WA Now – Biomess: The Tissue Culture & Art Project

WA Now – Biomess: The Tissue Culture & Art Project

AGWA celebrates free-thinkers, boundary-pushers and ground-breakers in the second half of 2018 through three contrasting exhibitions – Rebels, Radicals and Pathfinders.

Based at the University of Western Australia, SymbioticA hosted the research of The Tissue Culture and Art Project (Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr). The artists have been exploring the intersections of science and art since 1996.

Together, and with their expanded team of artists and scientists, they explore the creative and ethical implications of developments in the biological sciences. They investigate what science is doing, what it is capable of, and how our conceptions of life might be altered in the process and how futures might be shaped accordingly. In doing so, they also open up important questions about how we categorise life forms that ask us to rethink what it is to be human.

Their innovative work is internationally significant, and they have shown at major galleries such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China, and locally at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Art Gallery of South Australia, National Gallery of Victoria and the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.

This exhibition, Biomess, is timed to coincide with the celebration of the 200th year since the publication of Mary Shelley’s gothic horror novel Frankenstein. In response, it looks at existing “Frankensteins” of the natural world, beings that confound our usual ways of thinking about animal life with a creative presentation of specimens from the Western Australian Museum and examples of real life animal “oddities”. It will also include new organicisms grown by the artists themselves at their labs in the University of Western Australia that open up new possibilities for temporary biological structures. Presented in the mode of a high-end retail fit-out, it will also look at the commodification of the natural world.

In their own words: “As life becomes a raw material for human desires, constructed life escapes science labs to become a medium for artistic and consumer products."

Biomess proves that there is nothing natural and nature.

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About the artists

Award winning artists, researchers and curators, Catts and Zurr formed the internationally renowned Tissue Culture & Art Project in 1996. Catts is the Co-Founder and Director of SymbioticA: the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Human Sciences at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and was a Professor of Contestable Design at the Royal College for the Arts UK. Dr Ionat Zurr is a researcher and lecturer at the School of Design UWA and SymbioticA’s academic co-ordinator. Both are Visiting Professor at Biofilia – Based for Biological Arts, Aalto University Finland (2015-2020). They have been visiting scholars at The Centre of Arts and Art History at Stanford University (2007) and Research Fellows at The Tissue Engineering & Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Harvard Medical School (2000-2001).

Catts & Zurr’s interest is Life, more specifically the shifting relations and perceptions of life in the light of new knowledge and its applications. Often working in collaboration with other artists and scientists, they have developed a body of work that speaks volumes about the need for new cultural articulations of evolving concepts of life.

They are considered pioneers in the field of Biological Arts; they publish widely and exhibit internationally. Their work was exhibited and collected by museums such as MoMA NY, Mori art Museum, NGV, GoMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Ars Electronica, National Art Museum of China and more. Their research was covered by The NY Times, Washington Post, Wired, New Scientist, Time, Newsweek and other TV, radio, print and online media.

Catts & Zurr ideas and projects reach beyond the confines of art; their work is often cited as inspiration to diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction, and food.

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Biomess is a collaborative project between SymbioticA @ UWA, Western Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of WA

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