2012 Seminars

Nature-Nurture: Engaging with Non-Human Life from the Female Perspective

Date: 30 November 2012
Time: 1pm
Location: Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, UWA
Speaker: Donna Franklin Artist, Curator, and Academic at Edith Cowan University

This talk will present a survey of established women artists who engage with bio-politics, ethics, art and the life sciences, recently shown in Creatures of the Future Garden, an exhibition curated by Franklin.


Date: Friday 9 November 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Michael Levine

There are two extreme positions traditionally  taken with respect to the relationship between  art and morality;  one is autonomism,  or aestheticism, which is the view that it is inappropriate  to apply  moral categories  to artworks,  and that only aesthetic  categories  are relevant, while at the other end of the scale is moralism, the view that aesthetic objects should be judged  solely with respect  to moral standards. Both autonomism  and moralism  are problematic,  as they are based on inadequate  conceptions  of art and aesthetic value. I examine Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and Jacque Callot’s Miseries of War both to illustrate the issue and to come to some conclusion about it.

Michael Levine is professor of philosophy at the University of Western Australia.  He is author of the following books:  Prospects for an Ethics of Architecture, with Bill Taylor (2011), Doing Philosophy, Watching Movies, with Damian Cox (2011), Politics Most Unusual:  Violence, Sovereignty and Democracy in the “War on Terror,” with Damian Cox and Saul Newman (2009), Integrity and the Fragile Self, with Damian Cox and Marguerite LaCaze (2003), and Pantheism: A non-theistic concept of deity (1994).  Levine has also edited Racism in Mind, with Tamas Pataki (2004), and The Analytic Freud:  Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (2000).

Selling Sickness

Date: 19 October 2012
Time: 3pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: W/Prof Carmen Lawrence

In this talk W/Prof Carmen Lawrence will share insights into the hype, myths and fears surrounding the highly profitable pharmaceutical industry. How have these industries altered our perception of health and illness as they become more streamlined and attuned to marketing strategy?

After training as a research psychologist at the University of Western Australia and lecturing in a number of Australian universities, Dr Lawrence entered politics in 1986, serving at both State and Federal levels for 21 years. She was at various times W.A Minister for Education and Aboriginal affairs and was the first woman Premier and Treasurer of a State government.  She shifted to Federal politics in 1994 when she was elected as the Member for Fremantle and was appointed Minister for Health and Human Services and Minister assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women.  She has held various portfolios in Opposition, including Indigenous Affairs, Environment, Industry and Innovation and was elected national President of the Labor Party in 2004. She retired from politics in 2007. She is now Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Change in the School of Psychology at the University of Western Australia and Chair of the Australian Heritage Council.

Unintelligent Design, the Evolutionary Limits to Biological Design

Date: 12 October 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Stuart Bunt, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology

It is becoming popular to use biological forms and metaphors in engineering, architecture and design.  There are also statements about the efficiency and novelty of biological design; with 20:20 hindsight we see ways in which “nature has done it all before and better than us” and we should “learn from nature”.  The apparent efficiency and complexity of natural mechanisms has been used by “intelligent designers/creationists” to challenge evolutionary orthodoxy.  Even Darwin struggled to explain the evolution of the eye.  I will challenge these orthodoxies by presenting case studies of “unintelligent design”, biological inefficiencies and limitations.  I will argue that much of modern medicine is actually about treating the results of developmental and evolutionary compromises and that evolutionary medicine should be a part of any modern medical curriculum.  I will discuss how inaccuracies (usually referred to as “natural variation”) are key to evolution and natural selection.  How, paradoxically, far from being perfectly adapted biological machines, we may actually be selected and designed to be imperfect.

Stuart Bunt studied Natural Philosophy at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford in the 70’s (anywhere else it would have been called Zoology) being tutored by the likes of Tinbergen, Desmond Morris and Richard Dawkins.  A D.Phil in Developmental Neuroscience at the Schools of Anatomy and then Physiology at Oxford (On the role of mechanics in the development of connections between the eye and brain) and an MA (for simply being there) followed.  Postdocs in Salt Lake City, and Seattle working on the mammalian visual system led to a Research Associate position in the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston there my research direction changed to spinal cord regeneration.  After deportation I got a tenured position in The University of Dundee, Scotland.  Following a sabbatical in UWA, I was asked to apply for a position when the school wanted to move into computer aided education and arrived in 1996.  Since appointment I founded (with Neville Bruce) the digital histology lab, developed with much success by Geoff Meyer, the Image Analysis Centre (with Miranda Grounds and Sarah Dunlop) now part of Cell Central, and run by Guy Ben Ary; SymbioticA (with Oron Catts and Miranda Grounds) and the Medical Diagnostic Company Paradigm Diagnostics. My research areas are the interface between Art/Science and Engineering and, with Karol Miller’s group in bioengineering, the physical properties of brain and medical imaging.  I am one of only three professorial Fellows in Teaching and Learning at UWA.  I continue to investigate and mentor in new methods of teaching.

The Evolutionary Biologist's Nightmare: Sex, Sperm and Society

Date: 5 October 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Boris Baer, Centre for Integrative Bee Research

The reproductive biology of social insects, being the social bees, ants, wasps and termites is truly spectacular, as a number of characteristics reported are either absent or very rare in other species. For example, social insect queens are the world’s record holder for long-term sperm storage and some of them are capable to keep sperm alive for several decades. Furthermore males deliver an ejaculate to the female's sexual tract that consists of sperm and seminal fluid, the latter being also used as weaponry against competing males and to manipulate female reproductive behaviour. However the molecular details of sperm storage, long-term fertility or the chemical warfare between the sexes remain unknown.  I provide an overview of ongoing research conducted at the University of Western Australia that uses state of the art molecular technologies as well as field based experiments to unveil some of the secrets of social insect reproduction. 

Boris Baer, born in 1969 is an Evolutionary Biologist. He studied Biology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. After fieldwork on primates in South America (French Guyana) he performed a PhD 1997-2000 at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (ETH) in Zurich. He then moved as a Postdoctoral Fellow (2001-2004) to the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and was invited as a Junior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin (Germany). He received a Queen Elizabeth II fellowship and a ARC Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council, which allowed him to continue his research at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Since 2007 he is also an external collaborator of the Centre for Social Evolution based at Copenhagen University. Since 2008, he coordinates a newly initiated honeybee research group at the University of Western Australia, known as CIBER (The Centre for Integrative Bee Research, see The main scientific interest of Boris Baer is the study of sexual reproduction in social insects, especially the way evolution has shaped some of these spectacular mating systems. He uses several social insect models systems for his work such as bumblebees, honeybees and leaf cuttings ants.

Can science be successfully 'performed' or are we just kidding ourselves?

Date: 28 Sept 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Vivienne Glance

If theatre is conceit, can science really be performed or are playwrights and performance makers up to something else?

Vivienne Glance has recently returned from a writer's residency with The Arts Catalyst London and will share that experience with you as well as outline some of the writing techniques, provocations and dramaturgy behind successful science plays and performance works.  She will also talk about her own works, Staring at the Sun, which had a reading in London in 2012, and The Cat in the Box, which performed to full houses at The Blue Room Theatre in WA this year.

Vivienne Glance is a writer and theatre practitioner with over 20 years experience. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree. Combining science and performance has been a focus of her theatre practice for many years, and she recently consolidated this through her PhD research.

On Reassembling Robotics: Prospects and Challenges

Date: 14 Sept 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: S. Thiru, Intelligent Systems for Medicine Laboratory

In this talk, S. Thiru, from Intelligent Systems for Medicine Laboratory (ISML), will discuss his research in reassembling robotics and the state of the art. His talk will address some key obstacles facing the realisation of such technology and its future implications.
This open-ended talk will address some of the motivations for reassembling robotics and its relationship with artificial intelligence and the biological sciences.

Public seminar with Audiologist Glenn Johnson

Date: 21 September 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Glenn Johnson

Ever wanted to explore what’s going on inside your own head, and be alive to enjoy the experience?

Glenn Johnson, is an audiologist (hearing specialist) with 20 years experience in clinical practice, consulting and teaching. He will share his fascination with ears, offering attendees a basic run down of ear anatomy with a focus on the amazing and largely unnoticed feats accomplished by the human hearing system. Afterwards participants will have the opportunity to peer inside their own ear canals and see what lurks within! Using a video otoscope we’ll project live video footage of one of your most intimate body parts onto the big screen.

Those who are excited by this “opportunity” (even in a morbid or squirmy sort of way) are encouraged to join the seminar at SymbioticA to find out about Glenn's work.

Adventures In Arctic Seas and Metagenomes- The Search for Cold Adapted Enzymes

Date: 7 September 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Adele Williamson, University of Tromsø Norway

Organisms living in cold environments must possess enzymes which function at lower temperatures in order to survive. Humans have found uses for these enzymes in the food and processing industries, domestic products and for biotechnological applications. This, along with their potential for bioremediation and renewable energy production has driven efforts to discover novel cold adapted enzymes.   At the University of Tromsø 300 km north of the Arctic circle we have access to remote cold environments, and our samples comprise a variety of marine biota and sediments collected from the polar regions. Here I will present a strategy for the discovery of new enzymes from metagenomic DNA- that is the DNA complement of a given environment rather than an individual organism. I will discuss the methods we are using to produce enzymes from this DNA giving an example of a protein that I am currently characterising. This example illustrates the complexity of investigating proteins from unknown sources, and how research often gives us answers we do not expect.  

Adele Kim Williamson is a postdoctoral fellow in the MARZymes project, where her focus is the recombinant expression and structural and functional characterisation of novel enzymes from our metagenomic libraries. Currently she is working with a number of enzymes which may have functions in cell wall degradation, as well as putative DNA ligase and nitrilase proteins. Before coming to Norway, she completed a doctorate at the Research School of Biological Sciences in the Australian National University in 2007, and then worked as a post doctoral researcher at the Umeå Plant Sciences Centre in Sweden until early 2010. Her previous work involved structural and functional characterisation of subunits from the Photosystem II complex, with a particular interest in comparisons between thermophilic and mesophilic homologues. Adele is originally from New Zealand and took her BSc. in biochemistry at the University of Canterbury.


Dr Nigel Helyer: dOCUMENTA (13)


Date: 24 August 2012
Location: SymbioticA
Time: 3:30pm
Speaker: Dr Nigel Helyer

Dr Nigel Helyer will be speaking about his most recent visit to dOCUMENTA (13) in August 2012. The exhibition, held every 5 years in Kassel, Germany has been running since the 1950s and runs exactly for 100 days. Each dOCUMENTA (13) focuses on a central discussion point, with 2012 examining relationships across oil trading and globalisation.

From the dOCUMENTA (13) website:

"dOCUMENTA (13) is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory. These are terrains where politics are inseparable from a sensual, energetic, and worldly alliance between current research in various scientific and artistic fields and other knowledges, both ancient and contemporary. dOCUMENTA (13) is driven by a holistic and non-logocentric vision that is skeptical of the persisting belief in economic growth. This vision is shared with, and recognizes, the shapes and practices of knowing of all the animate and inanimate makers of the world, including people."

Nigel Helyer (a.k.a. Dr Sonique) is a Sculptor and Sound Artist with an international reputation for his large scale sonic installations, environmental sculpture works and new media projects.His practice is actively inter-disciplinary linking creative practice with scientific Research and Development. Recent activities include; the development of a ‘Virtual Audio Reality’ system in collaboration with Lake Technology (Sydney) and the ongoing ‘AudioNomad’ research project in location sensitive Environmental Audio at the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales.He is an honorary faculty member in Architectural Acoustics at the University of Sydney; a Professorial Visiting Fellow in the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of NSW and maintains active research links with the “SymbioticA” bio-technology lab at the University of Western Australia. He has recently been a visiting Professor at Stanford University and an Artist in Residence at the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland.Nigel is a co-founder and commissioner of the “SoundCulture” organisation; a fellow of the Australia Council for 2002/3, the winner of the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award 2002 and the curator of “Sonic-Differences” as part of the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth 2004. Nigel was an artist in residence at SymbioticA in 2003.

The Futures of the Biologically Designable

Date: 10 August 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Orkan Telhan

Glowing plants, drug-delivering artificial cells, smell-changing bacteria, propelling mouse tissues… Today, new kinds of biological designs are increasingly gaining public awareness and shifting biological imagination towards new horizons. Next to scientists and engineers, do-it-yourself biologists are claiming crucial roles as the hackers, artists, designers, cultural theorists, and entrepreneurs of the biophilic era. As Synthetic Biology is becoming the go-to-discipline to those who are interested in the biochemical design space, engineering principles become the driving force behind designed biologies. But what do we mean by “design” when we talk about biological design?
In this two-part talk, Orkan Telhan will trace the long history of biological design rather quickly through a series of designed and commercialized biological artifacts and offer a more discursive view on the evolution of the biologically designable beyond specific disciplinary agendas. Secondly, Telhan will reflect on the outcomes of his research residency at SymbioticA and briefly discuss his current project on “Biosynthesis and the Futures of Sandalwood.”

Current SymbioticA resident Orkan Telhan is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and researcher whose investigations focus on the design of interrogative objects, interfaces, and media, engaging with critical issues in social, cultural, and environmental responsibility. Telhan is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts - Emerging Design Practices at University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. Telhan is working towards his PhD in Design and Computation at MIT School of Architecture and Planning. He was part of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Laboratory. He studied Media Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo and theories of media and representation, visual studies and graphic design at Bilkent University, Ankara. Telhan's individual and collaborative work has been exhibited in a number of venues including Ars Electronica, ISEA, LABoral, Archilab, Architectural Association, Architectural League/ NYC, and the MIT Museum.

Tsunami Debris and Synthetic Habitats in Pelagic Waters

Date: Fri August 3
Time: 3:00
location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Paul Sharp

Paul Sharp is founder of Two Hands Project and works on issues of plastic pollution, particularly in the marine environment. Two Hands Project is a collaborative approach to dealing with plastic pollution: take  30 Minutes and Two Hands to clean up yOUR world anytime, anywhere.

Two Hands embodies the spirit of the huge national/international clean up days but asks what you can do with your two hands in 30 minutes, at a location near you, on any day of the year. We are taking  it all back to grass roots, looking at what you can do to care for the place(s) that are near to you or important to you, anytime that you want. Whether you’re doing this to improve the health of our oceans, reduce the risk to wildlife or to simply clean up unsightly trash in one of your favorite parks or beaches, what you can do with your own Two Hands is easy.

Sharp will be talking about his recent experiences in the North Pacific, where he was part of the 5 Gyres/Algalita Marine Research Foundation Tsunami Debris Expedition.

Visualising the Catastrophic Shift

Date: 27 July 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Artemis Kitsios

Artemis Kitsios is currently a Masters candidate with SymbioticA, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, and the School of Environmental Systems Engineering UWA. She will speak about her interdisciplinary research project – Ecosystem complexities: an interdisciplinary study of stress, resilience and change. This project examines the complexities of aquatic ecology, with particular attention to resilience and the role of the human. The project aims to examine, simulate, and visualise ecosystem processes that are not easily translated into human scale perception/comprehension  and hence establish greater understanding of the fragility and importance of aquatic ecologies

Artemis Kitsios studied environmental engineering at UWA (2001 - 2004), visual art at the Central Institute of Technology (2007 – 2010) and before beginning the Masters in Biological Arts, completed the Art and Life Manipulation course with SymbioticA (2009). She has worked in water resource management, ecology and conservation locally and internationally for the last 10 years and has exhibited artworks in Perth, Melbourne and Barcelona.


Date: 20 July 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA, Level 2 Room 228 School of Anatomy Physiology and Human Biology, UWA
Speaker: Donna Franklin

This talk will present the theories and curatorial decisions behind a recent exhibition by Donna Franklin as a part of her PhD research at Edith Cowan University.  The exhibition included works of local, national, and international interdisciplinary artists. The artworks selected for the exhibition will be discussed in relation to Franklin’s interest in the communicative role the arts plays: In particular as a site of interrogation into aspects of “systemic colonisation” and the “life world” concerning future cultural engagement with non-human life (Habermas, 1970). Creatures of the Future Garden as an exhibition aimed to engender the development of gallery spaces that facilitate multiple uses: As a site of conservation, wilderness and education (Gessert). Franklin is seeking audience opinion regarding the exhibition and workshop presentations with the intention of generating further interest in animal welfare, the environment, science and arts, in as many diverse contexts as possible. This puts into practice Franklin’s passion for generating real-time experiences with non-human life, and hands-on education, as strategies to explore the natural world and examine biotech futures. Exhibiting Artists: Dr Trish Adams, Tarsh Bates, Donna Franklin, George Gessert, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Kirsten Hudson, Svenja Kratz, Angela Singer, The Made Generation: Gary & Susie Cass, Jesse Brown, Nicholas Lozanovski, Sasha Whittle.

Franklin is currently a PhD candidate (Philosophy) and academic in Cultural History and Theory at The School of Communication and Contemporary Arts, Edith Cowan University. Her various research projects investigate the role art/science collaboration has in generating public awareness and debate raised by developing biotechnologies or investigates ecology environment. She has a particular interest in creating artworks that explore an engagement with the non-human, such as fungi, plants and animals.  During her Master of Arts, she was awarded an artist residency at SymbioticA: Centre for Excellence in Biological Arts, UWA. She has collaborated with scientists and artists to produce artworks and conduct art/science workshops for festivals, galleries and schools. Selected exhibitions include: Animals People: A shared environment POP Gallery Brisbane 2011, Signs of Change Form Gallery 2010, SuperHuman RMIT Melbourne 2009, Biotech revisited EAF 2008, Skin to Skin FAC08. Techno Threads Science Gallery Dublin 2008, ARS Electronica Festival 07, Mycologia Mundaring Arts Centre 2007, Second Skin ENTRY06 Vitra Design Museum Germany and Taiwan 2007, BEAPworks06 Australia, Hatched 05 PICA, BEAP04.

Taking the non-human Other seriously: exploring alterity through the aesthetics of care

Date: 13 July 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA, Level 2 Room 228 School of Anatomy Physiology and Human Biology, UWA
Speaker: Tarsh Bates

Tarsh Bates is a PhD candidate at SymbioticA. During this seminar she will present her proposal for her PhD research in which she will describe her intention to explore the complexities and contradictions of human relationships with two non-vertebrate organisms, bees and the single-celled yeast, Candida albicans. Bees and candida are of particular interest as they are both domesticated organisms, requiring care, and are intimately connected to our well-being, yet can pose some threat to that well-being. Recent critical theory has investigated the nature of relationships between humans and other animals. However, the vast majority of this research ignores encounters with non-vertebrate species, particularly those with which we live intimately or have domesticated. Non-vertebrates such as insects, fungi and bacteria are by far the most prevalent organisms which humans encounter, yet these creatures are often disregarded; unlike mammals and other vertebrates, they are difficult to recognise as kin as they do not look back at us. Nevertheless these organisms are critical to biocultural diversity and environmental survival.

Tarsh’s PhD research follows on from her recent Master’s project, in vitero, which involved her living with and taking care of eight scientific model organisms for a period of seven months in a laboratory and public art gallery. Like this project, her PhD research will be undertaken through critical artistic inquiry, combining theoretical and philosophical inquiries with aesthetic and phenomenological research. Tarsh’s current project aims to extend the notion of alterity, which philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas described as a phenomenological mode of negotiating Self and Other, from strictly human relations into those between humans and non-humans. Tarsh hopes to facilitate understandings of human encounters with non-vertebrate, non-human Others through artistic explorations and conscious self-experimentation with bees and candida.

Feedback on the presentation is encouraged and welcomed.

The Opposition to Portraiture in Islamic Art

Date: 29 June 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: Lawrence Wilson Gallery, University of Western Australia
Speaker: Dr Stefano Carboni, Director Art Gallery of Western Australia

It is commonplace to purport that Islamic art is non-representational because of a religious ban on figurative expressions. Although this statement is far from being comprehensive or entirely true, the opposition to the figurative arts is a constant feature in the landscape of Islamic art throughout the centuries and this is one of the reasons why portraiture never fully develop as a specific genre. However, a few notable exceptions exist and they will be explored during the talk together with an introduction on the reputed religious ban and to which extent the figurative arts blossomed in a secular environment.

Stefano Carboni was appointed the 11th Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia starting in October 2008. Previously he was Curator and Administrator in the Department of Islamic Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Visiting Professor at the Bard Graduate Center in New York. He joined the curatorial staff at the Metropolitan Museum in 1992 after completing his graduate studies in Arabic and in Islamic Art at the University of Venice and his Ph.D. in Islamic Art at the University of London. At the Metropolitan Museum he has been responsible for a large number of exhibitions, including the acclaimed Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797 (2006-2007).

His publications include authoring and editing several exhibition catalogues, among which are Glass of the Sultans (2001); the prestigious Barr Award winner The Legacy of Genghis Khan. Courtly Arts and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353 (2002); and Venice and the Islamic World; another major publication is the catalogue of the Islamic glass collection in the National Museum of Kuwait (Glass from Islamic Lands. The Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait National Museum, 2001).

He lectured widely in the museum and outside and taught courses in Islamic Art and Curatorial Studies on a regular basis at the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU), Hunter College (CUNY), and the Bard Graduate Center for the Decorative Arts in New York.


The Biological Portrait

[RSVP essential]
5 July 2012 (3:30pm) follow-up at 12 July 2012 (2:00pm)
Location: Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia & SymbioticA Lab, room 222 Anatomy Physiology and Human Biology
Speaker: Oron Catts

Oron Catts, Director of SymbioticA, will present a lecture on biological portraits at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, during which attendees will find petri dishes into which a personal flora of bacteria will be collected from each interested participant and cultured for a week in the laboratory. Viewing of this biological self-portrait will be conducted one week later at SymbioticA’s lab room 222 on Thursday 12 July between 2- 3 pm.

Location: Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Cnr Fairway, Crawley. When: Thursday 5 July, 3.30–5pm. (Then Thursday 12 July 2012, 2-3pm School of Anatomy and Human Biology Lab Room 222).

Bookings: Places are limited. Please RSVP to [email protected] by 5pm on Monday 2 July 2012. Enquiries: (08) 6488 3707 or [email protected].


Dr Nigel Helyer: Audio Portraits

Date: 22 June 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia
Speaker: Dr Nigel Helyer

Nigel Helyer will discuss six recent projects, that focus upon the role of memory and site in establishing identity such as GhosTrain and three, including Vox on the Rox, that develop the concept of 'audio portraits' and sonic cartography into the arena of art and science. Nigel Helyer (a.k.a. Dr Sonique) is a Sculptor and Sound Artist with an international reputation for his large scale sonic installations, environmental sculpture works and new media projects. His practice is actively inter-disciplinary linking creative practice with scientific Research and Development.

MYRIAD: Creation, Communication, and Collaboration Between Insects and Humans

Date: Friday June 15th
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Loren Kronemyer

In this talk, Loren will speak regarding her current project attempting to manipulate the trailing behaviour of ants to form text and imagery, done in collaboration between SymbioticA, the Centre for Integrated Bee Research, and Beelab Sydney.  What results are real-time living drawings that explore the relationship between humans, insects, and the emergent forms of intelligence that arise between us.  In examining the recent influx of insect-related art, design, and technology, contextualised within our relationship to insects throughout history, patterns arise that illustrate how deeply fraught our interactions with these life forms can be. "

Loren Kronemyer was born in Los Angeles, California, graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute's New Genres department in 2010 . The artist is currently pursuing a Masters of the Biological Arts degree at the University of Western Australia in Perth.  Her work involves poetic, yet absurd interactions between the individual and the environment, including other humans, animals, and forces of nature. In attempting to reach across boundaries of time, place, scale, and species, she implicates the dominant cultural forms of the present to create meaningful documents of alternative relationships to the world.  Visit her work at

I Lay My Ear to Furious Latin: Listening for Bees in Urban Environments

Date: Friday 8th June 2012
Location: SymbioticA
Time: 3:00pm
Speakers:Susan Hauri-Downing & Tarsh Bates

Where do native bees live in contested urban environments? How has the colonisation and urbanisation of Perth affected native bee populations? What is the nature of the human/bee interactions and what cultural roles do they play? In the context of a global honey bee crisis, Australian colonisation, and disappearing habitats, a current art/science residency is investigating the nature of bee populations in urban areas. Whilst there is much publicity surrounding the global disappearance of the European honey bee, little attention has been paid to native bee populations and habitats.

Native and European bees are particularly important in pollinating local flora and contribute to the unique biodiversity of the South West region. They also hold unique significance for the Nyungar community. Despite the importance of native bees, little is known about the ecological and cultural consequences of Perth colonisation and urbanisation on these insects. The relationships between bees, humans and the colonisation and urbanisation of Perth are complex. Although there are over 2,000 described native bee species in Australia, 800 of which occur in WA, most are solitary and rarely seen. Nests and habitats are destroyed through landscaping, gardening and land clearing activities. There is also concern over the displacement of native bees by feral European bees.

This talk describes a project involving artists Susan Hauri-Downing and Tarsh Bates, and the Centre for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER) at UWA which combines the different perspectives of art and science to explore human/bee interactions, ecologies and place. We will also discuss the roles of artists within science research groups and show some preliminary outcomes of the residency.

Of Mice and Men

Date: 23rd May 2012
Time: 6:00pm
Location: Webb Lecture Theatre (G21), Ground Floor, Geography Building, UWA
Speaker: Orkan Telhan

Life sciences made a recent return to the design scene. Day after day, we witness design evangelists promoting witty products, materials, and architecture that make use of living matter in unprecedented ways: Genetically-crafted mosquitoes fight against their own species to prevent Malaria; synthetic bacteria, when not making fuel, are put to work as low-cost cosmetics for the elderly; bricks made of synthetic fungi lay the walls of post-bio-mimicry architecture.

The Nature of Design is changing. It is becoming an interdisciplinary enterprise beyond form and function; a field of synthetic opportunism to serve up the last bit of molecules for grooming human needs and desires.

The Design of Nature is also changing. Apart from the sentimentalism towards pastoral days, nature, after its “synthetic turn,” is returning back as a molecular battlefield, where each species is trying to take back control from each other.

In this talk, I reflect on the changes that are fundamentally transforming our perception of design and nature today. I discuss a series of work in relation to recent advances in biological sciences and engineering. From living to semi-living, to the non-living, and, synthetically death, I will present new frontiers of design where new ways of composing, assembling, regulating, programming and tinkering life can be seen beyond cheap medicine, better-yielding crops, sustainable building materials or renewable energy, and offer a different logic of life.

Orkan Telhan is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and researcher whose investigations focus on the design of interrogative objects, interfaces, and media, engaging with critical issues in social, cultural, and environmental responsibility. Telhan is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts - Emerging Design Practices at University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. Telhan is working towards his PhD in Design and Computation at MIT School of Architecture and Planning. He was part of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Laboratory. He studied Media Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo and theories of media and representation, visual studies and graphic design at Bilkent University, Ankara. Telhan's individual and collaborative work has been exhibited in a number of venues including Ars Electronica, ISEA, LABoral, Archilab, Architectural Association, Architectural League/ NYC, and the MIT Museum.  


Amanda Newall and Ola Johansson: PROJEKTET

Date: 18 May 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Amanda Newall and Ola Johansson

The immune system can be seen as the metaphorical factor of applied performance, which makes the latter artistic practice more than simply social work. Transposed into a functional nomenclature, the immune system makes a larger body stay healthy by encountering visitors (pathogens) by way of recollection, accommodation, identification, discrimination, protection, and aggression. But it may also learn to live with strangers, ad interim, even if it doesn’t quite know who they are. This captures the current challenges of contemporary applied performance very well.

Applied performance is used when social crises require extraordinary management beyond simple solutions. Such conflicts often subsist on deep structural and implicit behavioural attitudes between two parties in situations of, i.e., racism, bullying, gender discord, postcolonial disputes, ecological predicaments, and so forth. Applied performance is often initiated by a third party, e.g., extension workers in non-governmental organizations, who approach conflicts with an equally cooperative and critical mind towards the host culture, but also those who choose to participate in projects.

Amanda Newall is Senior Lecturer in sculpture at Royal Institute of Arts (Kungliga Konsthögskolan) in Stockholm, Sweden. She is also conducting a doctoral project at Chelsea College of Art, University of the Arts, London. She has taught sculpture, socially engaged art, curatorship, professional practice and new media at Auckland University, Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts (UK), and has exhibited numerous international shows.

Ola Johansson is Guest Professor in artistic research at Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts (Stockholms dramatiska högskola). His books on community theatre and performance art are paralleled by creative work in intercultural performance, documentary film, devising, and applied performance. He has taught devising and applied performance in the UK, Sweden and India. Johansson’s have published two books, Community Theatre and AIDS (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and Performance and Philosophy: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Performing Arts (Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag, 2008).


How Crude was Life in Gdansk?

Date: 27th April 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr

Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr will discuss TC&A’s retrospective in Lazina Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gdansk; they will use the opportunity to reflect on some of TC&A’s earlier works, and attempt to create a kind of a narrative to culminate with TC&A’s latest work Crude Matter, which might be somewhat different from what the Curator of the show Ryszard W. Kluszczyński had to say:

Presentation of the works of Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr in Centre for Contemporary Art ‘Łaźnia’ in Gdańsk is the world's first retrospective exhibition of these artists. In this framework the full spectrum of their works is presented, from early prints and light boxes (1996-2000), through a video installation The Remains of Disembodied Cuisine (2005), until the semi-living sculptures: Semi-Living Worry Dolls (2000), Victimless Leather (2004) and Crude Matter (2012 – premiere of the work). The installation The Remains of Disembodied Cuisine refers to an earlier project – Disembodied Cuisine (2003), in which artists offered the audience small steaks grown in a laboratory from cells taken from frogs, which themselves have witnessed the feast being present at the exhibition. Semi-Living Worry Dolls refers to a Guatemalan story about the dolls on which we can pass our fears to feel unburdened. The dolls are created from mouse cells on polymer backbones (and decorated with surgical thread) would also listen to the concerns of the viewers, but because of their semi-living tenderness and helplessness (they are located in the bioreactor that supports their half-lives) they themselves become the source of our care. The purpose of Victimless Leather, is to breed during the exhibition miniature leather coat of cells (leather farming instead of farming livestock for leather production). Through this work artists highlight the issue of human exploitation of other living creatures. In Crude Matter the artists are distancing themselves from the concept of life as the genetic code and referring to the legend of the Golem, they take up the problem of the substrate, the source of matter, the context for life that eventually becomes its substitute. 


Death by Plastic

Date: 11th April 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Dr Jennifer Lavers

For years we’ve heard about the North Pacific Gyre (or Garbage Patch) where there is up to six times more plastic in the ocean than plankton. We’ve seen tragic photos of thousands of Endangered Laysan Albatross chicks that have died as a result of ingesting plastic on remote islands in Hawaii. And have watched eminent speakers like Captain Charles Moore speak to captivated audiences about our plastic addiction.

What most people don’t realize is that the North Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only one of its kind. There are at least five others, fed by more than 3.2 million plastic items that enter the world's oceans each and every day. The wind and wave patterns that lead to the development of Gyres redistribute this plastic around the globe, so that one country’s garbage washes up in anothers backyard. Its time to reconsider the infamous quote “Garbage Patch the size of Texas” and start thinking outside the box. Unlike Texas, ocean basins do not have boundaries. Our garbage is everywhere. Even in Antarctica.

Dr Jennfier Lavers is a Research Fellow at the University of Tasmania and a former Postdoctoral Fellow at CSIRO Marine Research.


Cellular Performance

Date: 30th March 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Verena Friedrich

Verena Friedrich talks about her project "Cellular Performance" that she has been developing during residencies at SymbioticA and the Laboratory of Stem Cell Bioengineering at the EPFL in Switzerland.

Starting off from the seductive and promising language used by the beauty-care products industry, the talk looks at the tension between the actual possibilities of altering the human body/skin on diverse material levels (cosmetics, surgery, life sciences) and its populist reflection within the realm of consumerist culture. Secondly, Verena will talk about her research and practical work in the field of "cell patterning" and micro-engineering which involves the manipulation of human skin cells in vitro.

Verena Friedrich is an artist who develops concept-driven artworks in the form of installations, objects and robotics. Her work includes the use of electronics, digital and sculptural media as well as the use of biological material. After graduating from and teaching at the Academy of Art and Design in Offenbach, Germany, Verena is currently working as a scientific research assistant at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Shown internationally at various media art festivals and exhibitions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Turkey, Japan the USA, Verena’s works have been granted the International Media Award for Science and Art from ZKM Karlsruhe in 2005, as well as the sponsorship award of the Saxon Ministry of Science and the Fine Arts in 2010. She was nominated for Transmediale Award in 2008 and received a special mention in the context of VIDA 13.2 Art and Artificial Life International Awards in 2011.

Verena Friedrich´s 2012 stay at SymbioticA has been supported by the Goethe-Institut Australien.


Artists in the Labs

Date: 28th March 2012
Time: 6:00pm
Location: Webb Lecture Theatre, Geography Building, UWA
Speaker: Dr Jill Scott

This lecture is part of the ‘Semipermeable’ public lecture series, sponsored by SymbioticA and the Institute of Advanced Studies at UWA.

The Artists-in-Labs Program, based in Zurich Switzerland, started as a pilot project in 2003 to place artists into Swiss scientific research environments. The program examines current debates and discourses that can help art and science gain a closer understanding of each other.

Jill Scott will discuss the work of artists based in the artists-in-lab program and their collaborating research centres, as well as her own projects, “The Electric Retina” and “Dermaland”. These projects, research directives and residencies are designed to inspire artists to create new works of complexity and address the relevant issues about scientific discovery for society. She will also discuss the ways in which scientists in the program are exploring more creative contemporary art approaches to the experimentation, interpretation and communication of their research.

Jill Scott was born in Melbourne and has been working and living in Switzerland since 2003. She is Professor for Research in the Institute of Cultural Studies in Art, Media and Design at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZhdK) and Co-Director of the Artists-in-Labs Program (a collaboration with the Ministry for Culture, Switzerland), which places artists from all disciplines into physics, computer, engineering and life science labs to learn about scientific research and make creative interpretations. She is also Vice Director of the Z-Node PHD program on art and science at the University of Plymouth, UK-a program with 16 international research candidates.

Her recent publications include: Artists-in-labs Processes of Inquiry (2006 Springer/Vienna/New York) and Coded Characters Hatje Cantz (2002, Ed. Marille Hahne). She was awarded a PhD from the University of Wales (UK) and has a MA from the University of San Francisco, as well as a Degree in Education (University of Melbourne) and a Degree in Art and Design (Victoria College of the Arts). Since 1975 she has exhibited many video artworks, conceptual performances and interactive environments in USA, Japan, Australia and Europe. Her most recent works involve the construction of interactive media and electronic sculptures based on studies she has conducted in neuroscience- particularly the somatic sensory system artificial skin (e-skin) 2003-2007 and on neuro-retinal behaviour in relation to human eye disease ("The Electric Retina", 2008) and ("Dermaland", 2009).


"The Empathy Virus - Our Complex Nature "

Date: 23rd March 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Carl Scrase

Melbourne based artist/activist/writer/social entrepreneur, Carl Scrase is at SymbioticA researching the possibility of engineering a biological meta-solution for the world’s very real social problems. Carl will talk about what drove him to create the Empathy Virus, and speculates that it may have already been released.

Carl Scrase is an Australian Artist, Activist, Writer and Social Entrepreneur. He studied Fine Art at Monash University, graduating in 2008.

Carl received early recognition for his meticulously patterned found-object sculptures and psychedelic collages. During this period he showed extensively around Australia, having his first commercial solo art show in 2009 at the reputable John Buckley Gallery in Melbourne.He took part in the inaugural Splendid Arts Lab in 2009 and was commissioned to make an iconic 14 meter high Sculpture for the 2010 Splendour in the Grass music festival, the sculpture has since toured to Lismore and Perth.

Carl's creative practice became notably more cross disciplinary in 2010, with large scale works for Next Wave Festival and Art Month Sydney. Carl further expanded his creative practice late in 2010, when he denounced the title artist, in favour of the title ‘social engineer’. 2011 saw Carl develop the Social Engineering Research Initiative (S.E.R.I.), co-found the Wemakeus Collective, take part in the prestigious Young Social Pioneers program and become politically active as a media team member of Occupy Melbourne.

2012 will see Carl running for Mayor of Melbourne.


Alien Agencies: Research-Creation and Ethnographies of the Nonhuman

Date: 21st March 2012
Time: 6:00pm
Location: Webb Lecture Theatre, Geography Building, UWA
Speaker: Dr Christopher Salter

This lecture is part of the ‘Semipermeable’ public lecture series, sponsored by SymbioticA and the Institute of Advanced Studies at UWA.

What does it mean that nonhuman matter “performs”? How can contemporary techno-scientifically influenced and produced artworks be understood under the term “new materialism”? This increased interest in the acts of nonhuman objects, processes and matter is also promoted by such scholars as Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Karen Barad and Andrew Pickering. What can fields such as Science, Technology and Society (STS), anthropology and sociology offer to technologically moulded practices in the area of “research-creation?”

Dr Christopher Salter, SymbioticA artist/researcher in residence, takes on these questions in this talk and discussed his current research project entitled “Alien Agency: Ethnographies of the Nonhuman.” Salter discussed new ways of thinking about performativity that bypasses anthropocentric world views.  He explored contemporary artworks that challenge long standing notions of subject/object, human and nonhuman and the nature of aesthetic experience.

Dr Christopher L. Salter is an  internationally recognized artist, Director of the Hexagram Concordia Centre for Research-Creation in Media Art and Technology and Associate Professor for Design + Computation Arts, both housed at Concordia University in Montreal. Salter studied economics and philosophy at Emory University and received his PhD in the areas of theater and computer-generated sound at Stanford University working with Bertolt Brecht’s assistant Carl Weber and inventors of digital synthesis such as John Chowning and Max Matthews.

Salter’s artistic and research interests revolve around the development and production of real time, computationally-augmented responsive performance environments fusing space, sound, image, architectural material and newly developed sensor-based technologies. He co-founded the art and research organization Sponge, whose works have stretched between the arenas of performance, installation, scientific research and publications and have toured internationally to festivals, exhibitions and venues.
His work with Sponge as well as solo projects has been seen at major international exhibitions and presentation venues in over a dozen countries.

Dr Salter is the author of Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance (MIT Press, 2010). He is currently working on a follow up entitled Alien Agency: Ethnographies of Nonhuman Performance (MIT Press).

Making 'spaced'

Date: 16th March 2012
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Marco Marcon

This presentation addresses some of the broader critical, theoretical and curatorial issues arising from the development of spaced: art out of place, IASKA’s new international art event of socially engaged art.

Marco Marcon was born in Italy and moved to Australia in late 1984. In Italy, Marco Marcon co-founded and directed Murales, one of Rome’s most innovative live music venues of the late 70s, and worked as a writer-producer of cultural programmes for the Italian Broadcasting Corporation. In Australia Marco worked as editor of the art journal Praxis M and lecturer in art theory and cultural studies at several universities. In 1998 he co-founded IASKA, of which he is the CEO/Artistic Director. Marco Marcon has collaborated with artists on several public art projects and published over 110 articles, essays and reviews in various journals, magazines, catalogues and books.


"Has human research ethics lost its way?"

Date: 2nd March 2012
Time: 3:30pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Dr Nikolajs Zeps

Australia, like most western democracies, has embraced the post war ethical framework set out in the Declaration of Helsinki. Whilst this document established individual autonomy as the principal that was 'first amongst equals', each country has established very different ways of interpreting it within specific biomedical environments, often in less than harmonious ways. Notwithstanding the bureacratization of ethics over the last 3 decades, this framework was never intended for humanities research and yet it is the only framework we have to govern such activity. I will argue that it is time to rethink the way we do ethical review in Australia so that we achieve the best outcomes for both biomedical and humanities based academic work and so achieve the original objective of promoting ethically sound research.

Dr Nikolajs Zeps is involved in translational research in breast, gastrointestinal and gynaecological malignancies. He is a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee and the Research Committee of the NHMRC. He is chair of the National Research Advisory Group of Cancer Australia, the Cancer Biology Group of the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia and the Biological sub-committee of the Australasian Gastro-intestinal trials Group. He is the Australian representative on the Ethics and Policy Committee of the International Cancer Genome Consortium. Dr Zeps works for St John of God Healthcare and Radiation Oncology at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. He is an adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Surgery at the University of Western Australia.

Beyond Humans: Art and the future evolution of the human species

Date: 2nd Feb 2012
Time: 3:30pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Ingeborg Reichle

In my paper I will present the exhibition "jenseits des menschen, beyond humans" I curated in 2010 for the Berlin Medical History Museum of the Charité, putting new works by the Berlin based artist Reiner Maria Matysik as part of the Interventions series on show, which was initiated in 2009 by the Museum to offer contemporary art a space for experiment and to promote dialogue between the arts and the sciences. "jenseits des menschen" was the result of the productive collaboration of two Berlin science institutions: the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Charité's Medical History Museum. The pathological specimens collection of the renowned physician Rudolf Virchow and the ruin of his lecture hall were the points of departure for this artistic interrogation of medical science's image of man, which the museum's permanent exhibition "On the Trace of Life" charts in the history of medicine from the eighteenth century to the present day. In contrast to the museum's view of man which is historical, the intervention by Reiner Maria Matysik turned toward future evolutionary designs for humans in a human-made biotechnological future. His work became well known particularly through his models of post-evolutionary organisms, which are situated between Matysik's vision of "active" evolution, that is, evolution controlled by humans, and the future forms of living "biological sculptures" created by the artist.

The artist's motivation in creating these prototypes of future organisms stems from his conviction that the rapid advances in modern molecular biology and genetic engineering will have dramatic consequences for the process of biological evolution, as well as for art, that can hardly be assessed at present. The exhibition "jenseits des menschen" brought together three aspects of Reiner Maria Matysik's multi-layered oeuvre in a new synthesis. From his extensive series of post-evolutionary organisms three exhibits were selected for a very distinctive space, the museum's lecture hall ruin; they were suspended from the roof on steel cables and hang above the heads of visitors. In the second area of the exhibition the artist focused on the future of human evolution and for the first time worked with modelling wax. In the third section Matysik saw new ground: with the support of the Deutsches Institut für Zell- und Gewebeersatz and using the techniques of tissue engineering, the artist created for the first time a "living sculpture" from his own cells, which was exhibited in the museum as a specimen.

Ingeborg Reichle, born 1970, studied art history, archaeology, sociology, and philosophy in Freiburg i. Br., London, and Hamburg, working toward her 2004 Ph.D. dissertation on "Kunst aus dem Labor. Zum Verhältnis von Kunst und Wissenschaft im Zeitalter der Technoscience". Between 1998-2005 she held a research position at the Art History Institute, Humboldt University Berlin and the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik and between 2005-2008  a research position at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in the interdisciplinary working group "Die Welt als Bild".  Since 2008 she has been the scientific coordinator of the interdisciplinary working group "Bildkulturen". For over 10 years she has guest lectured at various international institutions including the School of Visual Arts, New York, the Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, and the Life-Science Lab, DeutschesKrebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg; 2007 guest professor at the Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal.Publications (selection): Kunst aus dem Labor. Zum Verhältnis von Kunst und Wissenschaft im Zeitalter der Technoscience (2005), Verwandte Bilder. Die Fragen der Bildwissenschaft (2007, ed. with S.Siegel and A. Spelten), Visuelle Modelle (2008, ed. with S. Siegel and A. Spelten), Maßlose Bilder. Visuelle Ästhetik der Transgression (2009, ed. with S. Siegel), Art in the Age of Technoscience. Genetic Engineering, Robotics, and Artificial Life in Contemporary Art (2009), Atlas der Weltbilder (2011, ed. with Christoph Markschies, Peter Deuflhard, and Jochen Brüning). In 2010 she curated the exhibition "jenseits des menschen - beyond humans" for the Berlin Medical History Museum of the Charité.