2010 Seminars

SymbioticA held 37 seminars in 2010.

  1. The psychological distance between artificial life and our physical sensations
  2. Listening at the Nanoscale
  3. The descent of man
  4. The conditions of visibility of artworks and their affect
  5. CYNICISM - Science, art and bitches
  6. The Quote Generator
  7. Fashion is not for sissies!
  8. Some must watch while some must sleep
  9. Is tolerance breeding too much to ask?
  10. Visualising adaptation: Surface and beyond
  11. Body Corporate
  12. Doing this PhD was like eating a cumquat
  13. Art-science connections: the visualisation of minerals
  14. Solastalgia
  15. Science communication in Australia
  16. The unnatural relations between artistic research and ethics committees
  17. Triple bond nutrition: Expressing BioArt with baby steps
  18. SymbioticA Tour
  19. Puturru Palyalpayi - Stringmakers
  20. Understanding the creative workforce: A study of artists and arts practice
  21. Slime moulds
  22. Viennese actionism: Total art and the social unconscious
  23. Strategic optimism: Negotiating wrong places, wrong times (modus operandi of a reluctant artist)
  24. Becoming: The assemblages of change, interaction and potentiality
  25. Staging interaction design for physical environments
  26. Spaced
  27. Artistic interpretations of technological mediation
  28. A discussion on BioArt in Japan
  29. The arts and social wellbeing in Western Australia’s rural Mid West region: evidence, measurement, and challenges
  30. Relay artist talk
  31. A vision of our energy future
  32. Science visualisation in prime time TV-documentaries and material science research
  33. Nature by design
  34. Datadrum 2.04: Imagining the sixth dimensional city
  35. Education for world futures:  what have the arts and humanities to offer?; musings from a seemingly lapsed scientist
  36. Nanocity and the globalisation of speculative science
  37. Public display of human tissue

The psychological distance between artificial life and our physical sensations

Date: 10 December 2010

Speaker: Jia-Jen Lin

Location: SymbioticA, UWA

Website: Jia-Jen

Jia-Jen Lin was an artist in residency at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) from September to December, 2010. She shared her artist practice and residency experiences from recent years.

Lin’s work investigates the psychological distance between artificial life and our physical sensations.  By way of collecting, modifying, and representing information and materials from everyday experiences, she develops a series of works integrating sculpture, performance, and digital media.

Jia-Jen Lin was born in Taichung, Taiwan and currently lives and works in New York, Taiwan, and various locations. She has a BFA in Western Painting and a MFA in Sculpture, Installation, and Multimedia. Since 2008, she has been selected and granted for several artist residencies in US, Taiwan, Korea, and Australia.

Jia-Jen is the recipient of an Asialink visual art reciprocal residency between Taipei Artist Village in Taiwan and Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA).

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Listening at the Nanoscale 

Date: 19 November 2010

Speaker: Joel Ong

In the lead up to his final project, SymbioticA Masters student Joel Ong presented the developments and foregrounding ideas of his sound installation Nanovibrancy, where he intends to compose with surface vibrations of tympanic membrane samples probed at the nano-scale. His talk focused on the transdisciplinary potential of the piece, lending from research across the fields of nano-technology, biological art, sound art and architectural acoustics.

Joel is a sound artist and musician working at the intersections of biology, art and auditory culture.  He is an MSc. Biological Arts candidate at SymbioticA and has completed a studio residency at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) where he explored the potential of the stethoscope as a listening device for auditory performance.

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The descent of man

Date:  12 November 2010

Speaker: Tarsh Bates

"The aid we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage, though this is more to be hoped for than expected" (Charles Darwin, 1871, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, pp. 168-169)

Tarsh Bates is a candidate for the Masters of Science (Biological Art), SymbioticA. The Descent of Man presented her proposal for her thesis research into evocative objects, reproductive technologies and aesthetics of care.

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The conditions of visibility of artworks and their affect

Date: 5 November 2010

Speaker: Laura D'Olimpio

"Affect, in aesthetic theory, denotes the impact of an artwork upon the viewer. At a subtle level we engage with, and respond to, our seen and unseen environment. The emotional response or the impact that is evoked in us by nature or by artworks can make us pause and take time to consciously observe and appreciate the visible manifestation of invisible workings. It is the affective response engendered by truly wonderful artworks that is remembered. In this talk I explored the notion of “conditions of visibility” of artworks as conditions that are necessary and jointly sufficient to create an aesthetic experience for the viewer engaging with an artwork. Such an experience should link to the artist’s intention. In particular, I engage with the Conceptual nature of contemporary Australian artist Steven Morgana’s work, and liken its affect to Walter Benjamin’s notion of the ‘aura’ that emanates from good art."

Dr Laura D’Olimpio completed her PhD The Moral Possibilities of Mass Art at The University of Western Australia in 2009. Her Thesis examines the moral impact of mass artworks, particularly film, in society. Laura’s research areas include aesthetics and ethics, philosophy and education and moral philosophy. She has published two articles, "Critical Perspectivism and Engaging with Mass Art/Media" in Critical and Creative Thinking: The Australasian Journal of Philosophy in Education and Drama and "Philosophy: Language, Thinking and Laughing Out Loud!" in International Drama Educators Association (IDEA)/Applied Theatre Research Journal. Laura teaches at The University of Notre Dame as well as runs courses in ethics, aesthetics and philosophy and literature for The University of Western Australia Extension. She is also involved with the Association for Philosophy in Schools, Inc.

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CYNICISM - Science, art and bitches

Date: 29 October 2010

Speaker: Benjamin Forster

Benjamin Forster discussed his emerging art practice and how it has evolved during his residency at SymbioticA. This talk focused on examples of his previous work, including his Drawing Machine and Discourse, as well as exposing some of his current projects in order to draw out the concept of Cynicism in both the practice of contemporary art and science.

Emerging artist Benjamin Forster relocated to Perth to complete simultaneous residencies at PICA and SymbioticA in 2010. Winner of the 2010 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award Non-Acquisitive prize. He received a Bachelor of Visual Arts with First Class Honours from the Australian National University, and was an artist in residence at Canberra Contemporary Art Space in 2009. Forster's practice explores drawing, bringing together digital and bio technologies, installation and print to trace the boundaries of logic, economy and the role of the artist in art making.

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The Quote Generator

Date: 22 October 2010

Speaker: Danielle Freakley

Danielle Freakley spoke about and showed videos of her performances including The Quote Generator, in which she speaks solely in quotations for periods of time.
The Quote Generator consists of three phases: Phase One which lasted for eighteen months, in which Freakley spoke in quotes from commercial products including. films, books, advertisements, lyrics; Phase Two in which Freakley will speak in quotes from people she has interacted with directly, such as family, friends, lecturers, and will last for 12 months; and finally, Phase Three, in which Freakley will speak in quotes from herself, as first person in the past, which will last for six months.

Phase Two of the Quote Generator was launched on the 14th of November at X Initiative as part of PERFORMA the New York Visual Art Performance Biennial.

Danielle Freakley is a performance artist, sculptor, sound artist, drawer and interactive installation artist. Her interventionist performances mostly involve developing parasitic abilities/disabilities throughout daily life.

Recent exhibitions include: 2009: 'QG Phase Two' PERFORMA: Performance Art Biennial of New York, X Initiative (Old Dia Space) Chelsea, New York.'QG Avatar’ Kuala Lumpur Triennial, Malaysia: 2008: 'Dear Art, Please Touch Me' National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; ''And the Difference is' NUS Museum, Singapore; 'Primavera' Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

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Fashion is not for sissies!

Date: 15 October 2010

Speaker:  Kirsten Hudson

This seminar was presented by SymbioticA resident Kirsten Hudson, who discussed her project titled “mini flesh works” on which she is collaborating with Guy Ben-Ary.

"mini flesh works" is a project that uses biotechnology in inefficient and culturally unauthorised ways, consciously turning biotechnology away from its aims. Subverting biotechnological intent by using fashion as a strategy that connotes frivolity, uselessness and perversion, "mini flesh works" critiques ‘the authority of biotechnology and biomedicine by highlighting the contingencies and limitations in biotech’s self-fulfilling narrative of future medicine’ (Victoria Pitts, 2003). Positioning fashion as a strategy, similarly to how Rosie Braidotti locates contemporary science fiction as a ‘vehicle for the reflection on our own limits, on the cultural, ideological and technical closures or our times’ (Rosie Braidotti, 2002), "mini flesh works" deliberately situates the body as an aesthetic threshold, a field of intensities available to a multiplicity of ‘fashionable’ metamorphoses. Redeploying notions of fashion and ornamentation to tissue cultured lengths of human skin, "mini flesh works"  articulates a politics that intentionally disrupts normative readings of the skin such that societal understandings of the self and ‘Other’ are threatened.

Kirsten Hudson is a woman of many indolent past-times. Although she manages a posse of four kids, a dog, two cats and a husband, and holds a PhD in fine art and contemporary baroque feminist theory from Curtin University, she maintains that she is essentially lazy, narcissistic and self-indulgent. Since moving on from a successful fashion management company she co-founded with Gillian O'Meagher in 2005, Kirsten can now be found as a sessional lecturer at Curtin University, speaking her mind on textiles, fashion, historical and contemporary theories of beauty as well as fantasy and cultural representation.

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Some must watch while some must sleep

Date: 8 October 2010

Speaker: Lisa Carrie Goldberg

Have you ever wondered what you look like when you sleep? Can you imagine your body positions creating artwork while you are sleeping? How about envisioning the sleep lab as an artist’s studio?
Through her studies in sleep biology and sleep technology, SymbioticA’s Master of Biological Arts student Lisa Carrie Goldberg has found a commonality between the disciplines of sleep science and art, architecture, and design. She intends to explore these commonalities as part of her thesis.
The proposed outcome of these unique sleep studies is the production of works of art, called Somnolence Structurings, which are derived from electrical data collected by the changing body positions of sleepers in the laboratory. Goldberg regards her experiments as research with an artistic endeavour, and views the project as a creative exercise both for the artist and the participants involved.
In addition to their experience in the sleep laboratory, the participants will be given a visual recording of what they look like when they are asleep, a perspective that few have seen. Through this research, Goldberg is presenting sleep as an active state. Once the performance experiments in the lab are complete, all text, audio, and visual documentation collected from these sleep studies will be exhibited in a display open to the public at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art in December 2010.

The research is being conducted at the Sleep Research Facility, through the School of Anatomy and Human Biology at The University of Western Australia.

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Is tolerance breeding too much to ask?

Date: 1 October 2010

Speaker: Tiff Bates

This seminar was given by Tiffane Bates, recipient of a 2009 Churchill Fellowship for a three month whirlwind of learning, visiting iconic figures in the bee industry that are working on breeding honeybees which can resist some of these threats.

Honeybees are under threat worldwide and many people devote their lives to finding innovative and optimistic solutions. Australia is the last ‘Honeybee Oasis’, the final continent without massive honeybee collapse. Full scale honeybee decline will cost us billions in Agricultural income and threaten our food supply.

Bees are facing a dire situation outside Australia. This of course flows straight onto the bee industry and to food producers who rely on bees for pollination. Most people use chemicals to manage this devastating problem. Bates wonders, can we instead breed bees which survive and thrive under the stresses they face? If so, making these bees commercially viable is a challenge faced by every country.

Bates is a self employed beekeeper as well as the manager of the apiary with The Collaborative Initiative for Bee Research (CIBER) at UWA.

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Visualising adaptation: Surface and beyond

Date: 24 September 2010

Speaker: Carmel Wallace

Website: Symbiotica Adaptation.

SymbioticA resident Carmel Wallace talked about the her residency within the Adaptation project, as well as discussing other work she has undertaken this year, including her solo exhibition Colony in Melbourne and The Stony Rises Project with its exhibition developed by RMIT Design Research Institute and touring Victoria in 2010-2011.

Carmel’s Adaptation residency involves exploring in microscopic detail, the internal structure of a thrombolite and its surface, including the community of organisms inhabiting its surface and using this within her own process of screen printing using water collected from the Lake.

Carmel Wallace is a practicing artist working across installation, printmaking and assemblage. Her art practice focuses on the advantages of multi-disciplinary exploration of place and its ramifications for environmental awareness and ethics. She gained her PhD in 1999 and has held lecturing positions at the University of the Sunshine Coast and Deakin University. Residencies include those undertaken at the University of Tasmania, the Santa Reparata Graphic Art Studio in Florence, and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York. In 2004 Carmel co-curated Surface Tension, a printmaking exchange exhibition shown in New York and Melbourne. In addition to regular solo exhibitions, Carmel’s work has been selected for national exhibitions including the Blake Prize, the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW, and in 2010 the Montalto and Yering Station Sculpture exhibitions and Fremantle Print Award. Acquisitions include the National Library of Australia, the State Library of Victoria, and The Silk Cut Collection in the National Gallery of Australia.

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Body Corporate

Date: 10 September 2010

Website: Four Corners - Body Corporate 

This seminar viewed and discussed Body Corporate, a Four Corners piece by Andrew Fowler which first aired on 6 September 2010 and has been available on ABC's iView.

Body Corporate is 'the story of the battle that will decide who owns your body and the biological building blocks that make you the person that you are.'

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Doing this PhD was like eating a cumquat

Date: 27 August 2010

Speaker: Maria João Grade Godinho

"During one of the UWA Graduate Research School’s writing retreats, postgraduate students were asked to think about their PhD projects and express them as a colour or smell or flavour or some other sensual experience. This is what I then wrote:

'Doing this PhD was like eating a cumquat. First you look at it and you mistakenly think you know what to expect. However, as soon as you take the first bite, the rollercoaster begins! An explosion of flavours happens in your mouth, and suddenly there is a delightful wave of sweetness immediately followed by a rush of dreadful bitterness and after comes a moment of charmingly harmonious blend of textures which is followed by a catastrophic downpour of your own saliva, which comes as your naive attempted to quieten your blasting oral sensations. With a cumquat, the experience is not over even after the end, as the flavour lingers in your mouth, which is afterwards warm and alive, and your taste buds, although still hurting, instantaneously scream for more. I wonder if this part of the analogy will still subsist and if I am going to engage with science after my PhD? This was, undoubtedly one of the most challenging endeavours of my life.'”

Maria João Grade Godinho submitted her PhD thesis, titled 'Effects of neurotrophic factors on the regeneration of peripheral nerves', just a few weeks ago. While the scientific knowledge and technical expertise she gained doing the project could be an asset for her future career, she thinks that the PhD was worth doing also because of everything else she experienced. She learnt that she absolutely loves teaching, she realised that she is passionate about cultural diversity and she re-discovered that art and humanities satisfy her curiosity to understand the world around her. This talk will not just be about grafts and nerve injuries – but will encompass all of those experiences that made up her PhD years – from collaborating with artists at SymbioticA, running the Diversity@University seminars at the Centre for Integrated Human Studies - then within in the School of Anatomy and Human Biology, doing a Teaching Internship and teaching Stereology, “Human Functional Morphology” and “Art and Life Manipulation”, to being an active member of the Postgraduate Students’ Association and a founding member of the Writers Liberation Front... she is thinking about it as an opportunity to acknowledge all those who contributed to enrich her PhD experience. Maria has been a long time collaborator with SymbioticA and would like to one day be accepted as a resident.

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Art-Science connections: the visualisation of minerals

Date: 20 August 2010

Speaker: Suzette Worden

Suzette Worden considered some historical examples of arts-science connections for mineralogy. She discussed the importance of social context for understanding these examples in order to identify themes and concepts that may be relevant for current and future cultural heritage projects aimed at celebrating the history of mining and associated scientific discoveries and technologies.

Examples from the late 18th century to the 20th century were examined, including the antiquarian mineralogist, Philip Rashleigh; the art critic and geologist, John Ruskin; and the crystal patterns developed for designs as part of the displays at the 1951 Festival of Britain exhibition. Suzette also discussed awareness of the needs of the expected audience, response of the viewer, and how even the strongest didactic intentions blend ‘objectivity’ with a sense of wonder and appreciation of the beauty of the Earth.

Suzette Worden is Professor of Design in the School of Design and Art, Curtin University. Her teaching and research interests include arts-science collaborations, cultural heritage and the history and social context of design. As well as having an interest in mineralogy and mining heritage, current research projects have a focus on materials and design and include ‘Wool and Comfort for Clothing Design,’ as part of an ARC Linkage project, and case studies of aluminium and design. She was one of the convenors of the ‘Computers in Art and Design Education (CADE) conference which was part of the Biennale of Electronic Arts, Perth in September 2007.

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Date: 13 August 2010

Speaker: Glenn Albrecht

Solastalgia is defined as the distress and loss of solace connected to a person’s lived experience of the chronic desolation of a loved home environment by transformational agents such as mining and climate change.’

This concept was created by Glenn Albrecht, Professor of Sustainability at Murdoch University in Perth Western Australia. With around 100,000 hits in a Google search, solastalgia is now well established in many languages and has generated feature articles in the New York Times Magazine, Wired and WorldChanging.

Glenn is a transdisciplinary philosopher with a focus on the intersection of ecosystem and human health. He is a professor of Sustainability at Murdoch University and author of many book chapters and academic papers on environmental and animal ethics, social ecology and the existential impacts of environmental transformation. His most recent publications have presented the concept of 'solastalgia' and he has become internationally well known for creating this concept, which is now widely applied in academic contexts and has also inspired creativity in art, literature and music.

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Science communication in Australia 

Date: 30 July 2010

While we had no SymbioticA Friday seminar this week, we direct your attention to an interesting talk by Australian Science Communicator’s Jesse Shore on Friday 30 June at the Centre for Learning Technology, UWA.

The talk entitled Science Communication in Australia discussed how effective science communication in Australia is, and how value can be added as well as information on professional associations in Australia for science communicators, including Australian Science Communicators.

For more nformation visit Australian Science Communicators and see 'discussion mailing list'

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The unnatural relations between artistic research and ethics committees

Date: 23 July 2010

Speaker: Dr Ionat Zurr

'Developments in the life sciences and its applied technologies create new ethical and philosophical challenges. Artists have an essential role in exploring these new terrains by continuing to question and even provoke, in order to suggest contestable scenarios. Following the ethics committee’s methodologies, geared predominantly for biomedical research, becomes a great challenge when applied to artistic research. Weighing a project’s benefits versus costs becomes more of a philosophical issue when applied to an artistic or cultural activity, as new issues are raised such as the role of the committee as censors ; protection of audience sensitivities; the perception of artistic research versus scientific research and allowing ironic and playful research to be recognised as serious research tools.'

As prelude to Dr Zurr’s presentation in the 10th World Congress of Bioethics, Singapore, she discussed these issues from the unique and challenging viewpoint of SymbioticA – The Centre of Excellence in Biological Art, in the School of Anatomy and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia.

Artist, Researcher and Academic Coordinator of SymbioticA, Ionat, who formed, together with Oron Catts, the Tissue Culture and Art Project, received her PhD, titled Growing Semi-Living Art from the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts at UWA. She was a Research Fellow at the Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, and worked with numerous other bio-medical laboratories around the world. In 2009 she was acknowledged by Icon Magazine (UK) as one of the top 20 Designers “making the future and transforming the way we work”. Her work received international awards and recognition and is part of the NY MoMA design collection.

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Triple bond nutrition: Expressing BioArt with baby steps

Date: 16 July 2010

Speaker: Abhishek Hazra

SymbioticA resident Abhishek Hazra gave an overview of the projects he has been exploring, and  contextualised them within his overall practice. In his work at SymbioticA with Cyanobacteria and human breast milk, he has tried to explore the biochemistry of complex molecules and their subsequent transformation, and the dynamics of gaseous exchange.

Abhishek Hazra is a visual artist based in Bangalore, India. He explores the intersections between technology and culture through animated shorts and performance pieces that often integrate textual fragments drawn from real and fictional scenarios. Abhishek is interested in the sociology of scientific practice and his works are often set up as a self-reflexive conversation with the theoretical framework of Science and Technology Studies. He also writes occasionally on contemporary Indian art.

Read a brief overview of some of his works.

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SymbioticA Tour

Date: 9 July 2010

Speaker: Oron Catts

As part of the UWA Winter Arts Festival, SymbioticA Director Oron Catts will discuss past and present SymbioticA resident research projects. A tour around the School of Anatomy and Human Biology will also be included.

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Puturru Palyalpayi - Stringmakers

Date: 2 July 2010

Speakers: Sujora Conrad, Holly Story, Bronwyn Goss, Nalda Searles

Time and location: 4-5pm @ Holmes à Court Gallery, 1/11 Brown St, East Perth

In 2009, the International Year of Natural Fibre and the International Year of Reconciliation, an artists’ exchange project was arranged, supported by the Department of Culture and the Arts. This enabled a small group of women artists from the coastal plains of Perth to visit and work with senior women artists from the remote community of Warburton in the Gibson Desert. This exhibition is the result of that meeting.

Sujora Conrad is an artist and the Warburton fibre art project coordinator. Sujora has had a fifteen year association with Warburton Community.

Holly Story arrived in Australia in1970. She finished formal art training at Curtin University School of Art in 1991. Since that time her practice has encompassed textile, print, installation and, most recently, video work. Her interest is in the interface between the human and natural worlds. She is represented in both state and national collections.

Bronwyn Goss makes small installations which reflect on the nature of belonging as different stories meet in country. She also writes about the cultural role of art with attention towards the function and purpose of big cultural stories. She taught for many years in the School of Art at Curtin University and her work is represented in six Australian public collections.

Nalda Searles has been involved in the soft arts as a maker for 30 years. She used found, salvaged and donated textiles mixed with other items to make pertinent statements. Her exhibition Nalda Searles Drifting in my own Land is currently on national tour.  She has a long association with indigenous women through the fibre arts and in particular with the painter Pantjiti Mary Mclean.

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Understanding the creative workforce: A study of artists and arts practice

Date: 25 June 2010

Speaker: Dawn Bennett

Dr Dawn Bennett presented a survey project which is the start of a unique collaboration with artists in Perth, Vancouver and Glasgow. As researchers committed to developing a strong future for the arts, the project strives to bridge the gap between artists and policy markers by developing a clearer understanding of artists' work and its critical role in society.

Dawn Bennett is a Senior Research Fellow conducting research into the working lives and economic circumstances of the creative workforce. She holds postgraduate degrees in education and music performance and has worked as a classical musician, educator, researcher and manager. Research interests focus on sustainable practice within the creative industries, with special emphasis on the effectiveness of education, training and policy.

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Slime moulds

Date: 18 June 2010

Speakers: Elaine and Peter Davison

Slime moulds, or Myxomycetes, are ubiquitous, occurring on rotting organic matter, but their small size means that they are inconspicuous and often overlooked. For much of their life cycle they are no more than a free-living mass of protoplasm (the plasmodial stage) but when conditions are right they produce fruiting bodies of great diversity and beauty.

The talk covered what slime moulds are, their life cycle, how they relate to other groups of organisms, how to collect and observe them, and what is known of their ecology.

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Viennese actionism: Total art and the social unconscious 

Date: 11 June 2010

Speaker: Tatjana Seserko

Ever since its inception in the early 1960s, Viennese actionism has been referred to as one of the most contested artistic directions in the history of 20th century avant-garde. This paper traced the inceptive stages of Actionism in specific relation to its local socio-political milieux, and how the pragmatism of petit bourgeois shaped the course of brutality inherent in their art. I specifically focused on the emergence of their collaborative endeavours through projects such as die Blutorgel (the Blood Organ)(1962) and Kunst und Revolution (Art and Revolution) (1968).

Tatjana Seserko is completing her Masters degree at the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Art, and is a local independent artist.

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Strategic optimism: Negotiating wrong places, wrong times (modus operandi of a reluctant artist)

Date: 21 May 2010

Speaker: David Khang

For this presentation David framed his residency projects while at SymbioticA within larger trajectories of his practice over the past 10 years. Along with his own works from the past and the present, David presented a remix of ideas and images of other artists, writers, and thinkers – local and global – to strategically connect seemingly disparate practices from “wrong places” and histories from “wrong times” into a narrative that is critical, communal, and insistently contingent.

Through his art, David investigates languages – visual, written, and spoken. In recent works that incorporate live animals and organs of speech, Khang uses language as a trope to consider constructions and relationality between gender, race, and species, within the context of postcolonial history and contemporary culture. Khang mines historical events to produce divergent, tangential, and often hyperbolic readings, as a way to remix and re-imagine their poetic and political potentials.

David Khang is a Vancouver-based artist whose art practice is informed by interdisciplinary education. After receiving his BSc (Physiology and Psychology, 1987) and DDS (1991), both from the University of Toronto, David experimented with theology (M Div) at the Vancouver School of Theology, before obtaining his BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, Vancouver (2000), and MFA with Emphasis in Critical Theory at the University of California, Irvine (2004). David was born in Seoul, grew up in Toronto, and currently resides in Vancouver, where he divides his time between his art practice, clinical dentistry, and teaching at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

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Becoming: The assemblages of change, interaction and potentiality

Date: 14 May 2010

Speaker: Svenja Kratz

Contemporary artist and SymbioticA resident Svenja Kratz presented an informal overview of ongoing art/science research project Evolutionary Transgressions. The discussion included an outline of previous works produced in a creative partnership with the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation including The Absence of Alice, a multi-medium exhibition based on the experience of working with human and insect cell lines, and The Human Skin Equivalent/Experience Project, a collaborative study involving the creation of personal jewellery pieces incorporating human skin equivalent models — three dimensional skin substitutes created from human skin and hair follicle cells.

The artist discussed her engagements with genetic engineering and primary cell culture during her SymbioticA residency and the way in which these experiences may be translated into creative works in the future.

Svenja Kratz is a Brisbane-based contemporary artist interested in interdisciplinary practice, particularly the intersections between science and art. She originally completed a bachelor of creative arts, majoring in contemporary art and creative writing at Griffith University. Since graduating with first class honours in 2004, Svenja has produced numerous works in multiple mediums including painting, interactive video installation, photography and hypermedia.  These works have been exhibited throughout Australia including at the Electrofringe Festival, Institute of Modern Art, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Albury Regional Art Gallery, Metro Arts and the QUT Art Museum.

As an early career researcher, Svenja regularly presents her creative work and research at conferences and events Australia wide and was a tutor and lecturer in digital writing and contemporary art at Griffith University from 2000 – 2007. She is currently completing a PhD in contemporary art and biotechnology at QUT in a creative partnership between the Creative Industries Faculty and the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.

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Staging interaction design for physical environments 

Date: 11 May 2010

Speaker: Karen Johanne Kortbek

In Computers as Theatre (1991), Brenda Laurel compares the experience of interfaces with the experience of theatre – as both need to be acted out. When looking at the broader field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), this comparison could apply to more than just interfaces, since the interfaces have pervaded into all sorts of physical environments, and thus making the link between theatre and computing even more relevant in the present day. This is not least due to the emerging experience economy (Pine & Gilmore 1999), which has induced an increased focus on how to design the user experience, and accordingly which means to utilise in order to stage these experiences.

Dramaturgy can contribute with a new relevant perspective on Human-Computer Interaction design when analysing and designing for physical interactive environments, as it brings new correlations between elements of the physical environment into focus. Staging is about how the designers intend the users’ experience to be. It is about how to design or stage/orchestrate the physical interactive environment as a scenography to be experienced by the users.

"In this talk I wanted to outline three projects I have been involved with, which have taken different approaches to the problem of staging the interaction space. The three projects are the Wisdom Well, the Mobile Urban Drama productions and the Mariko Mori – Oneness exhibition. In this process I reported on progress towards a framework for conceptualising the topography of user experience in design."

Karen Johanne Kortbek is a PhD student from the Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University in Denmark, who is visiting the University of Technology Sydney until June 1st. She has a background in Art History and Multimedia, and has been affiliated with the interdisciplinary research centre “Interactive Spaces” as an interaction designer and researcher since 2004.

Her research investigates the domain of physical culture-related public environments (such as museums, exhibition centres and the streets of a city) and how interaction designers can stage interaction design for these environments, in order to create more engaging experiences, where for instance movements of the human body come into play. Her work includes empirical studies and experiments within the application domain. She analyses the user contexts throughout the design and use processes, and has so far developed a conceptual framework consisting of seven parameters that are important to guide the design.

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Date: 7 May 2010

Speaker: Marco Marcon

Marco Marcon talked about the curatorial concept for Spaced, a new international biennial featuring commissioned visual and media arts projects created by artists working on-site over an extended period of time with a wide range of local social and environmental situations.

Marco Marcon is a Perth-based curator and art writer. He is the co-founder and Director of IASKA.

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Artistic interpretations of technological mediation 

Date: 30 April 2010

Speaker: Pernille Leth-Espensen

In recent years artworks interpreting scientific representations have occurred more frequently. As installation art, they are representing data or processes in nature, in the body, or in society.

What might be the motivation for this artistic interest in scientific representations? According to sociologist of science Bruno Latour, scientific knowledge is constructed through scientific representations, diagrams, and measuring devices. Furthermore, philosopher of technology Peter-Paul Verbeek argues that scientific representations and technologies are not neutral. Science is becoming increasingly influential in shaping how human beings interpret their world. Technologies and scientific representations are mediations of reality and have ethical consequences as they affect our actions as well as our conception of nature, of our own body, and of society.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky argued that the purpose of art is to remove objects from the automatism of perception by making familiar objects appear unfamiliar. In my view, many of these artworks de-familiarize scientific representations.

In the talk, I argued that by making unusual, poetic, and unfamiliar scientific representations, artworks are investigating how technologies mediate our actions and our perception of the world. Through this investigation they are also reflecting upon the ethical consequences of these mediations.

Pernille Leth-Espensen is a PhD Fellow at the Department of Aesthetic Studies at Aarhus University in Demark. Her PhD Scholarship is funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. She is currently undertaking a residency at SymbioticA until mid May. She is also a co-editor of the Danish Art Journal Passepartout.

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A discussion on BioArt in Japan 

Date: 23 April 2010

Speakers: Akihiro Kubota, Hideo Iwasaki, Toru Takahashi and Soichiro Mihara

Japanese scientists, artists and philosophers discussed the concepts and recent activities in BioArt by Tama Art University and Waseda University in Japan. Bio-inspired electronic artworks  such as ‘Moids’ and ‘Moids 2.0’ - acoustic emergence structures were also explained by sound artist Soichi Mihara.

Akihiro Kubota (Dr.Eng. Artist/Performer) is a professor of the Art and Media Course, in the Department of Information Deisgn at Tama Art University. He has been investigating in fields ranging from digital computation to algorithmic improvisation, placing emphasis on possibilities of interaction, and hybrid algorithmic methods combining live coding and natural computing. Most recently he has been investigating a theory of discrete information art and algorithmic biomedia art/design projects. He is also a leader of "Akihiro Kubota LapTop Jazz Quartet" and "Cellular Automaton Band". His recent works include "materialAV" (2003) at ICC Tokyo, "Connected Spaces" at NIME06 Paris and "Algorithmic Free Improvisation: Prepared and Processed Guitar Performance" (2009) at Culture Lab, Newcastle University.

Hideo Iwasaki (PhD. Biologist/Artist) is an Associate Professor in the Laboratory for Molecular Cell Network & Biomedia Art at Waseda University. As a biologist, he has studied molecular genetics and theoretical biology of spatio-temporal pattern formation dynamics in cyanobacteria. As an artist, he has produced contemporary papercutting art and some biomedia art. For the latter, to avoid simple transfer of scientific skills or knowledge we already know in the field of current biology, he searched for as-yet-scientifically-unknown cyanobacterial behaviors as a source for both science and art. At his lab both fine/media artists and scientists are sharing the benches for biology and art simultaneously.

Toru Takahashi (Ph.D. Philosopher) is a Professor in the School of Culture, Media and Society at Waseda University. Having studied postmodern philosophy under the supervision of French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Takahashi has researched  the relationship between the human being and advanced technology.  He published two books Cyborg Ethics and Cyborg Philosophy.  Based on the American philosopher Donna Haraway’s concept of cyborg, the former discusses the performance art of Stelarc and the bio art of Eduardo Kac.  The latter book treaties BMI, nanotechnology (Kurz Weil), and “cell creating technology”, by discussing Japanese SF anime like Ghost in the Shell and Sky Crawler.

Soichiro Mihara is an artist/technician developing sound structures using various technology. He works at YCAM (Yamaguchi Center for media and arts as technical director. He will be discussing Moids which focuses on organic and decentralized acoustic emergence by electroacoustic circuit.

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The arts and social wellbeing in Western Australia’s rural Mid West region: evidence, measurement, and challenges

Date: 16 April 2010

Speaker: Julia Anwar McHenry 

Many claims have been made about the ability of the arts to positively impact on the wellbeing and sustainability of communities. The arts and culture are considered by some to be essential for adaptation to social, environmental, and economic change (Matarasso 2000; Hawkes 2001; Brocchi 2008). It has further been claimed that the arts build community capacity, social cohesion, and strengthen, or reinvent, identity and sense of place (Shaw 2003; Mulligan, et al., 2006; Brennan-Horley, et al., 2007). This is of particular interest in rural Australia, whom Gray and Lawrence (2001) suggest is suffering global misfortune, and others claim is in decline (Sonn, et al., 2002; Baum, et al., 2005; Tonts & Atherley 2005). Yet, empirical research in this field is limited and, being largely based on case studies and individual project evaluations, there are difficulties with the generalisation of the results beyond individual projects (McCarthy, et al., 2004; Anwar McHenry 2005). As a result, this research has taken a multidisciplinary approach, examining evidence and utilising methodological approaches from the health and medical sciences through to human geography, planning, and development. Julia talked about the issues and challenges of attempting to measure ‘unmeasurable’ phenomena, some of the results to date, and the benefits and challenges of a multidisciplinary approach to a compelling topic.

Julia Anwar McHenry is in her third year of a PhD with the School of Earth and Environment’s Institute for Regional Development at UWA. Julia has undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Arts Management (with honours) and has previously worked in Arts Sponsorship at Healthway, and in administration for Community Arts Network WA. She has also found the time to volunteer for a number of arts, community, and youth organisations, including Zig Zag Community Arts, Foundation for Young Australians, and Awesome Festival, as well as pursue her passion for singing and Spanish dance.

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Relay artist talk 

Date: March 26 2010

Speaker: Philip Gamblen

Philip Gamblen gave an artist talk at his Relay exhibition at the Heathcote Gallery. Relay takes its name from the electromechanical switch that was first used in long-distance telegraph circuits, but also refers to ‘relaying information’ – a reference to communication in general. Radio waves and magnetic fields are harnessed; they are then modified, shaped and (metaphorically) sculpted to produce a series of artworks that through combinations of various materials are visually and conceptually evocative.

Philip specialises in the use of mechanics, electronics and robotics to create interactive art that is largely informed by science and technology. A former gem cutter from Canada, Philip now works as a visual artist in Perth, Australia where he graduated from Curtin University with an Honours Degree in Fine Art. He has collaborated with other artists and scientists on biological based research projects through SymbioticA at The University of Western Australia. Gamblen has exhibited his work extensively both nationally and internationally for the last several years, including the recent exhibition Corpus Extremis at Exit Gallery, New York. His work is represented in numerous collections including the Kerry Stokes Collection.

Relay ran from Friday, 12 March to Sunday, 18 April 2010 and was a collaboration with the City of Melville Museums and Local History Service and supported by the WA Govt. Department of Culture and the Arts.

Phil is also a featured artist in the 2010 Perth International Arts Festival.

Heathcote Museum and Gallery is on Duncraig Road, in Applecross. It is open Tuesday to Friday from 10.00am to 3.00pm, and weekends from 11.00am to 3.00pm. For more information, call the gallery on (08) 9364 5666.

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A vision of our energy future

Date: March 19 2010

Speaker: Steve Smith 

Despite what our leaders and many scientists say, alternative supplies of energy are neither renewable nor sustainable. They are limited by the finite resources that we continue to dig from the earth. Most people assume that recycling of such resources will allow civilisation to continue indefinitely in its current style, but the laws of thermodynamics do not allow this.

Our grandchildren and their grandchildren face a future with ever diminishing resources and  energy. How will this unfold? There will be conflict as humans fight over ever dwindling resources (fossil fuels, minerals, water, food).

This will be exacerbated by climate change. What will emerge will be societies in which people learn to live with far less energy and far less wealth than now. Their values and priorities will be much different to ours. Yet humanity will have a technological capability far beyond today's. This seminar aimed to create a vision of our descendant's resource-limited, energy-poor, knowledge-rich world.

Steve Smith is Professor of Plant Genomics in the School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences, and Chief Investigator in the ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology at UWA. He has previously been  employed at CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in Canberra and the University of Edinburgh, and came to UWA as a Federation Fellow. His research focuses on plant energy metabolism – how plants capture and use energy from the sun. He coordinates a Bioenergy Forum at UWA.

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Science visualisation in prime time TV-documentaries and material science research

Date: March 12 2010

Speaker: Alfred Vendl

Alfred Vendl presented and discussed several short examples of documentaries featuring the application of different effects techniques such as extreme slow-motion, as well as examples showing a combination of SEM-pictures and 3D-animation being embedded into the story-line. He discussed material science research and demonstrate extreme time laps sequences of dynamic changes of metal-surfaces due to corrosion in micrometer range with the help of a series of SEM-pictures. He presented techniques of combining SEM-pictures with CGI (3D animation) in micrometer range.

Professor Alfred Vendl is a Professor for Material Science and director of the Institute for Art and Technology at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, as well as a guest professor at Imperial College/University of London; University Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany; University of California USA; and Max-Planck-Institut of Metal-Research Stuttgart, Germany.

Having published around 80 scientific articles in Material Science, Archaeometry, Conservation Science and Art Technology, Vendl has also worked as a cameraman writer, director, host of scientific  talk-shows, and director and/or producer of more than 200 prime-time documentaries for major networks like BBC, Discovery, WNET- NY, ARTE, ARD, ZDF,ORF. One TV-production he worked on entitled Nature Tech was nominated for two Emmy awards and won for special camera-work – which was a combination of electron-microscopy and 3D-animation.

Together with colleague Bernhard Pichler, Vendl is working on the corrosion of copper – as well as having an exposition rack installed on the roof of the Western Maritime Museum in Fremantle, WA.

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Nature by design

Date: March 05 2010

Speaker: Prof. Richard Weller

Professor Weller spoke widely on various ways in which the idea of nature is constructed in culture at large and discussed some examples from his area of expertise in landscape architecture and urban design which attempt to manifest contemporary interpretations of nature.

Richard Weller is Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Western Australia (UWA) where he is renowned for combining teaching, research and practice. He received an excellence in teaching award from the UWA in 2003 and his most important built work is the national Museum of Australia in Canberra.

In over 20 years of design practice Professor Weller has received a consistent stream of international, design competition awards. His work has been widely exhibited including in a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney (1998) and at the Venice Biennale (2004).

Professor Weller has published more than 50 papers and given over 80 invited presentations on contemporary urban design and landscape architecture. His work has been published as a monograph by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2005.

Throughout his career Professor Weller has worked selectively on significant and often large scale urban projects around the world.  His most recent research, funded by the Australian Research Council, concerned the creation of alternative urban growth scenarios for the city of Perth by the year 2050 and is the subject of his latest book, ‘Boomtown 2050’ : Scenarios for a rapidly growing city. Currently Professor Weller is analyzing the implications of Australia’s predicted 21st century population growth from a landscape architectural perspective. 

Professor Weller consults as both a designer and a reviewer of major projects.

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Datadrum 2.04: Imagining the sixth dimensional city

Date: Feb 25 2010

Speakers: Sohan Hayes and Laetitia Wilson

‘In Singapore, or any modern city, buildings are brutally impersonal objects; in Datadrum v2.04 this cold facade is overlaid with dreams, or imaginings of the 6th Dimension’. Datadrum v.2.04 is an interactive video installation which is the product of Sohan Hayes and Laetitia Wilson’s collaborative three-month Asialink residency in Singapore. It uses a tangible interface to engage participants in the transmission of sound as it is visualised across model towers. The visualisation takes form in a number of different scenes that in abstract and narrative fashion, detail a range of possible states manifested in the sixth dimension. Sohan and Laetitia will demonstrate and discuss the creation of Datadrum 2.04 in the context of ‘imagining the sixth dimensional city’.

Sohan Ariel Hayes is an award-winning animator and visual artist who works across various media. His early work centred on cathartic exploration of the body through an integration of performance, video and machine. The electrical nature of this work inevitably led him to the computer where he has spent most of his time since attempting to fuse the ideas of ‘PVM (Performance Video Machine)’. Working from a predominantly digital studio format, he has output work for festival poster designs, public art sculptures, computer games, films, real-time and rehearsed projections for theatre and still photography. Recently he has directed the completion of The Paper Tale, a short animated film set in a paper world, and currently he is launching into the field of interactive arts and working collaboratively on an audio-visual interactive installation under the title of Datadrum.

Laetitia Wilson is active in the field of media arts in varying capacities; as researcher, writer, lecturer and collaborator. Laetitia has recently completed a PhD in the field of media arts, on the topic of participation and the ludic. Since 2004 she has lectured at the University of Western Australia, taught on a diversity of topics and established new units on ‘Interactive Aesthetics’, ‘Art and Games’ and ‘Art and New Media’. Having attended and presented papers at numerous conferences, both regionally and internationally, Laetitia is well versed in the complexities and nuances of this ever expanding field.

‘Datadrum v.2.04: Imagining the sixth dimensional city’ was developed with the support of the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts’ Research and Development Fund, and made possible by the State of Western Australia through the Department of Culture and the Arts.

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Education for world futures:  what have the arts and humanities to offer?; musings from a seemingly lapsed scientist

Date: Feb 19 2010

Speaker: Prof. Neville Bruce

The 21st century presents the greatest challenges and opportunities ever faced by humankind.  But what will it mean to be human in the 21st century and can we really shape human and world futures?  These are big questions, crucial questions but sadly neglected within the hallowed halls of formal education.   What should universities do?  They could focus on science, technology, economics and business; disciplines that really “matter”, disciplines to get things done, to “progress”  They could retain a little of the arts and humanities for the scientifically less gifted or those less  spiritually or artistically challenged.   Or they could promote a renaissance in the arts and humanities, a new and powerful movement that may just lift humanity out of a potentially tragic century and into a glorious new millennia.   There are yet other ways the arts and humanities can inform and enrich education for world futures.  In this presentation, a seemingly lapsed scientist together with and in due awe of a gifted arts and humanities audience will point to just such pathways.

Professor Neville Bruce is director of the Centre for Integrated Human Studies at The University of Western Australia.  He has broad research interests spanning veterinary science, human biology, reproductive biology, psychosocial determinants of human fertility and human wellbeing. He has published over 80 papers in international peer reviewed journals, edited five volumes of scientific proceedings and numerous published abstracts from scientific presentations, supervised 14 PhD candidates and over 30 research BSc Hons, Grad Dip Sci or Master students.  He has also had an active teaching and administrative career including two periods as head of the now School of Anatomy and Human Biology, numerous appointments to committees, including university, government, non-government organisations and industry.

His extracurricular interests have included active membership of Western Australian Alternative Fuels Association, Scientists Against Nuclear Arms (WA) and the Peace Education Foundation and associated conferences; Pathways to the Future.  It is through these and his research and teaching activities that led him to question how universities should respond to what will be the most challenging century ever faced by humankind.  He became convinced of the need for curricula and research focused on human and world futures (see Education for World Futures website). From this he developed and now directs the Centre for Integrated Human Studies which brings together the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities to explore the complex nature of humanity in the 21st century and promote human wellbeing within a sustainable world.

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Nanocity and the globalisation of speculative science

Date: Feb 12 2010

Speaker: Colin Milburn

In 2006, Sabeer Bhatia, the co-founder of the Hotmail corporation, announced an ambitious plan to build a futuristic city on 11,000 acres of farmland in northern India.  Dubbed “Nanocity,” the imagined urban centre would be a rationally designed infrastructure for the support and cultivation of cutting-edge technosciences: a massive, self-contained engine of high-tech knowledge production. As a kind of calculated improvement on Silicon Valley, which opened up the age of computation, Nanocity aspires to open up the age of nano. Just as silicon was the "substrate of the '60s," Bhatia says, the future now lies in nanotechnology: "Nanotechnology sits at the confluence of a number of areas of research, not just computing. . . It's material science, biotechnology, pharmaceutical research and nanotechnology itself." To be sure, Nanocity is a fiction, a dream—at least for the moment.  For even though the groundwork is already underway for the multi-billion-dollar project, in every meaningful way Nanocity is built on nothing but the logic of scientific speculation. This talk examined Nanocity as a speculative media object: a bundle of design diagrams, digital media, publicity statements, financial plans, research proposals, and scientific promises.  In this way, the talk took up a theoretical discussion of citizenship and everyday life in a time when speculative urbanism, speculative fiction, and speculative science converge and become indistinguishable—a mode of being in the world that we might call “nanopolitanism.”

Colin Milburn is a professor of English and a member of the Science and Technology Studies Program at the University of California, Davis.  His research focuses on the cultural intersections between science, literature, and media technologies.  He is the author of Nanovision: Engineering the Future (Duke University Press, 2008). He is completing a new book project called Mondo Nano: Fun and Games in the World of Digital Matter.

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Public display of human tissue

Date: Feb 5 2010

Speaker: Robert Devcic

GV Art, a contemporary London-based art gallery, was the first commercial gallery in the UK to obtain a Human Tissue Authority Licence in 2008 for Public Display and Storage. The gallery focuses on the budding inter-relationship between art and science and produces exhibitions and events that bring about questioning and debate around the ongoing studies in science through art and how the two areas cross over and feed into one another. 

Robert Devcic, founder of GV Art is an Australian who has lived in London since 1986. Originally a collector of art he started exhibiting his artists in 2005 at many art fairs around the world. In 2008 he opened the current gallery space with an installation by conceptual American artist, Andrew Krasnow.

Robert also started a company called Global Village UK Limited in 1998 which provides a data capture service for an online legal publishing service called All England Direct. In addition to this Robert has worked as a photographer, in PR/Marketing and publishing roles as well as a charity fundraiser and is currently a Trustee for a learning disabled youth group in his local community.

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