hybridomas, bioreactor, taxidermy and preserved specimens, Cryogenic Vials.
The Tissue Culture & Art Project (Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr) AUSTRALIA
Scientific knowledge leads to shift in the perception of life; life is becoming a raw material, while biology is turning into engineering. Whenever life and technology mix, odd things happen.
Where does lab grown and engineered life fit in taxonomy? In tissue banks that provide cell lines, one starts to find all sorts of oddities: cells that have three different organisms as its origins, or fused cells of human and mouse origin. These cells are only classified by catalogue numbers or by very odd names. This is Neolife.
More and more museums have started to collect fragments of life; frozen cells that represent the whole. Here, the technology of collection is converging with the technology of making strange. The old ways of privileging form (staffed idealised forms of animals) are been replaced with information and fragments. New life forms are entering collections, but the collection is not complete – the ‘odd neolife’ is not in our natural history collections; the lab-grown, lab modified life forms are still absent.
Odd Neolifism is an updated cabinet of curiosities. Museums have conventions in displaying preserved life forms, and in this display, ideas about a progressive complexity of species are questioned. At the far end of this display we include the only living element—cell tissue within a bioreactor (a surrogate, technological body). These life forms are so abstracted from their source, and yet they are growing. Perhaps it is time to realise that we need to find a place in our ecology for Neolife.
Award winning Artists, researchers and Curators, Catts and Zurr formed the Tissue Culture and Art Project. They have been artists in residence in the School of Anatomy and Human Biology since 1996 and were central to the establishment of SymbioticA in 2000. They are considered pioneers in the field of biological arts and are invited as keynote speakers, curate exhibitions, publish widely, exhibit internationally and their work has been collected by MoMA New York. Catts is the Co-Founder and Director of SymbioticA: the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at UWA and Dr Ionat Zurr is researcher and SymbioticA’s academic co-ordinator. SymbioticA won the inaugural Prix Ars Electronica, Golden Nica in Hybrid Art Category. They have recently curated Viceral: the Living Art Experiment at the Science Gallery, Trinity College, exhibited as part of the Medicine and Art Exhibition at the Mori Museum in Tokyo, and the Design and Elastic Mind Exhibition, MoMA NY.