Byron Rich

Byron Rich is an artist, professor and lecturer born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His work exploring speculative design, biology futures and tactical media has been widely shown and spoken about internationally. He pursued a degree in New-Media at The University of Calgary before finding himself in Buffalo, New York where he obtained an MFA in Emerging Practices at The University at Buffalo. He now teaches Electronic Art & Intermedia at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

The artistic practice of Byron Rich can best be summed up as techno-futility. By integrating his obsession with formality and order with his frustration with his inherent limitation in knowing, he creates work that purposefully obfuscates traditional boundaries of practicality, ethics, and sensibility. This relationship between attempting to forge order in a plastic reality ultimately muddles the very topics he is attempting to traverse.

On the surface much of Byron’s work seems to seek answers or solutions to problems that permeate culture. Why doesn’t everyone have equal access to contraceptives? Does the irony of invasive species endemic to North America into Europe not resonate more widely? How can gun crime be mitigated? These questions, however, are simply a portal to exploring the subtexts of contemporary culture.

At the heart of Byron’s practice is his curiosity into what hides behind the veil of popular perception. Equally fascinated by the complexities of the material world as he is with the intricacies of our social order, his compulsions manifest as material moral dilemmas that call into question human relationships, both interpersonal and to the collection of interconnected ecosystems that we call earth.

By materially integrating diverse digital systems with biological elements, and complicating their interactions with a purposeful sense of futility, his works try to compel those who happen upon them to ask questions of themselves and the world they inhabit. The intentional humor and playfulness of his aesthetic intends to act as a means of breaking through the skepticism and feelings of inadequacy that come with the self consciousness of being an individual in a paradoxically arbitrary yet necessary social structure.

Byron combines operationally proven techniques of biological science, computer science, and robotics, with technologies that lie in the liminal space between speculation and absurdity.

M-Ark I (Microbiome Ark I)
M-Ark is a project that tackles the prospect of a future in which humanity has rendered our planet inhospitable; a prospect made all the more possible with the United States pulling out of the Paris Climate Treaty. M-Ark uses the philosophically compelling theory of panspermia, the notion that life is spread throughout the universe by comets, asteroids, planetoids, or even artificially as it’s core concept. M-Ark is a small satellite that carries on board a human microbiome, capitalizing on the hypothesis that human evolution was guided in part by our microbiome. This small satellite is designed to crash back down to earth at such a point that climate conditions have once again become favourable, kick-starting panspermia and possibly altering the evolutionary journey of another species.


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