More notes from the talks i heard at De l'objet de laboratoire au sujet social (From Laboratory Object to Social Subject), a week of lectures, screenings and workshops which took place a few days ago at the Ecole d'Art d'Aix en Provence.

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Jens Hauser and France Cadet cooking frogs and lentils for us (Image B-E-Art)

Previously: Eduardo Kac's presentation in Aix en Provence.

In 2003, International curator Jens Hauser curated the first exhibition in Europe of artists who use biotechnology as a medium for expression. More recently, he curated Still, Living in Perth, Australia and is currently working on Sk-Interfaces, a conference (on 08 – 09 February 2008) and exhibition which will open in January 31 at FACT, in Liverpool.

sk-interfaces will explore the idea of skin as a technological interface. The show will feature the work of artists who use biology as a material for art and new commissions from artists including Orlan and Zbigniew Oksiuta. The event will turn FACT’s exhibition spaces into a hybrid lab / art space where visitors will experience an engaging, critical and thought-provoking approach to how current technologies are changing our perceptions of the body and bridging the gap between science and art.

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Growing the semi living steak in a bioreactor for Disembodied Cuisine

Jens' was a two part presentation. In the morning, he discussed the meaning of "bioart" (which is also sometimes called "wet art", "moist art", "biotech art", etc.), how artists are exploring the frontier between man and animal and creating cultural discussions around biotech-related issues, the relationship between presence and representation (referring to Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht'essay The Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey), mimesis and real, dimension of the sense and dimension of the senses.

I'm not going to write down everything he said during his presentations but will just highlight a few key elements (well... at least those that got my attention):

Something in common that bioart has with performance art is that they both leave behind them only video documentation and some material remains. In the case of Disembodied Cuisine, the remains were pictures, videos and more surprisingly the remnants of engineered frog steaks that were so hard to chew that most participants spat the bits out.

Interestingly, the artistic project has concrete retroactive effects. By bringing the concept of tissue-engineered ersatz meat into the public domain, the artists have made it difficult for commercial firms to patent and make a profit out of "tissue engineered meat".

These victimless steaks refer to Winston Churchill's famous quote: Fifty years hence we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.

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Image 7x7 sf

Hauser introduced us to TC&AP's latest work, NoArk, which is on view until January 6 as part of the Biotechnique exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The research project explores the taxonomical crisis induced by life forms created through biotechnology.

Developments in life sciences have created new ways for beings to come into the world, and new categories of existence that are challenging the order of the world. This requires us- humans to rethink our understandings and our relationships with our own identity/body, other animals, as well as the concept of life itself. The growing number of ‘labmade’ life forms requires special attention. In pharmacological factories, research universities, and other technologically driven institutions there already exists a mass of disassociated living cells and tissues in the thousands of tons. These fragments do not fall under current biological or cultural classifications.

NoArk is a Noah's Ark for the biotech age, an experimental vessel designed to maintain and grow a mass of living cells and tissues that originated from different organisms. This vessel serves as a surrogate body for a collection of living fragments which are presented alongside technologically preserved specimens of organisms. At the top are McCoy cells (what makes the work all the more thought-provoking is that the McCoy cell line originated from a human and is now classified as a mouse cell line), at the bottom are taxidermied animals. As opposed to classical methodologies of collection, categorization and display that are seen in Natural History museums, contemporary biological research is focused upon manipulation and hybridisation, and rarely takes a public form. NoArk uses cellular stock taken from tissue banks, laboratories, museums and other collections. It contains a chimerical ‘blob’ made out of modified living fragments of different organisms, which are living together in a techno-scientific body. Like the cabinets of curiosities that preceded the Natural History museum’s refined taxonomy NoArk’s collection of unclassifiable sub-organisms acts as a symbolic precursor to a new way of approaching a made nature.

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Image uploaded by Lisbeth Klastrup on flickr

The questions that TC&AP aims to raise with NoArk range from "How do taxonomical systems based on traditional classification accommodate life forms created by humans?" to "What could be the artistic and technological strategies for maintaining and exhibiting living collections of sub-organisms for long periods of time? NoArk presents ecology of parts as an attempt to observe the living world through a post-anthropocentric system. More in Visual Culture and Bioscience.

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Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974

Another book mentioned by Jens Hauser in his talk is Postmodern Animal, by Steve Baker which looks at how animal imagery has been used in modern and contemporary art, and in postmodern philosophy and literature, to suggest ideas about identity and creativity and raise questions about our relationship to animals. Examples of artistic works include Helena - The Goldfish blender, by Marco Evaristti, Carsten Holler and Rosemarie Trockel's Ein Haus fur Schweine und Menschen (A house for pigs and people), Joseph Beuys's three days co-habitation with a coyote, Dennis Oppenheimer, Dali, etc. But these works comment on animals as they already exist, not on animals as they might exist one day. Works coming from artists such as TC&AP, Joe Davis, Art oriente Objet, Eduardo Kac, explore the mechanisms of life itself.

That's the moment when Hauser put things straight about biotech art. Going back to 1993, the year when ars electronica titled its festival Artificial Life - Genetic Art but presented mainly artworks dealing with softwares, synthetic imaging, digital organisms, etc. It was more about creating life on a software and hardware level.

Ten years later, in 2003, Hauser curated L'Art Biotech at the Lieu Unique in Nantes. The exhibition engaged directly with the organic matter in a tangible and critical way.

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Patricia Piccinici: Laboratory Procedures, 2001

Confusion on the terminology: bioart works should not be confused with works that deal with the theme of biotechnology: photoshoped images, sculptures of chimera, computer programmes, etc. Yet those works often feed traditional art museums when they need to take a stand on the emerging topic of biotechnology. They are easy to show and keep in a gallery. Besides, they allow museums to keep their hands clean.

Jens Hauser ended his talk with a video of Eduardo Kac's, The Eighth Day, an installation which investigates the new ecology of fluorescent creatures that is evolving worldwide.

The Eighth Day is not meant to point the finger and say "transgenic is bad", it's more complex than that, the work is meant to raise awareness, to highlights the fact that whether we like it or not we are now surrounded by transgenic life. The work communicates to a larger audience the true complexity of the phenomenon, the visual impact of the artwork enables a better apprehension. The GFP becomes a means to communicate the message, it acts as a vector of social commentary.

Another issue is that a misconception of what is nature circulates, the world as we know it is a constant recreation of life, think of the wholphin (a hybrid, born from a mating of dolphin and a whale Pseudorca), the liger (a hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger), the zorse or zebrula (the offspring of a zebra stallion and a horse mare), etc. These genetic examples occurred spontaneously.

More books: L'Art Biotech, curated by Jens Hauser and its recently published Italian version.

Related: Oron Catts´talk at ars electronica; Bioart - Taxonomy of an Etymological Monster (original text.)

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0aeduarddooo.jpgI've just spent four fascinating days at the Ecole d'Art d'Aix en Provence where a whole week of lectures, screenings and workshops are being dedicated to De l'objet de laboratoire au sujet social (From Laboratory Object to Social Subject). We explored the social, cultural and ethical issues regarding the living, human behaviour, human/animal/machines relationships and bioart.

Yesterday morning we went to the Fondation Vasarely to listen to Eduardo Kac.

Kac is often reduced to Alba, but while his presentation was leading us through some of the highlights of his 27 year long career, i realized that there's so much more than a GPF rabbit behind his name.

In the '80s, most of his works were of the performance kind and his main interests were (and still are) literature and poetry. In 83, he created some holographic poetry, and later on explored digital poetry then biological poetry. All the possible dimensions of communication are explored in his work.

The holograms translated his interest for the visual dimension of the words. With them he was trying to create an experiment of language destabilization.

In 85 he started to get interested in networked communication, the one that came before the web. The first networked medium he used was that good old minitel which made him realize how he could create anything anywhere and show it to anyone anywhere. His creation became immaterial.

The minitel work was called Reabracadabra, kabalistical dimension. He also worked with videophones, faxes, tvs, etc. Introducing a bidirectional process in a process which is usually purely mono-directional (tv, fax). Ex. Retrato Suposto - Rostro Roto (Presumed Portrait -- Foul Face).

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He found that distant communication is limited because it reduces the communication between humans to an exchange of sounds and images on a small and flat surface: the screen. The presence of the body is missing.

1986, searching for new forms of presence, he proposed the art of the telepresence which is, according to him, the contrary of a phone call (i'm in Chicago, you are in Aix en Provence). With telepresence you are still in Aix but you feel like you are in Chicago. There are tangible, physical consequences in that distant space of the acts i do here.
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Ex. RC Robot, an anthropomorphic robot controlled by radio.

Then came a second robot, very different from the previous one. It was not anthropomorphic and whether the first one was nearly 2 meters high this second one was very close to the ground. He called it Ornitorrinco. Being so low, its point of view was more similar to the pne of an animal or of a kid. Art can suggest this kind of change of perspective. People could remotely access the fully mobile and wireless robot and alter the remote location (teleoperation) via the telephone network.

In 1996, another work of telepresence, Rara Avis. Gallery visitors and remote participants could interact with an aviary containing 30 birds from the point of view of a robotic macaw. Phenomenological video.

By wearing the headset, the viewer was transported into the aviary and perceived the aviary from the point of view of the robotic bird. When the viewer moved his or her head to left and right, the head of the telerobotic macaw moved accordingly. The real space was immediately transformed into a virtual space. The installation was connected to the Internet. Remote participants could observe the gallery space from the point of view of the telerobotic bird too. They could also use their microphones to trigger the vocal apparatus of the telerobotic bird in the gallery.

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By enabling the local participant to be both inside and outside the cage, this installation created a metaphor that revealed how new communications technology enables the effacement of boundaries at the same time that it reaffirms them.

At the time, museum and galleries didn't have internet so Eduardo had to bring internet physically, he came with cables, creating transformations instead of only suggesting them. It's with this work, with Rara Avis, that he starts to explore relationships with the living, that he starts to mix the dimension of the living and the dimension of the non-living.

1994, Essay Concerning Human Understanding was the first work that have him engage with the living. He was asking the question (which at the time sounded a bit ridiculous): "Is there a sense of aesthetics in the non-human world?" We always refer to art in relationship with human beings. Art is made by men for men. Could it be possible to create art for non-human species? And if it is possible what would the impact of art for non-human have on Art?

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In Kentucky, a yellow canary was given a large cage, on top of which circuit-boards, a speaker, and a microphone were located. A Plexiglas disc separated the canary from this equipment, which was wired to the phone system. In New York, an electrode was placed on a plant's leaf to sense its response to the singing of the bird. The microvoltage fluctuation of the plant was monitored through a computer running a software called Interactive Brain-Wave Analyzer, a program designed to inspect the vital activity of an organism generally understood as devoid of consciousness. The information coming from the plant was fed into another computer, which controlled a MIDI sequencer. The electronic sounds themselves were pre-recorded, but the order and the duration were determined in real time by the plant's response to the singing of the bird.

Teleporting in an Unknown State (currently part of the retrospective exhibition of his work in Valencia, Spain). Plants are kept in a dark room. Through a video projector suspended above and facing the pedestal, remote participants send light via the Internet to enable this plant to photosynthesize and grow in total darkness.

The biological connection goes beyond the living or the non-living, the local and the distant, the human and the non-human.
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The 1997 work Time Capsule constitutes a turning point in Eduardo Kac's career. He inserted a microchip under the skin of his ankle (he still has the microchip implanted). Presence of the digital dimension inside the human body. It's the kind of microchip that pet owner use for identification and recovery of lost animals. Eduardo registered himself both as dog and dog owner. The chip is still under his skin.

It's also the year when he starts to work on his project to create a transgenic dog, K-9.

He then went on developing transgenic art, using techniques from molecular biology and genetic engineering to create living being in an artistic context. Instead of a dog he ended up creating the GFP rabbit.

The first transgenic work he created is called Genesis and starts with an extract from the Bible:

Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.

It was chosen for what it implies about the dubious notion of humanity's supremacy over nature.

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He translated the sentence in morse code and then elaborated a simple conversion principle to translate the morse into DNA base pairs, using a system he invented and which is based on the four letters TCAG which represent the 4 chemical bases. From the sequence of letters, he had a laboratory produce a gene which was sent to the artist via FedEx. It looks like a white powder. Seeing genes out of a body makes you realize that genes on their own cannot do anything. One cannot talk of life by limiting it to the genetic context.

The Genesis gene was incorporated into bacteria. Participants on the Web could turn on an ultraviolet light in the gallery, causing real, biological mutations in the bacteria. This changed the biblical sentence in the bacteria. After the show, the DNA of the bacteria was translated back into Morse code, and then back into English.

0aabunnyvertde.jpgHe compared the work to a computer (input/output) and to the Rosetta Stone.

In 1997, he gets the idea of creating a fluorescent mammal, a chimerical animal that does not exist in nature. He is allergic to cats so he decides to use a rabbit. The rabbit looks like an albinos in day time but in the dark and using a blue light, the animal becomes green fluorescent.

It was created in 2000 with the help of a French research laboratory which censored the rabbit and refused to let Eduardo keep it. The artist then starts a campaign to liberate the rabbit and have it live with him in Chicago. My favourite action is the Alba Flag (2001) which he installed in front of his house to mark her absence.

2000 was a rather trubled year, people in France were still talking about the infected blood scandal , the mad cow disease, people were afraid of a future made of cloning and health uncertainties, digital doomsday, etc.

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The press jumped on the story but was actually more interested in the conflict between the lab and Eduardo than in the project itself.

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Hullabaloo and Oblivion

Specimen of Secrecy about Marvelous Discoveries is one of Kac's latest works. For the series, the artist made some "biotopes", living pieces that can be hanged on the walls of a gallery like a painting. Except that the works are living, they change during the exhibition in response to internal metabolism and environmental conditions, their exoskeleton is the frame. They are both subjects and objects. Each of them constitutes a self-sustaining ecology comprised of thousands of very small living beings in a medium of earth, water, and other materials. If you provide them with light and water, their color explode. The rabbit never left the laboratory but the bacteria of Kac's Specimen of Secrecy about Marvelous Discoveries could leave the lab, they are pet bacteria.

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The Eighth Day investigates the fluorescent creatures that are being developed individually in laboratories The Eighth Day presents them as a new ecology that brings together living transgenic life forms and a biological robot (biobot) in an environment housed under a Plexiglas dome, thus making visible what it would be like if these GFP plants, GFP amoeba, GFP fish, and GFP mice would in fact coexist in the world at large.

A biobot is a robot with an active biological element within its body which is responsible for aspects of its behavior. It has a colony of GFP amoeba called Dictyostelium discoideum as its "brain cells".

One of the objectives of the work is to demonstrate the the future of humanity is not limited to the traditional reproduction system. ANd that won't make them less human than we are.

Kac nevertheless insisted on the fact that The Eighth Day is his last GFP work because he doesn't want to become the Yves Klein of the green colour.

Eduardo is currently having a big solo exhibition at the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM), Valencia in Spain (runs until November 11).

0aazeguyi8.jpgSlowly coming back to the ars electronica postings with some notes from a talk by Zbigniew Oksiuta, one of the prize winners of the new Hybrid Art category and someone i was really looking forward to hearing. The Polish architect, artist, and researcher is now based in Germany where he works in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute and the University of Cologne. Oksiuta is probably one of the most interesting figures in the world of architecture, biology and biochemistry and he was as passionate and smart as i had imagined.

Oksiuta has been working for ten years on the possibility to create a new breed of biological habitat which would organically and dynamically adapt to conditions such as the absence of gravity that one might have to face both in the biosphere and in space. While architecture evokes ideas of stability and immobility, he envisions the possibility of making it living and unstable. Vegetable matter could become a live habitat, an isolated spatial entity that takes up, transforms, and synthesizes matter and energy from its surroundings by biological means.

The construction materials he works with are algae and gelatin. With traditional architecture, one has to assemble forms engineered by machines and this creates a big structure. In Oksiuta's system everything would grow at once, like biological systems. The dynamic systems would react to the external environment, communicate information and transfer energy through liquid medium.

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Mesogloea 2003. Inflation of the hollows in a polymer lump floating under water

One of the challenges he encountered while working with liquid materials to grow his bio structures was the evaporation of water that's one of the reasons why he resorted to building them under the water, using neutral buoyancy (isopycnic systems). Besides the water process gives an idea of what it is like to built spacial forms for weightless conditions.

The next step is breeding the structures in petri dishes. Not plastic petri dish but membranes which work both as barriers that protects and separates from the outside and as part of the structure itself.

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Spatium Gelatium 280807

His Biological Habitat: Breeding Spaces Technology, Made in Space project was exhibited at the OK Centrum, Linz. The system would use DNA as cosmic universal code: strands of DNA embedded in bioreactors are to develop autonomously into new forms of life in the biosphere and in outer space.

Both the environment and physical laws determine forms of life to the extent that their “experience? over the course of evolution is implemented in the strands of DNA. In the embryonic state, however, life emancipates itself from these guidelines and prescriptions. This is what the biological habitat uses; it provides a biotope that is not determined by gravitation and physical laws on Earth but rather by conditions in outer space. Therefore, biological forms of life also develop differently here and —similar to life on Earth— reproduce themselves over the course of an evolutionary process.

Two first images: Wojtek Kozak.

Angelo Vermeulen is currently in residency at the Aesthetic Technologies Lab in Athens, Ohio to work on his latest project. Biomodd brings together ecology, game culture and installation art.

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Inspired by the case modding scene, a custom computer is built as a form of expanded sculpture. Inside the case, excess heat of over-clocked processors is recycled by an elaborate living ecosystem. The computer hardware is used as server for a new computer game. The objective of this game is to bring some of the main themes of Biomodd into an imaginative multiplayer game experience.

Both the computer structure and the game are developed with a group of biology, game and art enthusiasts. Exhibition visitors can also modify the piece: through playing they generate heat and hence influence the interior ecosystem.

Biomodd will have its own temporary character depending on each local version of it. Only parts of previous versions are integrated in each new structure.

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Biomodd preparatory study

The first Biomodd version is developed at the Aesthetic Technologies Lab in Athens, Ohio. Collaborations are currently set up with departments of game design, electronic and computer engineering, telecommunications and biology. The objective is to compile an interdisciplinary team of 15-20 students.

All of the above intrigued me so i emailed Angelo and he was kind enough to answer my questions:

Can you give us more detail about the game itself?

Game description:

- a multiplayer environment that is graphically and/or conceptually inspired by the ecological theme of the project,
- the game can be graphically very simple and strongly conceptual (e.g. The Marriage of Rod Humble) or more sophisticated in its visual style (e.g. The Endless Forest of Tale of Tales)
- the game concept will be developed through group discussions with all involved participants (including students from departments such as Biology and Engineering)
- a more profound interaction with the ecosystem than just heat exchange can be envisioned:
(a) a feedback system in which parameters of the developing organisms are fed back into the virtual world; in this way a metaorganism could be created living in both worlds simultaneously
(b) an interactive system using simple forms of robotics to manipulate the ecosystem from within the virtual world (‘The Telegarden’ is a classic example)

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How far are you in the development of Biomodd?

The Biomodd version I am building at the Aesthetic Technologies Lab is the very first one. Several other curators across Europe and the US have already shown interest to support subsequent versions. At the moment we’re finishing a first prototype. It’s a human sized transparent structure that contains several suspended computer components and different types of plant life such as green algae and vines. The computer runs Linux (Fedora) and its monitor will be suspended downwards to illuminate a bed of fast-sprouting seeds. Basically, we’re testing how close we can bring together the biological and electronic world. At the same time we’re also exploring potential game concepts.

You use recycled parts for eco-related concerns?

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Yes, partly for that. At the end of each version the art work is completely disassembled. Participants can take what is useful for them and I will keep some elements that can be integrated in a subsequent version. All the remaining components are donated to recycling centers and thrift stores.

There’s also a conceptual motivation for using parts of previous versions in a new one. Essentially, this creates a very physical link between all the versions. It connects all the works. Apart from the re-use of electronics, every version will inevitably contain the “presence? of all previous collaborators. I function as a sort of gateway for the whole undertaking and through me ideas and concepts from participants will be passed on to each new group. The re-use of material components further strengthens that aspect.

However, not only electronic components are recycled, I am also using microscopic algae that have functioned in several former art projects of mine. In 2004 I created my last algae installation piece for the exhibition ‘This Place is Dreaming’ in Brussels. I kept the algae in a dormant stage in my studio since then. I took a dried sample to the Aesthetic Technologies Lab and currently I am reviving the cells so I can use the same algae in Biomodd. Another thread that links a sequence of art works and experiences…

The @Lab put the recorded webcast lecture online.

Photo credits: Jeff Lovett & Angelo Vermeulen.

UPDATE: on Saturday the exhibition Multispeak in de Witte Zaal in Ghent (Belgium) will open, featuring Biomodd. A live video steam will be displayed together with the first part of the Biomodd documentary made by filmmaker Morgan Riles.

0aahancji8.jpgI think that you will never be rewarded enough for being wmmna readers. Picnic is a conference + art show + playground + eventfull... euh event that takes place in Amsterdam each year.

We have guests Picnic day passes for 3 of you. They will give you access to the Make session, FabLab workshops and anything interesting happening on September 28.
UPDATE: tickets already assigned. Thanks for your interest, it just confirmed that i should offer more free tickets for festivals and conferences in the future.

Now the tickets are valid only September 28 because it is the day of the "Body wet hacking" session. I've asked 2 guys whose work i admire a lot, artist Adam Zaretsky and designer Michael Burton to come and talk about the way our life will be intimately transformed by the advances of biotechnology. Which scenarios will emerge? What will be the ethical, cultural or even political consequences of the bio-revolution?

Send me an email at reg at wmmna dot com if you fancy to join us for free. Fyi, A day pass is € 495 (507 euro with lunch), exclusive of VAT.

Adam Zaretsky is also setting up a hands-on workshop on the 28. I'll get back with more details later. Just be sure that whether he decides to have you get your hands dirty with extraction and isolation of Hybrid DNA or lead you to some BioPorn session, it is going to be fun and brain stimulating.

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In the meantime, i'm heading to The Hague for the Mastermundo conference. Looks like it´s the city to be right now because it is also hosting Today´s Art festival.

After that i'll be in Milan and Turin to check out some yummy-sounding exhibitions.

Related: Adam Zaretsky on Future Body (part 1 and part 2); VivoArts Lab documentary.
Michael's projects: The Race and Future Farm.

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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