How do you own and sell life when the organisms you have created make copies of themselves for free? Through the lens of his collection at the Postnatural History Center, Founder Rich Pell, shares some examples of companies that have tried to 'own life' in a capitalist system. 

The Center for Postnatural History exhibits organisms that have been intentionally altered and are in that sense post natural. Think of genetically modified organisms, selectively bred organisms, domesticated organisms, essentially, organisms that have been tinkered with by human beings and that wouldn't end up in natural history museums. Rich Pell, Founder and Director of the Center for Postnatural History, refers to them as cultural works rather than natural works and exhibits them in the museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

When humans take these organisms out of their natural habitat, he argues, they are dependant on us for all their primary needs. This includes food and reproduction, which essentially rubs shoulders with the idea of ‘ownership of life’. One of the essential behaviors of an organisms is that it reproduces, or copies itself, for free. This is a problem in a capitalist system that is trying to own and sell life and it makes for some interesting anecdotes.

In his riveting talk at PICNIC Festival 212, Rich Pell shares several of these anecdotes about different strategies that are in place to control the reproduction of an organism in order to maintain ownership of it. He does so through the lens of the collection of the Postnatural History Center.



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