Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 28 Autumn 2011 Contents WHAT PERTH MISSED
With SymbioticA taking its 10-year anniversary exhibition
abroad, we give you a taste of what was on show
• Viscera l: The Living Art Experiment e xplo red a nd provoked questions a bout
scientific truths, what constitutes living, and the ethical and artistic implications
of life manipulations. The exhibition, which ran in Dublin from January 28 to
February 25, featured 15 of the most groundbreaking artworks from 10 years
of SymbioticA’s residency program. Highlights included:
• Abhishek Hazra’s Let One Thousand Proteins Bloom attempts to produce
ammonium nitrate – the chemical used in explosives – from human breast milk,
in order to challenge popular perceptions around ‘good’ and ‘bad’ material.
• Alicia King’s The Vision Splendid uses her own tissues and cells to
create a living relic.
• Tanya Visosevic and Guy Ben-A ry’s Invocation of my De mon Scree n
employs the techniques of Fren ch fi lmma ker Jean Painleve, who co mbin ed
poetry and science in his surreal zoological films from the 30s to the 70s.
The resu lt is a microscopic movie that gives the spectato r n owhere to look
but into the eyes of death.
• Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr’s Semi-Living Worry Dolls are the first
tissue- engin eered sculptu res to be presented alive in a gallery co ntex t.
Based o n a Gu atemalan Indian traditio n of telling you r wo rries to yo ur dolls,
Oro n an d Ion at han dcrafted seven dolls seeded with livi ng cells a nd con fided
their an xieties in them to test the theo ry.
• Tagny Duff ’s Cryobook Archive is an i nstallatio n featu ring a sculptu re series
of han dmade bo ok s made fro m hu man a nd pig ex-plant tissue, HaC at
cells, an d synthetic biological
virus (Lentivirus). Tissue-culture
engin eering an d tradition al book-
binding techniques are used to
ma nifest the fl eshy book s.
Government and UWA pledged to support it on an ongoing basis. He
and Ionat went “pretty much unpaid” for the first few years setting up
the program. When Oron is asked to describe his highlights from the
past 10 years, top of the list is surviving.
Aside from keeping its doors open, there have been other
challenges over the past decade. There’s no question that the topic
of manipulating life is one that polarises the masses. “Working
with life on this level is always going to be ethically challenging; we
constantly explore, and the university is extremely brave in allowing
us to do so,” Catt explains. “That said, we’ve proven ourselves to be
serious researchers. Everything we do here needs to be cleared by
the university ethics committee and the safety committee.
“We’ve had a few artists who have tried to push the envelope as
far as they could. I describe it as a tightrope walk – we always need
to negotiate all the different forces and maintain our artistic
autonomy and integrity while exploring those ethical boundaries.
Because we’re doing it in an artistic context, we can’t hide behind
utilitarian approaches. We can’t say we’re here to save the world.
But we’re here to engage in those very same issues that we all need
to think about – most importantly, what it means to be alive.” I
Abhishek Hazra’s Let One Thousand
Proteins Bloom distils the explosi ve chem ical
ammonium nitrate from breast milk.
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