2008 Seminars

SymbioticA held 24 seminars in 2008

  1. Creating peer-to-peer wetware networks
  2. Ethics in business and management matters
  3. Surroundings Around
  4. WASP- visualising research
  5. Art where you live: Engaging communities
  6. Slip me some skin
  7. Where has all the sperm gone?
  8. Two documentaries on ORLAN  and Critical Art Ensemble
  9. Holding together the multiple potentials of science
  10. Watching Mongolia and other stories from my motorcycle
  11. National Science Week talk
  12. Motivations for milkiness: inducing lactation
  13. FishBoy, tales from the lab, factory and the studio
  14. Have we killed the romance? Queenbee breeding in the modern age
  15. Skin Deep, ‘Reflections on science and art’ and ‘Figurations of Knowledge’- an update
  16. History of early 20th century state medical photography and biopolitical processes of subject formation
  17. Lindsay Vickery
  18. pvi collective
  19. Nanoessence- God, the first nano assembler
  20. Welcome to Mothman Country
  21. Stephen Wight
  22. Slide show: sk-interfaces, Fact, Liverpool; Design in the Elastic Mind, MoMA, New York; India workshop, Bangalore
  23. Art + Science + Technology. Argentinian Art 1968-2008
  24. Skin to Skin

Creating peer-to-peer wetware networks

Date: 5 December 2008

Speakers: Michelle Outram and Martyn Coutts

What does 'artist run' mean? What is a peer network? How does it work? Who is it for? What are its strengths?  These are some of the questions Michelle Outram and Martyn Coutts will discuss in this messy subject as artists and from a CIA: The Centre for Interdisciplinary Arts perspective. The discussion will also engage in issues addressed in the CIA symposium for hybrid artists: 'this is the time... this is the record of the time'.

CIA Studios is an artist-run initiative established in 2007, dedicated to supporting the development of interdisciplinary arts in Australia. Housed in an old school building on the edge of Perth city, CIA provides workspaces, resources, a peer network and access to CIA-run initiatives. CIA is run by artists for artists. It is a place to exchange ideas, engage in critical debate, share skills, experiment and take creative risks. Michelle Outram is a performance, installation and sound artist as well as the Operations Manager at CIA Studios

Martyn Coutts is a Melbourne-based performer, director and video artist working across dance, theatre and live art. His work investigates consciousness, games, liveness, architectural space and technology. Martyn collaborates with Sam Routledge as Blood Policy - Operation, Next Wave 2006, Full Tilt 2007 and Outside, 2009. In 2007 he created the multimedia game event Wayfarer at Performance Space with Sydney artist Kate Richards. Martyn also collaborates with Willoh S. Weiland as live art duo Deadpan - I Want You More than Anything, Electrofringe 2008.

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Ethics in business and management matters

Date: 21 November 2008

Speaker: Theodora Issa

Theodora Issa an Alumni of both University of Western Australia and Murdoch.  Conducting her PhD research at Curtin University, Theodora presented a seminar sharing with the audience aspects of her research in ethical mind-sets, spirituality and aesthetic judgment in an Australian business context. These three concepts combined have so far been under-studied and under-theorised, therefore, Theodora with her research aims to participate the ongoing debate relating to these areas. It is worthwhile to note here, that with the current turmoil in the markets the calls from different scholars and heads of governments had increased calling for a better and more ethical approach to business and management matters.

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Surroundings around

Date: 14 November 2008

Speaker: Kaori Yamashita

Fascinated by the ability to print images on almost any kind of materials, Kaori Yamashita blended printmaking with her interest in photography during her Bachelor of Arts at Kyoto City University of Arts, Japan. She completed a Masters in Information Science at Nagoya University in 2006. In researching her thesis on bioinformatics she discovered SymbioticA and is undertaking the Masters in Science (Biological Arts) at UWA.

Kaori engages conceptually with how a person exists in relation to others and is currently exploring the relationship between humans and other species, in particular- human activities surrounding fish, from an anthropological and an ecological point of view. In this talk she discussed her artistic practice and current research.

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WASP- visualising research

Date: 24 October 2008

Location: WASP, ground floor of the Physics Building, UWA

Boasting superior research and visualisation facilities, including a fully immersive dome, large scale stereoscopic projector, 3D printer, and haptic devices, The Western Australian Supercomputer Program (WASP) provides cutting edge resources to Australian researchers.

A variety of visually engaging projects have been undertaken in collaboration with the WASP and artists, showcasing the outcomes of artistic and scientific research.

SymbioticA toured WASP’s premier facilities.

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Art where you live: Engaging communities

Date: 17 October 2008

Speaker: Amanda Alderson

Seeing the need to push her established concepts of engaging communities, Amanda Alderson undertook an exploratory interdisciplinary art and community development mentorship with Friction Arts in Birmingham, UK early in 2008, funded by the Australia Council Inter-Arts Office.

Friction Arts has an internationally recognised reputation for socially engaged participatory arts, or “Art Where You Live”. By not doing 'drive by' art, Friction Arts clearly demonstrates their ability to ’get under the skin’ of communities and create projects that make huge and lasting differences to the people with which they collaborate. 

Discussing the participatory practice of Friction Arts and other practitioners she met in Birmingham, Amanda will reflecting on her own work as community youth producer at IASKA,  running projects with artists in residence including Nigel Helyer, Bennett Miller and Deirdre Nelson.  “The Smarter than Smoking IASKA Education Survey” featuring 10 years of IASKA’s community program, opened on 22 October and ran until 23 November in Kellerberrin.

Amanda gave a brief an overview of her past and current artistic practice and professional arts positions.

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Slip me some skin

Date: 26 September 2008

Speaker: Alicia King

Alicia King, artist in residence at SymbioticA, is a Hobart-based cross-media artist and current PhD Candidate at the University of Tasmania’s School of Art. Her practice explores biological permutations in humans, animals and the wider environment, and alludes to that which generally lies outside of the everyday category of the ‘living’. 

These include sculptural, performance and installation based works, as well biological artworks derived from human tissue, through cell culture techniques. She is completing her PhD transformations of the flesh; rupturing embodiment through biotechnology, an artistic exploration of relationships between the physical, ethical and ritual body.

She presented recent progress of projects involving the use of her own tissue and excess cosmetic surgery tissue, resulting from an ongoing preoccupation with resonance of medicalised rupturing of the body on individual embodiment.

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Where has all the sperm gone?

Date: 19 September 2008

Speaker: Tarsh Bates

Tarsh Bates is currently a student at UWA – undertaking SymbioticA’s Master of Science (Biological Art). Tarsh is interested in corporeal feminism and embodiment, in autobiography, and in the body as material and as a site of intervention. Her art practice is concerned with  representations of the reproductive body in art and science, and in the physical, emotional and ethical consequences of reproductive decision-making and technologies. She has explored these concepts through textiles, sculpture, performance and glasswork. Tarsh has a background in biotechnology and environmental science. She worked as a researcher in compost science and waste management and is currently working in honeybee reproduction research. She is particularly interested in modes of communicating from the positions of art and biology.

Tarsh presented a map of her path to SymbioticA, her current projects, and some ideas she has for her masters work.

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Two documentaries on ORLAN  and Critical Art Ensemble

Date: 12 September 2008

2007 SymbioticA residents’ projects filmed by Sensimilla Productions

CAE: Producing Immolation (2007) 9 min 43 sec

Critical Art Ensembles 'Immolation' installation, an exploration of hazardous war materials and their behaviour on human skin at the cellular level. Features footage of the skin chemical experiments and an interview with Steve Kurtz about his recent political episode in the US.

ORLAN: The Harlequin's Coat (2007/2008) 29 min 07 sec

The tale of the Harlequin and his multi-faceted skin and the journey of French artist ORLAN are interwoven in an exploration of her recent internationally travelling installation 'The Harlequin's Coat.' As artist in residence at SymbioticA ORLAN conducted an incredible operation to bring the coat to life for display at the Still, Living exhibition at The Bakery in Northbridge.

Sensimilla Productions

Sensimilla is a relatively new film production group operating in Perth, WA. Commonly crafting creatively based films including horror, animation and experimental music videos, Sensimilla has also ventured into the documentary realm, assisting many art bodies and groups in Western Australia. A growing company, Sensimilla focuses on developing internet based video and plans to start producing independent dramas in the near future.

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Holding together the multiple potentials of science

Date: 5 September 2008

Speaker: Brian Rappert

Claims about the revolution in our understanding of world enabled by modern biotechnology have been accompanied by an unsettling question in many international forums after 9/11: might the knowledge being gained be used to further - rather than prevent - the spread of disease?  In other words, might the life sciences become the death sciences? As part of this concern about the ‘dual uses’ of research, questions are being asked today regarding what novel threats might stem from life science research and the extent to which security considerations ought to figure into the practices of researchers.
There were two aims to this seminar:

  • to discuss the methods and results of over 100 interactive seminars with practicing scientists undertaken by Rappert in some 14 countries 
  • to ask how future interventions regarding the dual use potential of science could be informed by ongoing artistic interventions in the life science that likewise try to hold together the dual aspects of science (for instance, as simultaneously perverse/normal, sterile/wet).

Brian Rappert is an Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Public Affairs in the Department of Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Exeter. His long-term interest has been the examination of how choices can and are made about the adoption and regulation of security-related technologies; this particularly in conditions of uncertainty and disagreement. His book Controlling the Weapons of War: Politics, Persuasion, and the Prohibition of Inhumanity (Routledge, 2006) is an attempt to ask how humanitarian limits are set war.  Biotechnology, Security and the Search for Limits: An Inquiry into Research and Methods (Palgrave, 2007) considers the prospects and problems with introducing security-inspired controls to prevent the destructive use of biotechnology research.  

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Watching Mongolia and other stories from my motorcycle

Date: 29 August 2008

Speaker: Matt Johnson

In 2006-2007, Matt Johnson solo circumnavigated the globe by motorcycle, visiting 37 countries and riding 40,000 miles. In context of a few stories from his travels, Matt talked about his work and how he approached problems, process and people.

Designer/ Engineer Matt Johnson is SymbioticA's inaugural intern and his passion lies at the interface between design, engineering. During his internship he is working on SymbioticA's Toolkit: the Bioreactor project and collaborating with Phil Gamblen & Guy Ben-Ary on the “Silent Barrage” project. He is completing a MA Industrial Design Engineering at The Royal College of Art, London, UK.

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National Science Week talk

Date: 22 August 2008

Speaker: Oron Catts

This is an introduction to the work undertaken at SymbioticA the first research laboratory that enables artists to engage in wet biology practices in a biological science department.

SymbioticA, the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, is an artistic laboratory dedicated to the research, learning and critique of life sciences. SymbioticA is the first research laboratory of its kind in the world, in that it enables artists to engage in wet biology practices in a biological science department. Renowned in particular for pioneering the field of art and biology, SymbioticA provides an opportunity for researchers to pursue curiosity-based explorations free of the demands and constraints associated with the current culture of scientific research while still complying with regulations. SymbioticA also offers a new means of artistic inquiry, one in which artists actively use the tools and technologies of science, not just to comment about them, but also to explore their possibilities.

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Motivations for milkiness: Inducing lactation

Date: 15 August 2008

Speaker: Cath Davies

Lactation and breastfeeding, traditionally exclusive practices of post-partum bodies and maternal dyads, are stepping out of the nursery and into the parlour. An increasing number of individuals (not exclusively female) are choosing to induce lactation outside the realm of gestational motherhood- no mater, no matter! Breast is still best of course- but it's not just for babies anymore. Motivations for milkiness range from adoptive breastfeeding and adult nursing to preventative health measures, body modification and auto-eroticism. Drawing strongly on my personal induced lactation project, this piece explored the purposes and processes, techniques and technologies involved in manipulating and maintaining milky mammaries sans infant.

Cath Davies is a third-year PhD candidate from the department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. Her thesis, Milk Fever, uses Breast Milk as a means to go frolicking in theories of gender/trans, feminism, media, communication, queer, performance, art, cultural studies and whatever else sie finds curious. In addition to this work, Cath, under her performance name of Zoo, has induced lactation on three separate occasions without quite ever fathoming why, and earlier this year performed Curdle, a ten-day lactation installation piece at Sydney's Don't Look Gallery.

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FishBoy, tales from the lab, factory and the studio

Date: 8 August 2008

Speaker: Brian Degger

Brian talked about FishBoy, a platform from which he examines our relationship with the underwater world. This he explores through text, photography, video, fisheries bycatch, conceptual and biological artworks. The utility of speculative research in art and further directions for FishBoy will be explored.

Dr Brian Degger (PhD Biotechnolgy) is a new media artist and interdisciplinary researcher, with a doctorate in biotechnology. His current practice revolves around Speculative Research and FishBoy. His research is on the relationship between creators and their biofacts/model organisms. Through bioartforum, he is inviting practitioners, scientists and researchers to a continuous email dialog on and about bioart.

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Have we killed the romance? Queenbee breeding in the modern age

Date: 11 July 2008

Speaker: Tiffane Bates

Tiffane is a fourth-generation beekeeper working in queen rearing, queen selection in the field and artificial insemination. She discussed her background in bee breeding and share her life-long interactions with bees. An overview of the current global bee situation was presented and Tiffane discussed threats to WA's bees and the bee industry.

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Skin Deep, Reflections on science and art and Figurations of knowledge - an update

Date: 4 July 2008

Speakers: Guy Ben-Ary, Tanya Visosevic and Ionat Zurr

This was an update from past and present residents at SymbioticA. Guy Ben-Ary, Tanya Visosevic and Ionat Zurr discussed their works on show at the Skin Deep exhibition at Fort Asperen, National Glass Museum in the Netherlands; Ionat spoke about the Hybrid Reflections on science and art conference in Portugal and the Figurations of knowledge Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference held in Germany that featured Tagny Duff, Verena Kaminiarz, Kira O’Reilly and Jennifer Willet.

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History of early 20th century state medical photography and biopolitical processes of subject formation

Date: 27 June 2008

Speaker: Dr Ethan Blue

This seminar investigated the history of early 20th century state medical photography and biopolitical processes of subject formation.

While I put their aesthetic and material practices into a fraught historical context, I seek advice from human anatomists about many of the images themselves (identifying organs and growths removed, etc).

Ethan Blue is a lecturer in history. His research focuses on prison systems in the United States, and his recent work analyses medicine in penal contexts. He has published research in Humanities Research, Radical History Review, Bad Subjects, and the edited volume Isolation: Places and Practices of Exclusion.

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Lindsay Vickery

Date: 20 June 2008

Speaker: Lindsay Vickery

Lindsay Vickery, artist, composer and academic, is one of the most dynamic voices on the Australian New Music Scene and is also active as a composer and performer across Europe, the USA and Asia.

Vickery's music includes works for acoustic and electronic instruments in interactive-electronic, improvised or fully notated settings, ranging from solo pieces to opera. Vickery has been commissioned by numerous groups for concert, dance and theatre and has been described as 'truly an original voice and his work is one of sustained intensity that resonates in the mind long after the performance is over' and a 'master of technological wizardry' The Australian and 'always intriguing ' The Wire. Lindsay is the Head of School of Contemporary Music, Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore.

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pvi collective

Date: 30 May  2008

Speaker: pvi collective

Perth-based hybrid performance group pvi collective presented a brief overview of its artworks over the past decade, focusing on working in public space. co-artistic directors kelli mccluskey and steve bull talked about public space as performance space and reflected on the challenges of navigating this terrain.

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'Nanoessence- God, the first nano assembler'

Date: 23 May, 2008

Speaker: Paul Thomas

The Nanoessence project aims to examine life at a sub cellular level, re-examining space and scale within the human context. A single HaCat  skin cell is analysed with an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) to explore comparisons between, life and death at a nano level. The humanistic discourse concerning life is now being challenged by nanotechnological research that brings into question the concepts of what constitutes living.

Dr Paul Thomas, is the coordinator of the Studio Electronic Arts (SEA) at Curtin University of Technology and was the founding Director of the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth.

Paul has been working in the area of electronic arts since 1981 when he co-founded the group Media-Space. Media-Space was part of the first global link up with artists connected to ARTEX.  From 1981-1986 the group was involved in a number of collaborative exhibitions and was instrumental in the establishment a substantial body of research. In 2000 he founded the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth. Paul’s own current practice-led research the Midas project is in collaboration with the Nano Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology and SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia, where he is researching the transition phase between skin and gold. Paul is also  working on an intelligent architecture project for the Curtin Mineral and Chemistry Research Precinct Public art project. The art project will be integrated into the two new buildings that will form the Mineral and Chemistry Research and Education Precinct. Paul is currently the co-chair of the Re:live media art history conference 2009. Paul is a practicing electronic artist whose work has exhibited internationally and can be seen on his website Visiblespace.

The apparently immortalised but highly differentiated cell line was named HaCaT to indicate the origin and initial growth conditions. Boukamp, P., R. T. Petrussevska, et al. (1988). "Normal keratinization in a spontaneously immortalized aneuploid human keratinocyte cell line." J. Cell Biol. 106(3): 761-771.

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Welcome to Mothman Country

Date: 16 May 2008

Speaker: Deborah Dixon

Following a brief account of geography as a discipline that resists the enlightened sorting of academic inquiry into the substantive domains of either the Natural or Social Sciences, and yet retains a distinctive interest in all matters spatial, this talk addressed how an exploration of just such another 'anomalous' body of thought and practice - that is, Forteanism, and its creatures such the Mothman - can shed light not only on the imaginative spatialities at work in this endeavour, but also the 'spectral' character of Geography itself, wherein the relation between the there and the not-there comes to the fore.

Deborah Dixon is currently in residence at SymbioticA as part of a project on 'Creating the Future-Body: The Visceral Aesthetics of BioArt,' funded by the British Academy. She is a Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, and is editor of Gender, Place and Culture. Her teaching, and recent, published work has focused on the production, character and affect of monstrous geographies, as well as the intersection of geography and social theory.

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Stephen Wight

Date: 18 April 2008

Stephen Wight is a historian of underground psychedelic culture and history, living in Berkeley, California. He is working on two loosely-related projects: writing a non-fiction book about a failed attempt to smuggle 3000 kg of hashish from Lebanon to the States in 1970, and contributing to an ongoing effort to document all illicit psychedelic drug laboratories, ever.

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Slide show: sk-interfaces, Fact, Liverpool; Design in the Elastic Mind, MoMA, New York; India workshop, Bangalore

Date: 4 April 2008

Speakers: Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr

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Art + Science + Technology. Argentinian Art 1968-2008

Date: 20 March 2008

Speaker: Natalia Matewecki

Natalia Matewecki will undertake an analysis of the past 40 years of Argentinian art related to science and technology, from CAYC (Center of Art and Communication,1968) up to the latest Artificial Life and Bioart works.

Natalia is an Art Historian who is currently in residence at SymbioticA. Her project Typologies of BioArt will be looking at the different projects being researched within SymbioticA; the scientific techniques and procedures being utilised by artists and the scientific theories'  connection to the art being produced. Natalia is completing her Master of Aesthetic and Theory of Arts. Facultad de Bellas Artes, Universidad Nacional de La Plata  and has had a Fellowship in Scientific, Technologic and Artistic Research exploring “Genesis and transgenesis of multimedia art. Intersections between art and science”.

Artists surveyed in the talk were: 

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Skin to Skin

Date: 29 February 2008

Speaker: Lia McKnight, curator of Skin to Skin

Skin to Skin is the second solo project by independent Curator Lia McKnight.

In 2005 Lia curated the exhibition: bones of the skin – the denaturalisation of the body at Breadbox Gallery which featured Australian contemporary artists including internationally-acclaimed artist Julie Rrap. The body as social metaphor has been a point of interest in her work and artistic practice which encompasses multi-media, installation and site-based work. Lia has undertaken curatorial roles with the Town of Vincent and the Lawrence Wilson Gallery, UWA. She completed a Master of Cultural Heritage Studies at Curtin University of Technology in 2005. Skin to Skin- a dialogue between art and fashion.

Dress is a profoundly human practice imbued with a unique capacity to reflect both individual and collective human experience. Framing an interplay between two streams of creative endeavour, the exhibition Skin to Skin brought together art and fashion in a speculative exploration of dress. The overlapping of these disciplines generates imaginative and tangible spaces in which cloth and body meet to inspire intrigue and fascination.


  • Georgina Cresswell
  • Elizabeth Delfs
  • Anne Farren
  • Angela Ferolla
  • Donna Franklin and Gary Cass
  • Davina Homer
  • Kirsten Hudson
  • Justine McKnight
  • Minaxi May
  • Poets of the Machine
  • Megan Salmon
  • Louise Snook.

The Skin to Skin exhibition was on show from the 2 February - 30 March 2008 at the Fremantle Arts Centre.

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