Robert Zwijnenberg's speech on the work of Dorcas Mueller in outLINE at the opening of the exhibition "the devil's hit list"
23rd of September - 21st of October 2006

Ladies and gentlemen, the first part of my speech is not directly about the work of Dorcas Mueller but strongly connected to it. I primarily want to offer an access to her work. My access, not necessarily the only possible one. For me her biography is more important than the individual Dorcas Mueller herself. I want to describe how I interpret her work (the meaning of her work).

My starting point is that an artwork demands intensive intellectual and sensual attention. Formulated the other way around, an artwork which only refers to sensual attention is in my opinion not an artwork but an illustration, only entertainment. The degree in which an artwork draws intellectual and sensual attention, the relationship between both elements, is depending on the sort of artwork. For a literary artwork the attention in first place is intellectual. Different types of artworks demand different mutual relationships between intellectual and sensual attention. And of course the viewer is of interest within this process. This means that the viewers knowledge and experience determines what the viewer experiences and understands about the artwork. There is a strong connection between an artwork and its viewer. The artwork as an artwork only exists by the viewers perception. An artwork is not an autonomous object, with inherent or essential qualities independent from the viewer. An artwork has as an artwork no independent intellectual or sensual meaning, an artwork is not an a-historical or outer-cultural entity with a steady fixed meaning. The meaning of an artwork appears in relation to a viewer.

I describe this especially because the work of Dorcas Mueller demands extra efforts by the viewer; his knowledge and sensual susceptibility. This is caused by the type of art Dorcas makes. She belongs to those artists who break into the world of the scientific and technological research and react to this through their artistic perspective. Only a small group of artists work like this. But it is understandable that they occupy themselves intensively with modern technology. Especially with biomedical science, the life sciences: biochemical, biogenetical and neuro-sciences. These sciences often oppose mysteries for us, which often are not understandable. Because of this they create hope and fear, but also expectations. These sciences are concerned with barely understandable matters, although these sciences are about who and what we are and want to become as a human being. The new technology in these fields are connected with various important ethical and cultural themes. What are the boundaries of these sciences? How far can we go within these sciences to stretch the boarders of what we are as human beings?

Within the public debate ethical concerns entailed in these sciences are discussed. The result is mostly that one is for or against a matter. The kind of art Dorcas makes fulfils a specific function within this debate because of the specific character of art. Art is marked by ambiguity. Within the unity of an artwork it is possible to express and coincide opposite matters. An artwork is a place where opposites can be put together in one unity. This is impossible within a verbal debate. You cannot at the same time be for and against. An artwork can therefore react intensively on a certain scientific theme, because of its ambiguity. An open space is created for the viewer in which he can position himself without immediately choosing to be for or against. This is exactly what happens when you observe Dorcas Mueller's works.

When we examine the work of Dorcas, we recognise themes like the myth of transparency of scientific illustrations, the fact that they are constructed. And secondly the role of the human body in relation to technology. The way ones own body, the body of the observer can be regained in its confrontation with technology. In general, the works of Dorcas show the ambiguous contradiction between nature and technology, the body and technology.

Using leeches is significant. The brain cells of the leech are used for the development of neuro chips. The cells constitute the interface between incoming and outgoing information. The leech is chosen to be used because of the specific qualities of the cells of a leech. Leeches belong to the oldest medical means. The oldest images date from four thousand years ago, which show that leeches are used for therapeutic practice. The human body and leeches have a long combined cultural history. The human body has always depended on leeches to stay healthy. And leeches have always needed the human body to stay alive. The neuro chip is used again, like the leech in a new way to generate utilisation's which will prosper the human, the human body. The leeches¡ brain cells in a neuro chip clarifies that the traditional function of the leech for the human being still exists. They take over our sins and deliver us by means of technology. The human body and technology are connected through the leech, in a symbiotic relationship, which is not immediately transparent but mixed with various religious, cultural and medical themes. The human body is placed in an ambiguous relationship towards technology. The leech is the mysterious connection between both.

In this sense, Dorcas as an artist almost functions as an leech in the technological field where she situates her art. The artworks of Dorcas confront us with our own body in its relationship to technology. Towards which we still do not develop the right attitude. Her artworks create an open space for the observer, where the observer can do question his own physical position towards technology without choosing sides. This is a sensual and an intellectual experience. We ourselves have to undertake the research.