2007 Seminars

SymbioticA held 17 seminars and associated events in 2007.

  1. End-of-year gathering
  2. Stanford University, BioTechnique and  VIDA 10.0
  3. Performing Hearts Project Ralf Räuker, in collaboration with Merit Fakler
  4. Kings Park Botanic Garden walk
  5. Transformations of the flesh
  6. Bioart in theatre and performance studies
  7. I-TASC, the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation
  8. Prix Ars Electronica
  9. BIOS4
  10. Video documentation screening
  11. Christa Sommerer
  12. Seeing things in forensic art and portraiture
  13. 2007 Animals and Society Conference
  14. Biotechnology goes to the movies
  15. Hannele Koivunen
  16. The Theatre of the athletic nude: The teaching and study of anatomy at the Paris School of Fine Arts, 1873-1940
  17. From inoculation to developmental systems: Laboratory, field, and community matters in the history of biological nitrogen fixation and nodulation research

End-of-year gathering

Date: 21st December 2007

An informal end of year gathering at SymbioticA to celebrate 2007 and the coming year.

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Stanford University, BioTechnique and  VIDA 10.0

Date: 14 December 2007

Speakers: Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr

An informal Friday meeting 'catch-up' with Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr. Oron and Ionat had just returned from their residency at Stanford University in the US, the BioTechnique exhibition at YBCA Galleries in San Francisco, and from collecting second prize for NoArk in the prestigious international art competition VIDA 10.0.

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Performing Hearts Project Ralf Räuker, in collaboration with Merit Fakler

Date: 7 December 2007

Speaker: Ralf Rauker

As a traveller between Perth and Berlin since 2002, Ralf Rauker has been collecting, communicating and memorizing cultural, political and autobiographical data in different media. Within an audio-visual installation using the living, ‘real’ body, the Performing Hearts Solo exposed this journey as a search for stillness. Ralf Rauker studied acting in Berlin, worked as an actor/director in Europe and, since 2003, has been employed as a contemporary performance lecturer at Edith Cowan University, Perth. Merit Fakler studied set design and video in Berlin. Using her expertise in both areas she works as an artist in Germany and abroad

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Kings Park Botanic Garden walk

Date: 9 November 2007

Location: Kings Park

We wandered among the unique Western Australian flora and discovered the glorious diversity of the plants to be found from the coast to the desert, from the rugged north to the southern forests. The walk was followed by a BBQ/ picnic in Kings Park at 3.30pm.

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Transformations of the flesh

Date: 19 October 2007

Speaker: Alicia King

Alicia King is a Hobart based new media artist and  PhD Candidate at the University of Tasmania’s School of Art. For the past few years she has been undertaking artistic research into the realms of biological technology at the University of Tasmania’s School of Medicine as part of her PhD, after learning tissue culture techniques at SymbioticA, the Art and Science Collaborative Research Laboratory, University of Western Australia.

Her interests lie in ethical issues surrounding the relationships between biotechnology, humans, animals and the wider environment.
Throughout 2007 she has undertaken various artistic projects in Europe and Asia including Residency at The Vrij Glas Foundation, and The Arts and Genomics Centre, Amsterdam, with the generous support of The Australia Council for the Arts (OZCO), Arts Tasmania, and The Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT).

King discussed recent projects within the context of her PhD and associated practice.

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Bioart in theatre and performance studies

Date: 12 October 2007

Speaker: Adele Senior, Lancaster University, UK

Adele Senior is a PhD. candidate in Theatre Studies at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University, UK. Her thesis, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, considers the aesthetics, ethics and politics of bioart through a critical examination of the theory and practice of the Tissue Culture and Art Project (TC&A). As part of her doctoral studies she is currently undertaking a six week residency at SymbioticA, where she is conducting interviews with TC&A’s artists and observe the laboratory based practices of other artists in residence.

Adele facilitated a group discussion on how bioart has been written about in Theatre and Performance Studies Literature.

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I-TASC, the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation

Date: 5 October 2007

Speaker: Marko Peljhan

This week's meeting features internationally renowned artist, Marko Peljhan, talking about I-TASC, the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation.

I-TASC is a decentralised network of individuals and organizations working collaboratively in the fields of art, engineering, science and technology on the interdisciplinary development and tactical deployment of renewable energy, waste recycling systems, sustainable architecture and open-format, open-source media. I-TASC is a lichen-like structure sharing and integrating local knowledge, resources and skills across six continents in order to symbiotically engage with the air, ocean, earth and space commons.

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Prix Ars Electronica

Date: 28 September 2007

Location: SymbioticA

SymbioticA won the prestigious Golden Nica award for Hybrid Art as part of the international Prix Ars Electronica. The Golden Nica is one of the most important awards for creativity and pioneering activities in the field of digital media. The meeting featured highlights from Ars Electronica, the exhibition and the other award winners.

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Date: 23 August 2007

Speaker: Mark Cypher

Mark Cypher is an artist and academic living in Perth, Western Australia. He completed a MA in Visual Arts in 1995 at the Sydney College of the Arts and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia. Mark has exhibited his work across Australia and in many countries including Argentina, Cuba, USA, Brazil, Canada and Spain.

Mark talked about his involvement with a Spanish exhibition titled BIOS4 which was touted as the “first anthological view on this emerging biotech art field”.

As the curator Antonio Cerveira-Pinto explains, biotech art is "part of the cognitive art vortex, the real new thing in post-contemporary culture. Not like modern art (the melting down of symbolic representation), post-contemporary art entities are basically cognitive in the way that they both need knowledge fuel to evolve and intelligent perusers to interact. So it is less of a techno art (new media as a new techne syndrom) as of knowledge art (techne as theoría or contemplatio).Is this a good starting point? I hope so!”
Antonio Cerveira-Pinto

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Video documentation ccreening

Date: 10 August 2007

SymbioticA will be screening an assortment of video documentation of artworks, by past residents and collaborators.
The screening will be followed by a discussion on the powers and pitfalls of video documentation in bio art.

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Christa Sommerer

Date: 3 August 2007

Speaker: Christa Sommerer

Christa Sommerer was artist in residence from the 19 July to 19 August at the Studio of Electronic Arts (SEA), Department of Art, Curtin University of Technology.

Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau artworks have been called "epoch making" (Toshiharu Itoh, NTT-ICC museum) for developing natural and intuitive interfaces and for often applying scientific principles such as artificial life, complexity and generative systems to their innovative interface designs.

These works have been shown in around 150 exhibitions world-wide and are installed in media museums and media collections around the world, including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Science and Industries in Tokyo, the Media Museum of the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, the NTT-ICC InterCommunication Center in Tokyo, the Cartier Foundation in Paris, the Millennium Dome in London, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Japan, the AEC Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria, the NTT Plan-Net in Nagoya, Japan, Shiroishi Multimedia Art Center in Shiroishi, Japan and

Sommerer and Mignonneau have won mayor international media awards, for example the "Golden Nica" Ars Electronica Award for Interactive Art 1994 (Linz, Austria), the "Ovation Award" of the Interactive Media Festival 1995 (Los Angeles, USA), the "Multi Media Award '95" of the Multimedia Association Japan and the" World Technology Award" in London (2001). Sommerer is Professor at the InterfaceCulture Lab , Institute for Media, University of Art and Design, Linz, Austria. Sommerer and Mignonneau are artists in residence from the 19th July to 19th August at the Studio of Electronic Arts (SEA), Department of Art, Curtin University of Technology.

They presented their work in September at the Biennale of Electronic Art Perth 2007 at the John Curtin Gallery.

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Seeing things in forensic art and portraiture

Date: 27 July 2007

Speaker: Sue Hayes

Forensic Art generally assumes the closer a likeness is to the person’s actual facial morphology, the better it will be recognised. Portraiture takes the opposite stance – too accurate a rendering (mimesis) makes the person disappear. Although consistent, many of the understandings about what takes place in portraiture is based on anecdotal evidence. This paper explored the role of anatomical accuracy, face perception and face recognition within both portrait sketches and police composites, and in particular, which measurable morphological shifts most likely impact on recognition.

Sue Hayes is in the final year of an interdisciplinary doctorate looking at Art, Anatomy and Face Recognition in Forensic Art. Initially trained in facial reconstruction by Ronn Taylor, forensic sculptor to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Sue has subsequently undertaken intensive training in the UK with Caroline Wilkinson, an international leader in the field, and her current research is in collaboration with Paul Allsop from the WA Police Forensic Imaging Unit. Working with the Centre for Forensic Science, Sue also delivers intensive workshops for artists and the general public, where participants learn to build up the anatomy of the face working in clay over a replica skull.

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2007 Animals and Society Conference

Date: 20 July 2007

Speaker: Perdita Phillips, Australia Council artist in residence at SymbioticA

2007 Animals and Society Conference, Hobart, Tasmania. Perdy led a discussion on some of the common themes running through the conference including anthropomorphism, individuals and ecosystems, agency, conservation, Planet Nema, the dead, and some thoughts on the interdisciplinary.

Papers discussed included:

  • What we need to know about dogs and humans (but were too afraid to ask) by Adrian Franklin
  • Circling the animals with art and with writing by Steve Baker
  • Conserving genes: the biopolitics of cloning in species recovery by Amy Fletcher
  • Shaved pigs: live and dead animals in contemporary Australian art by Ross Moore
  • Wild intimacies: urban wildlife and the contradictions of nature conservation Aidan Davison.

Perdita Phillips is working on her project Green, grey or dull silver: Art and the behavioural ecology of the great bowerbird, Chlamydera nuchalis that will involve visiting bowerbirds at the Broome Bird Observatory. For the Animals and Society Conference she collaborated with UWA anthropologist Jane Mulcock on Thinking Skin (on the absence and presence of cane toads in WA).

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Biotechnology goes to the movies

Date: 13 July 2007

Speaker: Craig Cormick, Manager, Public Awareness and Communications, Biotechnology Australia, ACT, Australia

Biotechnology Australia presented the findings of a study of biotechnology movies into how scientists are portrayed and how the science of biotechnology is explained in movies. These findings are then compared with public perceptions and understanding of the science.

As many young people use movies for their frames of reference in relation to biotechnology and new fields of science, it is useful to examine the content of popular films and see what messages are being disseminated. This talk uses clips from well-known Hollywood films "Jurassic Park", "Gattaca", "The 6th Day", "Multiplicity", "Austen Powers" and "The Island" to examine the accuracy of movie representations of genetic modification and human reproductive cloning.

Craig Cormick is the Manager of Public Awareness for the Government agency Biotechnology Australia. He has previously worked as a science journalist and has taught public relations and writing at university. He is widely published on drivers of public attitudes towards biotechnology, and is a regular commentator in the media and at industry and research conferences, both in Australia and overseas, on causes of public concern towards applications of biotechnology.

In 2006 he authored the report, Cloning Goes to the Movies, a study of how Hollywood portrayals of human reproductive cloning influence public knowledge and attitudes, and in 2005 he authored the report, What you really need to know about what the public really thinks about GM foods – an easy to read consolidated summary of research into public attitudes and GM foods. He has also published several books and has won numerous awards including the ACT Chief Minister's Book of the Year Award (1999) and a Queensland Premier's Literary Award (2006).

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Hannele Koivunen

Date: 6 July 2007

Speaker: Hannele Koivunen, "Executive Dreamer", "Councellor for Silence".Director of Arts and Cultural Heritage Division, Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Finland and Ph.D., Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki.

Hannele Koivunen is Homo ludens: a researcher, semiotician, librarian, information scientist educated at the universities of Helsinki and Tampare, Finland. In the recent years she has started just for fun also as student of botany and biology. Her degrees include studies in History of fine arts, Cultural heritage, Literature, Folklore, Comparative religion and Information science. Her doctoral dissertation "The Woman who understood completely; A semiotic analysis of the Gnostic Gospel of Mary" dealt with polarised myths of womanhood.

She has written several books and articles in various sectors of cultural policy, for instance about feminine mythology ("madonna and whore"), librarianship, information society (open source concept), semiotics of silence (silence as a language of its own), religion and media ("sacred media"), semiotics of suffering and martyrdom ("post-modern cannibalism"), and ethical dimension of cultural policy ("Fair culture?").

She has a long career (36 years) in different posts in the field of cultural policy. She has been a member and a chair of numerous boards and committees, organised scientific international and EU presidency conferences and seminars, worked as a rapporteur of various cultural policy issues and cultural exportation, and as a founder of the new Finnish cultural institute Finnagora in Budapest, Hungary with a new concept connecting art, culture, science and technology.

Hannele was visiting Perth to undertake research on establishing a similar organisation to SymbioticA in northern Finland.

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The Theatre of the athletic nude: The teaching and study of anatomy at the Paris School of Fine Arts, 1873-1940

Date: 22 June 2007

Speaker: Dr Jonathan Marshall, Research Fellow, WAAPA

Influenced by the work of neurologist Professor Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893), Dr Mathias Duval helped to formalise a new approach to the teaching of anatomy within the amphitheatre of the Paris School of Fine Arts. Duval was succeeded by Charcot’s students Paul Richer (1903-1922) and Henry Meige (1922-1940). Their key innovation was to change the principle object of study from the dissected corpse—“anatomie mort”—to the outward forms and mechanics of the body in motion—“le nu vivant en mouvement.” Teaching at the School thus moved from being chiefly concerned with the static, architectonics of the body to explicitly addressing the body’s durational qualities. In a manner not altogether unlike his Futurist contemporaries, Richer claimed that with the transition from the Renaissance to Modernity, the arts which most epitomised the era had shifted from painting to music—the “art of rhythm and of movement.”

Richer and Meige drew on evidence collected using studies in cinema and stop-motion photography conducted by themselves and their peers such as Albert Londe, Étienne-Jules Marey (an influence cited by the Futurists) and Eadweard Muybridge. Richer also specialised in anthropometry (comparative analysis of bodily proportions), while Meige specialised in teratology (acromegaly, genital ambiguity, etc) as well as dance as represented in classical sculpture. Richer used these materials to argue that there existed an ideal, embodied form which provided the canon for aesthetics as well as health, race, and so on. Richer and his associates thus sought to limit the performative possibilities of the body over time. Their analysis of human form and movement reduced dynamic, fluid entities to fixed, idealised abstractions independent of time and context. Richer’s ideal pedagogic form became a highly controlled gymnastic performance, a ritualised display of visible musculature in which art, science, racial politics and gender politics were mutually reinforced. By contrast to the male body, Richer found the feminine nude difficult to standardise, concluding that part of what tended to be disorderly and pathological about femininity was its dynamic fluidity and resistance to any kind of static, abstracted model such as could be represented in sculpture or painting. Like the hysterics which Richer had examined under Charcot in 1880s, the healthy women he studied in the 1900s exceeded his ability to describe them through his own particular combination of science and aesthetics.

Bio: Jonathan studied at the University of Melbourne, where he majored in history and performance. He was awarded the Felix Raab Prize in European History (1991) and the Alma Hansen Scholarship (2000). He undertook both his Masters and his PhD at the Department of History, University of Melbourne: Civilisation and its Discontent Hamlets: Renaissance melancholy, Modernist neurosis and Shakespeare’s prince (1998), and Performing Neurology: The dramaturgy of Dr Jean-Martin Charcot (2003), respectively.

Dr Marshall’s research is on the relationship between the histories of performance and those of medicine, focusing particularly on 19th century French neurophysiology—a medical discipline whose subject was the movement or performance of the living patient (the choreography of seizure, description of tremors, mechanics of gesture).

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From inoculation to developmental systems: Laboratory, field, and community matters in the history of biological nitrogen fixation and nodulation research

Date: 15 June 2007

Speaker: Jeanette Simmonds, Fulbright Fellow, Phd Candidate RPI 

The field of Biological Nitrogen Fixation and Nodulation research is inhabitted by researchers having incredibly interests, ranging from ecological studies of legumes and soil bacteria (Rhizobium ) to molecular genetics of free-living nitrogen fixers, from symbiosis and development to sustainable agricultural systems and appropriate technological design, and from industrial agricultural systems to the production of biofuels. Simmonds draws from oral history interviews with scientists to explore the ethical, social, and experimental imaginaries of scientists. She also explores the political, economic, social, and experimental dimensions of several themes of this research including: the development of model organisms, inoculant research and inoculant production technologies, and scientific community. Documenting the history of this research field is of interest and importance in its own right; scientists involved in this research have contributed to (and been influenced by) many important developments in the history of agricultural science and technology, molecular genetics, and plant molecular biology. Studying the history of this field also provides an opportunity to enhance our understanding of the social, experimental, practical, and ethical dimensions of scientific research and practice. Historical analysis of BNF and Nod research therefore contributes to an understanding of this field of research specifically and of the biological sciences more generally.

Bio:Jeanette Simmonds is a science historian specializing in 20th Century agricultural science, the development of molecular genetics and agricultural technologies, and other applications of the agricultural and life sciences. Simmonds is conducting research in Australia as part of a comparative historical study of Australian, European, and North American Biological Nitrogen Fixation and Nodulation research. While in Australia she is based at the Centre for Integrative Legume Research at UQ and interviewing Australian scientists in Western Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland. She is presently completing a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY). Simmonds' research is supported by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission and has also been supported by the National Science Foundation, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Centre for Integrative Legume Research at the University of Queensland.

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