Nell Tenhaaf is an electronic media artist and writer. She has exhibited across Canada, in the U.S. and in Europe. A survey exhibition of fifteen years of her work entitled Fit/Unfit opened in April 2003 and will travel to several other venues. Tenhaaf’s works created between 1989 and the mid-1990s were aimed at deconstructing the dominance in mainstream biological and biotechnology discourse of DNA as the “master molecule.” The discourses themselves have evolved since then. Later works attempt to represent some of the complex dynamics of life and involve the viewer as one element in a continuous flux, for example in the interactive work called Swell (2003) and in the touch-activated video installation UCBM (You could be me) (1999). Tenhaaf has published numerous reviews and articles that address the cultural implications of biotechnologies and of Artificial Life. She received her MFA from Concordia University in 1989, and is an Associate Professor in the Visual Arts department of York University. Nell Tenhaaf is represented by Paul Petro Contemporary Art in Toronto.


Artificial Agency

In a broad cultural sense as well as in the research world, an entity that crosses the threshold dividing the natural from the artificial, the living from the non-living, is most often referred to as an "agent". Now in common usage for familiar artificial beings present in our everyday lives, such as characters in video games or helpers for web crawling, the agent has both biological and computational origins. My interest lies in reintegrating the various meanings of agent, which are usually separated into their distinct areas of investigation, and to locate those meanings in a cultural context. Humans are in constant semiotic flow with many other agents, including artificial ones that have increasing levels of autonomy and their own unique forms of embodiment. The exploration of shared agency between biological and artificial entities is located within a continuum of social relations mediated by technology.