I don't normally blog about calls or upcoming events. Mostly because as breathtaking as they are, press releases 'copy/pastes' are not my idea of an appealing content. I do like to make exceptions to the rule though. One of them is the Bio Art & Design Award. It used to be called the Designers and Artists for Genomics award but its objective remains unchanged: the award invites designers and artists interested in life sciences to propose projects that push the boundaries of research application and creative expression. Each year the three most remarkable ideas are awarded a 25,000 euro grant to bring the project to life and exhibit it.

To be eligible for the award you must have graduated no longer than five years ago from a design or art program (at either the Masters or Bachelors level). Applicants are encouraged to relate their proposals to recent advances in the Life Sciences, including those within specialties such as ecology, biomedicine and genomics.

The deadline is 2 February 2014.

The selection process is rigorous, the research institutes associated seem to be genuinely enthusiastic about the collaboration and the results of the partnership are usually so exciting that i've blogged about them relentlessly in the past (check out in particular: The Living Mirror, Ergo Sum, the now iconic 2.6g 329m/s, aka the 'bulletproof skin', etc.)

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Maurizio Montalti, System Synthetics

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Jalila Essaidi, 2.6 g 329 m/s (image Jalila Essaidi)

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The Center for Genomic Gastronomy, Eat Less, Live More and Pray for Beans

I took the call for proposals as an excuse to chat about the award with Angelique Spaninks and Wilma van Donselaar. Angelique is the head of MU, the art center which is going to exhibit the winning projects next Winter and Wilma, who works at the the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, has been working on the Award from the beginning.

Designers and Artists for Genomics is now Bio Art & Design Award. Why did the name change? Does it involve any modification in the award? The way it is organized, its purpose, the spirit, the organizations involved?

Angelique Spaninks : The change of the name is partly due to a shift in organizational parties. The Netherlands Genomics Initiative that has set up the award has ceased to exist per January 1 of this year but it has managed to guarantee a budget for a similar award. This has been brought under care of ZonMW, the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, that is now in the lead. The other new partners are NWO (the Dutch Research Council) and MU, one of the leading art foundations in the Netherlands with a hybrid program reaching from contemporary art to design, media art and popculture.

MU will take care of coordination towards the exhibition of the three winning projects, combined with other new bio art and design projects. De Waag is still on board and so are several leading universities and research centers for the Life Sciences that provide teams of scientists that will closely collaborate with the artists and designers that will be selected to work on their proposals. In that sense the purpose and spirit have not changed, and neither has the prize money.

I'm, as always, impressed by the quality and quantity of scientific organizations the award got on board. Why do you think they accept the challenge to work with an artist or designer? What does the collaboration with a creative individual with an entirely different background and -i suspect- perspective bring to their research activities?

Wilma van Donselaar of ZonMW: At first the only scientific organizations that participated were funded by the Netherlands Genomics Inititiative and they had to be persuaded a bit in the beginning, but quite soon they thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration. The artists bring in completely new ideas and often challenge them into exploring new technological possibilities. There has to be a connection of course, but that is something that already becomes quite clear during the matchmaking event at the start of the competition. The only reason why it is difficult to keep scientists on board year after year is that it takes a lot of time. That is why we also bring in fresh research groups. But since we can show the results of previous award rounds now, that is not so difficult anymore.

Who should apply to the award? Is it mostly interactive designers and media artists or could a more 'traditional' artist/designer get a chance provided he's passionate enough about the possibility to engage with Life Science materials and ideas?

AS: We don't exclude anyone with an exciting but also viable proposal, who has graduated no more than five years ago in the field of art and design. Of course it will be more easy for artists/designers with some experience in working with Life Science materials and ideas, but the award is also there to stimulate young creatives to explore new territories and enhance the options for collaboration between creatives and scientists. All this to broaden and deepen the interest in and debate about the Life Sciences through the arts and examine it's social, cultural and ethical contexts.

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Matthijs Munnik, The Microscopic Opera

How is an artistic/design proposal paired with a scientific institute? What is the process?

AS: Each participant can submit only one application before February 2. This application consists of a preliminary idea, portfolio and filled out registration form. Only 16 applicants will be selected for a matchmaking meeting in The Hague in March, where the creatives have to find a match with a team of scientists from one of the participating Dutch Life Science institutes. A list of the participating research groups of the 12 Dutch Life Science institutes can be found on the website www.badaward.nl. Once the matches are made artists/designers and scientists write a joint full proposal for the Award before end of April. Then mid-May all teams have to present their final proposals to the international jury which will then select the 3 winners. All proposals will not only be presented to the jury that day but also to the public. From June till November the Award winning proposals are realized by the artist/designers and scientists together and will be exhibited in MU art space on Strijp S in Eindhoven for 2 months starting from November 28, 2014.

Also I was wondering how the winning projects get accepted (or not) by the design and/or art world? Are they seen as hard to grasp and comment on pieces or does the art press and the art public embrace them as valuable and challenging expressions of creativity?

AS: The Award functions as a springboard, either for new nominations or Awards, new or extended collaborations, grants, positions or new publications. Experience with the first 3 years and 10 Award winners has learned that there is a growing interest in bio art and design in press and society but the art and design world themselves are lagging behind a bit. By presenting the winners in a respected yet hybrid contemporary art space like MU and in a leading art, design & technology driven city like Eindhoven we are convinced this will gradually change.

Thanks Angelique and Wilma!

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis: Moon Goose Colony, Pollinaria, 2011

On Saturday i went to The Arts Catalyst's Open Think Tank Late Breakfast, the round table discussion was part of a series of events that frame the exhibition Republic of the Moon. Both were very good. The exhibition and the panel, that is.

The round table, orchestrated by artists in residence Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser from We Colonised the Moon, explored the idea of moon colonisation from the perspective of science, politics, theology, philosophy, and art. The main question panelist were looking at was: Should We Colonise the Moon? What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?

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Panel 'Should We Colonise the Moon? What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?' on Saturday 11 at the Bargehouse. Photo by The Arts Catalyst

The first speaker was Ian Crawford, Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College, University of London. His research is mainly concerned with lunar science and exploration, and he has a significant interest in the future of space exploration.

Crawford started by answering the question Should We Colonise the Moon? with a simple "Yes, with caveat!"
Yes, because it would be good for the human race & for philosophy, to expand the horizons and the perspective on ourselves and on the universe.

The caveats are:
- The colonization should be an international endeavour (we don't want another Cold War space race);
- It should be regulated. Parts of the Moon and of Mars are scientifically valuable. It would be a pity if they fell into purely mercantile hands and/or became mere tourist destinations;
- The physical environment is obviously very different from the ones colons found in the US or in Australia. Genuine colonization will be difficult. It would probably start with scientific outposts, small groups of people would be sent to live on a base, like the ones currently sent for research in Antarctica. Other uses of the moon such as hotels for tourists or mining for mineral resources would have to be regulated.

The United Nations treaty about the moon currently states that no one legally owns the moon but there is a case for developing the law as private companies may want to exploit it for its minerals.

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Liliane Lijn, moonmeme

The other part of the question was What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?

The moon's surface area is roughly 10% bigger than Africa.
Any space colonisation should be a unifying project for humanity. A step in that direction has been made when 12 of the main space agencies around the world have published the "Global Exploration Roadmap" (PDF) which declares the international group's intention to work together to mount robotic and human missions to the moon, nearby asteroids, and to Mars.

At this point, someone in the audience (probably Rob La Frenais) asked about the limited scientific equipment that can be taken to the moon because it seems that on board, priority is given to supplies that would enable human beings to actually survive in space.

Professor Crawford explained that the moon is a completely airless environment but that there might be ways to extract lunar water and oxygen. For water, we would first need to confirm the existence of ice craters on the surface of the moon. The presence of ice would greatly facilitate colonization. Oxygen could be extracted from the very dry lunar rocks. It would, however, be a very energy intensive process.

(More about the views of Ian Crawford on Moon exploitation in The Telegraph.)

Another brilliant contribution was from Rev Dr Jeremy Law, the Dean of Chapel for Canterbury Christ Church University, who had been invited to give a theological perspective on moon colonization.

He made 3 important observations:

The Earth is a nurturing realm, whereas the moon is a life-denying environment. A human colony on the moon would be a celebration of human achievement, another triumph of humanity over nature.

A lunar colony has nothing to do with the colonization of the New World, it would mostly serve the interests of the already successful.

Finally, the economic investment required means that the narrative of capitalism (with its notions of efficiency and competition) would simply continue. Scientific research on the moon, for example, would thus be determined by those who can finance it.

Law believes that the main contribution of a lunar colony is the way it could reshape human religion on earth.

The last speaker was Benedict Singleton, a strategist with a background in design and philosophy. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Long Con, an alternative history of design, and regularly writes on the politics and philosophy of technology.

Singleton believes that we need deeper narratives to understand what it means to achieve moon colonization.

Another interesting point was raised by Sue Corke who reminded us of Thomas Austin, the man responsible for introducing rabbits in Australia. As we know, he had no idea that a few rabbits released on his estate would lead to an invasion of the country. At the time he had declared, "The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting."

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Could the equivalent happen on the moon with something human colons would bring along? Rob noted that actually in 1969, the NASA put everything that came back from the Moon - from rocks to hardware to the Apollo 12 crew - in quarantine and ran tests to make sure they didn't come back covered with new and potentially harmful microbes or bacteria. As you can see in the photo above, it must have been a hilariously pleasant experience.

Of course, it was about protecting the Earth from potential moon germs. Not the opposite.

That's it for my notes about the Saturday morning panel. As for the exhibition, just go! It has humour, intelligence and it's also really good art. You don't often get all these ingredients mixed in one show.

Agnes Meyer-Brandis is teaching geese how to fly to the moon, Leonid Tishkov never travels without his own personal moon, Katie Paterson has Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata reflected from the moon's surface via Earth, Liliane Lijn plans to write on the Moon using a laser beam, WE COLONISED THE MOON run a series of workshops and events as the Republic of the Moon's official art residents.

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon in Formosa

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon, 2009

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon Moscow studio of the artist

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Moon Goose Analogue

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WE COLONISED THE MOON, Live Moon Smelling by artists in residence in Republic of the Moon, London 2014

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Katie Paterson, Earth-Moon-Earth

There's only a few days left to listen to Nicola Triscott and Ian Crawford discussing Moon ownership on BBC radio 4.

Republic of the Moon is on view until 2 February 2014 at the temporary residence of The Arts Catalyst: Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf on London's South Bank.

The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired tomorrow Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

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WE COLONISED THE MOON, Enter At Own Risk, presented by The Arts Catalyst in Republic of the Moon, FACT Liverpool 2011

My guest in the studio tomorrow will be Nicola Triscott, the founder and Director of The Arts Catalyst, a UK arts organisation that sets up events, curates exhibitions, releases publications and commissions ambitious artworks that  engage with science. The Arts Catalyst, believe or not, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year so we'll be talking about the art&science scene of the early 1990s and also about the embassy for The Republic of the Moon which the Arts Catalyst has opened a few days ago at the Bargehouse, on the Southbank.

I've been inviting artists working with the arts catalyst to the resonanceFM studio ever since i started this program so i thought that it would only be fair to invite its founder and director in the studios of resonanceFM.

The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 15 January at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud one day.

Photo on the homepage: Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon in Formosa, presented by The Arts Catalyst in Republic of the Moon, London 2014.

Republic of the Moon is on view until 2 February 2014 at the temporary residence of The Arts Catalyst: Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf on London's South Bank.

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The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition: Video still

I don't know why i didn't visit Suzanne Treister 's solo show at Annely Juda in London as soon as it opened. I guess i've been lazy and since the lazy is always rewarded, the show has been extended till 22 January, giving me another chance to see it.

In pure Treister fashion, In The Name Of Art and other recent works unwraps the extremely dense networks that tie together secret detention facilities run by the CIA, government control, mass surveillance technologies, military intelligence and counter-intelligence, drone operations that kill and drone operations that entertain the gallery-going crowd. You want to dismiss it as conspiracy theories but Snowden, Wikileaks, and human rights reports urge you to pay attention. At the risk of making you uncomfortable.

Much of Treister's recent work maps ways that human intelligence and military intelligence currently interact and work on each other. She explores how in a world increasingly determined by pervasive technologies and the demands of the military and security arms of government and state, new relations between the observer and the observed have been established and new subjectivities formed.

The work The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition did exactly what its title says. Treister brought a drone at the opening to film the exhibition and its visitors, highlighting the expanding role of UAVs in both military and civil life. The catalogue-newspaper accompanying the exhibition reminds us that the performance is far from being purely entertaining and anecdotic as military drones have killed between 3,500 and 5,000 people (and not all of them were 'combatants' as we know) since 2002.

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The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition

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The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition: Video still

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The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition: Video still

Camouflage was probably the work that intrigued me the most. Treister sourced documents related to the U.S. Department of Defense's GIG and the NSA's PRISM surveillance programmes. Both programmes are for use in times of war, in crisis and in peace. Treister further obstructed the content of leaked graphics from internal power-point presentations about PRISM by painting patterns over them.

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Camouflage, 2013

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Camouflage, 2013

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Camouflage, 2013

The abstract black shapes of CIA Black Sites are supposed to silhouette secret CIA interrogation centres. The drawings directly reference Malevich's Suprematism compositions to evoke the CIA's support of abstract art in the 1950s while the title of the work alludes to the secret prisons where terrorism suspects are held, interrogated and kept out of the view of the public and the law.

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CIA Black Sites #1, 2010

The KGB works in the ART FOR OLIGARCHS series (a series which also includes a stunning STASI Wallpaper that recall the ubiquity of pre-digital surveillance and which i was silly enough not to photograph) points to the overlap between people who were powerful in the security agencies of the USSR and the new turbo-capitalist powerbrokers and the Post-Soviet oligarchy that the Western contemporary art market has become so dependent on.

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Art for Oligarchs # 15

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Art for Oligarchs # 7 (study)

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Art for Oligarchs # 10

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Art for Oligarchs. Installation view at Annely Juda Fine Art, London 2013

In each orchis militaris flower, the sepals and side petals are gathered together to form a pointed "helmet" (whence it gets its name). By this point you will probably see evil and machination everywhere, so please do let your imagination run wild.

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ORCHIS MILITARIS

emeyefive looks at the life of Stella Rimington, the first head of the British Intelligence agency MI5 whose name was made known to the general public. The name of the director of the agency had so far been regarded as a state secret but an investigative campaign by the New Statesman and The Independent newspaper published photos of her, forcing MI5 to roll out on a new programme of transparency.

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emeyefive, 2010

Suzanne Treister, In The Name Of Art and other recent works is open until 22 January 2014 at Annely Juda Fine Art in London. DON'T MISS IT!

Previous post about Treister's work: HEXEN.

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Alpha-ville & BFI present Ryoichi Kurokawa, syn_ . Photo by Federica Landi

The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired tomorrow Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

My guests in the studio will be Carmen Salas and Estela Oliva, the founders of Alpha-ville, a London-based organisation with a mission to connect people working in the fields of art, technology, design and digital culture. Alpha-ville has been busy since 2009 organising events, commissioning new works and curating programmes for arts and cultural organisations, festivals, promoters, events and agencies.

During the show we will be talking about what it takes to be a digital curator and producer today, and we will also discuss EXCHANGE, Alpha-ville's upcoming conference which will bring together some of the most talented digital artists and designers but also the community of Londoners working at the crossroads of art, technology, design and digital culture. That's going to be on January 17th and last time i checked there were still a few places available.

The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 8 January at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud one day.

Photo on the homepage: 24 Sep - Hearn Street Emptyset 077.

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