Oron Catts´talk at ars electronica

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Bring me home, please

0aaroncat2.jpgThe Golden Nica in the brand new Hybrid Art category went to a whole structure not just a work: SymbioticA.

The birth of the category was motivated by the fact that people attending the festival were sometimes wondering where was the interaction of some pieces shown under the Interactive Art label, a clearer set of criteria was needed which would of course disqualify some interesting art pieces. The creation of the new category was thus the most obvious solution.

Jens Hauser, art curator, writer, and member of the jury gave an insightful introduction to the category. It was one of those "Focus or take notes" talk. So i dropped my pen but here´s a few points:

The results of a search of the word "hybrid" on google demonstrates that the biological origins of the term are increasingly used metaphorically and replaced by cultural examples of hybridity (cars, clothing, etc.) He pointed and discussed Brian Stross´ essay The Hybrid Metaphor From Biology to Culture.

Hybrid Art received 470 entries for its first year of existence. The category is dedicated specifically to today’s hybrid and transdisciplinary projects and approaches to media art, focusing on the process of fusing different media and genres into new forms of artistic expression as well as the act of transcending the boundaries between art and research, art and social/political activism, art and pop culture.

0aadresfun8.jpgSince its foundation in 2000, SymbioticA has enabled dozens of artists to engage in and comment on "wet technologies" while complying strictly with scientific requirements. The collaborative structure produces new cultural experiments in the field of neurosciences, molecular biology, anatomy physics, anthropology and ethics.

Symbiotica offers undergraduate courses, postgrad programme, hosts individual short and long term research projects, workshops, "Friday Meetings. Symbiotica is also a founding partner of BEAP and pursues the research of Tissue Culture & Art Project.

Some of the projects developed with the help of SymbioticA include: a dress made of fungi by by Donna Franklin (image on the left); BioKino, the Living Screen; collaborations with Adam Zaretsky, the Critical Art Ensemble, etc.

Dr. Stuart Bunt, scientific director of SymbioticA, and Oron Catts explained how SymbioticA started as an artist in residence project and grew into a more stable structure as they were gaining recognition all over the world. They applied for more grants and had other artists come over to work with them.

Interestingly, Ionat Zurr explained that they applied both to the art school and to the science school. The art community didn't accept them, it was the science school which gave them support.

What makes their work appealing for the science world is that artists get more freedom to explore.

In science you have to work towards an end point, to "cure", it´s not about doing research anymore, scientists are "problem solvers". Therefore, explained Dr. Stuart Bunt, artists are stimulating fits in this ethos. The critical edge they bring help scientists justify and constantly evaluate the scientific process. Artists often come up with provoking pieces which reminds scientists of the unease to work with living beings.

SymbioticA is very far off the radar, it is located in Perth, "the most isolated big city in the world", which apparently provides the artists with more freedom.

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Part of the exhibition: Nigel Helyer´s Host, in which an audience of several crickets attend a lecture concerning the sex life of insects
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For the ars electronica exhibition, SymbioticA brought some artists with them (more info about these works will follow). The form of display used doesn´t go very well with the rest of the usually very "please touch and have fun" ars electronica exhibition. For example, one project was hidden behind the heavy door of an incubator. Occasionally the door would be open and visitors who happen to wander around could have a peek, this aims to be a reference to the occasional opening up of the scientific world.

One of SymbioticA´s aims is to bring scientific discussions out of the laboratories and bring the debate out in public rahter than wait for tabloids to give their own take on it.

Catts also insisted on the fact that although many the works developed within their structure might seem to be subversive, all of them comply fully with the rules and requirement of science. That makes their approach more powerful and gives them more freedom to work and exhibit without the fear of being censored for some procedural reason.

rebel.tv has a video of Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts during the gala ceremony. Images from SymbioticA´s exhibition at ars.

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