Jana Vanecek

ID9606/2a-c [Welcome To The Biocentury]

Installation with 7 typecut elements on wall | Dimensions and size variable | Edition 3 + 2 AP

In the course of history, every technological revolution has led to massive changes in political, economic and social structures, but also to new power relations between the institutions involved (states, organisations, corporations, etc.) and social classes. Due to the rapid developments in the field of medical biotechnology, the transactions that are connected with the body seem to develop into the most important areas of the market economy in the last few decades. Under these social and historical conditions, as well as in response to the shift in economic investment, knowledge production and insights within genetics represent a reorientation of scientific knowledge and the history of science. These factors are closely intertwined with the forces that manifest themselves as the acceleration of the politicisation of science. A new biopolitical system called biocapitalism is taking shape before our eyes and influencing the economic, political and cultural life of contemporary capitalism. In short, this new materialising structure of power and subjectivity redefines the way we live.

Through the interplay of various information and biotechnologies as well as global trade and intellectual property rights, life, understood as matter, can be decomposed, stabilised, frozen, digitised, standardised, stored in genetic databases and independent of time and space, via organs and species traded and accumulated across different contexts and companies in the service of health and capital. These profound transformations open up a new pattern of the modern distribution of power and lifestyle and also change and reconstruct Foucault‘s concept of biopolitics from different dimensions. This new form of capitalism - genetic biocapitalism - fuels at least two perspectives at the same time: utopian hopes and dystopian despair.

For the artistic implementation of the described subject, I have selected seven public companies that are active in the field of medical biotechnology and have developed so-called “breakthrough therapies” in recent years. However, due to the horrendous prices, these therapies are very difficult to access for many affected people. In addition, the therapies often have to be rationed by the respective health authorities.

All of these listed companies are owned by their shareholders, and if the theses of the economist and pioneer of the “neoliberal project” Milton Friedman are to be believed, the only social responsibility of a listed company is to ensure to enlarge the profit and payment of those who do it own. To achieve this, the company has to establish identities and affiliations, be a place of innovation and the capitalisation of knowledge, among other things. This procedure is also visible in the language of Corporate Communication.

For my work, I have selected quotes, text fragments or claims that these companies use to advertise themselves and their products and, among other things, address their investors / shareholders. They come from the areas of R&D (Research & Development), Governance, Ethics or Responsibility. It was important to me that these statements offer both a utopian and a dystopian reading. The text fragments / quotes are supplemented by numbers that indicate the respective share value, sales and market capitalisation (as of end of 2018).

Edition 1/3 was aquired by the Art Collection of the City of Zurich in 2020