneyLab research project at the Institute of Network Cultures and co-organizer of the 2018 MoneyLab 5 symposium that took place in Buffalo, NY. She is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art at SUNY Buffalo where she co-directs the Platform Social Design Lab, an interdisciplinary design studio collaborating with local social justice organizations.

Aphrodisiac in the Machine, 2019, video still

Project Description

During the residency Stephanie will experiment with various flexible and elastic materials and physical computing to create a soft robotic oyster that is part of a multimedia installation titled “The Aphrodisiac in the Machine.” The project explores the economy and ethical dimensions of bioengineering non-human life for future human survival. As climate change continues to wreak havoc and impact human resources, technologies to preserve and protect natural capital – the world’s stock of natural assets such as fertile land, clean water and living organisms – are of utmost concern. But what is at stake within the process of converting these so-called natural “assets” into quantifiable, consumer commodities known as ecosystem services?

The project plays on the legendary myth of the oyster as an aphrodisiac to enhance human virility. Recent scientific studies have discovered a new amino acid in oysters that potentially increases sexual hormone production in rats. Merging fact and fiction, the story unfolds through a sci-fi narrative about a futuristic aquaculture sea farm that breeds a new species of cyborg oysters as a source of human protein. But what might happen if this excess “desire” is released into the networks and infrastructures of the public at large? The robotic oyster will simulate some of the physical characteristics of the living organism such as the ability to pump and filter fluid through its gill system. In the installation, samples of the fluid developed in a lab will be available for consumption.

Reversal of Fortune: Planthropy, 2015, Electronic Installation