ANAT: News #37

Tissue Culture & Art

deep immersion : scientific serendipity


Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, are currently undertaking a residency as part of deep immersion: scientific serendipity, and also recently participated in the highly successful metis project in Canberra. Oron and Ionat’s work is centred around research into the use and representation of tissue culture and tissue engineering as a medium for artistic expression. They returned from presenting their work at MIT in Boston, to participate in the metis project, coinciding with National Science Week.

metis (may’-tis), n.: wisdom, artifice, cunning intelligence.
“When art and science unite, possibilities and opportunities arise resulting in innovation that can be driven by creativity. The mÍtis exhibition creates a synergy between artistic expression and scientific concepts. It merges the boundaries between the disciplines and highlights the mutual benefits of collaboration of the arts and sciences. We believe both artists and scientists view the world with curiosity and, in seeking answers to their questions, use observation, imagination, creativity, communication and evaluation. The scientist tries to represent a concept, experiments with an idea and tests the validity of the creation. So too does the artist, and both lead to discovery, new vision and illumination.”

The metis exhibition opened in Canberra between May 1-9, 1999 at seven different science and art locations:

Patsy Payne: ‘Hypochondria’, Canberra Contemporary Art Space
John Tonkin: ‘Personal Eugenics’,
Canberra Contemporary Art Space Cube
Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr’s ‘Tissue Culture & Art’,
Canberra Contemporary Art Space
Joan Brassil ‘Gondwana and the Cosmos
- Listening to the Dead Stars Singing’,
The Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics,
Australian National University, Mt Stromlo Exploratory
Paula Dawson: ‘There’s No Place Like Home’, National Gallery of Australia,
‘The Eidola Suite’, Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre
‘Are you there?’, National Portrait Gallery
Henrik HŚkansson: ‘Birdland’, Canberra School of Art Gallery;
Jill Peck: ‘Undercurrent’, Australian Geological Survey Organisation Grounds
David Adermann ‘Visions Impossible’, Australian Geological Survey Organisation Foyer

A number of these exhibitions will continue through to November. Please refer to the ANAT Notices for further information.

Tissue Culture & Art

Tissue Culture and Art (TC&A) is an ongoing research and development project into the use of tissue culture and tissue engineering as a medium for artistic expression. The TC&A Project is built on the strong belief that biologically related technologies are going to have a dramatic effect on human evolution and human history in the near future. Furthermore, the TC&A project utilises biologically related technologies (mainly tissue culture and tissue engineering) as a new form of artistic expression to focus attention and challenge perceptions regarding the fact that these technologies exist, are being utilised, and will have even more dramatic effect in the future.

“We are at the early stages of the biological revolution. What we see now, genetic engineering, cloning, IVF, organ transplants etc, are just the embryonic stages of what is to come. This revolution deals with the core of life. Humans and their natural environment are going to change to the extent that we will have to redefine the terms ‘Human’ and ‘Nature’” state Oron and Ionat.

“Biotechnology enables us, for the first time, to use and manipulate living matter at the level of the genes. Working with the blue print of life, biotechnology offers us the option to design life and reconstruct tissue from the most fundamental level.”
Oron and Ionat assert that our future, the future of the living world and its evolution, is going to change through a direct and premeditated action of one species. This will change the rules of the evolutionary game. Harnessing the massive amount of biological knowledge and processes with the aid of the achievements of the digital revolution, will result in a future that will be radically different from everything humanity has experienced in the past. Furthermore, our social and philosophical understandings of ourselves and our environment will be fundamentally different.

They feel that not enough attention is directed at proposing, examining and questioning possible futures that this new revolution takes us, and through this project hope to generate a dialogue between the wider community and the scientific community, using art as a generator of critical and aesthetic debate.

Their presentation in Canberra raised many of these issues, and also, given their recent visit to the USA and the success of their presentation there, raised issues of how well artists based in Australia can collaborate with the scientific communities to further develop research in this area and use their art practice as a jumping block from which to critique, engage with and question directions society is taking.