2013 Seminars

Jill Scott Artists Talk: AURALROOTS

Date: 29 Nov 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Jill Scott

AURALROOTS is a quasi-real interactive sculpture inspired by the behaviour of the outer hair cells and inner hair cells and auditory nerves of the cochlea. It combines tactile and augmented technologies with the strategies of scale to allow the viewer to hear biological and traditional stories about the way we hear on a visceral level (in the womb), on a survival level (in the landscape and on a communication level (tests in the science lab). This exploration also triggers augmented reality, visuals that can be seen on screens and changes in a display of supporting hair cells in vitro. (Collaborators: The Auditory Lab: UWA)

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).

Field Notes - Report From Deep Time

Date: 22 November 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Tarsh Bates, Oron Catts, Perdita Phillips

Field_Notes – Deep Time is a week long art&science field laboratory organized by the Finnish Society of Bioart at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Lapland/Finland. Five working groups, hosted by Oron Catts, Antero Kare, Leena Valkeapaa, Tere Vaden, Elisabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse, together with a team of five, came together in 2013 test and evaluate specific interdisciplinary approaches in relation to the Deep Time theme. Field_Notes – Deep Time is in search of artistic and scientific responses to the dichotomy between human time-perception and comprehension, and the time of biological, environmental, and geological processes in which we are embedded. The local sub-Arctic nature, ecology, and geology, as well as the scientific environment and infrastructure of the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station act as a catalyst for the work carried out. Catts together with participants Tarsh Bates and Perdita Phillips will share some of their insights into this trip.

Tarsh Bates is currently a candidate for a PhD (Biological Arts) at SymbioticA where her current research is concerned with gentleness, the aesthetics of interspecies relationships and the human as a multispecies ecology. She is particularly enamoured with Candida albicans.

Dr Perdita Phillips is a Western Australian contemporary artist interested in ecosystemic thinking and our interactions with non-human worlds. Phillips is a former SymbioticA resident researcher.

Oron Catts is an artist, researcher and curator and is the Director of SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia.

From Objects of Science to First Australians

Date: 15 November 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Jane Lydon

Archival photographs of Aboriginal people were amassed during the colonial period for a range of purposes, yet rarely to further an Indigenous agenda. Today however such images have been re-contextualised, used to reconstruct family history, document culture and express connections to place. They have become a significant heritage resource for relatives and descendants. As a medium of exchange, photographs of Aboriginal people have served vastly different purposes within Indigenous and Western knowledge systems, from embodiments of kin and ancestral powers, to visual data that actively created scientific knowledge. In the digital age, it has become an urgent matter to understand and balance these traditions, and over
the last decade, numerous innovative projects have employed digital means
 of making this resource accessible to Aboriginal communities: what are the benefits and challenges of this work to date?

Jane Lydon is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. Her books include Eye Contact: Photographing Indigenous Australians (Duke, 2005) and Fantastic Dreaming: The archaeology of an Aboriginal mission (AltaMira, 2009), which won the Australian Archaeological Association's John Mulvaney Book Award in 2010. Her most recent book The Flash of Recognition: Photography and the emergence of Indigenous rights (NewSouth, 2012) explores the ways that photography has been called upon to argue on behalf of Aboriginal people, and won the 2013 Qld Literary Awards’ University of Southern Qld History Book Award.

Lipid Membranes of the Past and Future

Date: 30 Oct 2013
Time: 4:00pm
Speaker: Juan M. Castro (Waseda University, Tokyo)
Location: SymbioticA

Life in all its diversity, as we know it today, could not have developed without an organic membrane. All living cells are surrounded by this outer wall or soft boundary. This talk presents an artistic and multidisciplinary perspective on the organic membrane and its potential as a media of expression. This talk is primarily focused on the description of two transdisciplinary artworks within the fields of microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and media art. The first project, Heliotropika (2011), is an installation that creates an interface between humans and cyanobacteria. The themes related to the conception and development of this project include: the photosynthetic membrane, the visualization of organic processes in real-time, and the potential interfacing with living cells.

The second work, Fat between two worlds (2013), is a project that explores the biophysics of cholesterol and phospholipids to create microstructures that minutely resemble living cells. This part of the paper includes subjects such as the versatile nature of lipids, the artificial membrane, and the interaction between biological molecules (lipids, DNA, sugar).

Together with interactive installations, Juan M. Castro has been working in real-time visualization of organic information and the creation of hybrid architectures with bio-materials. Born in Bogota, Colombia, he is currently living and working in Tokyo, Japan. In 2008 he founded “Biodynamic geometries” as a unit for experimental creative projects. Since its inception it has developed an exhibition program of biomedia art installations. As a postdoctoral research fellow, he is investigating the impact of “synthetic ecosystems” and “interkingdom communication” upon artistic practice in the laboratory for molecular cell network—department of electrical engineering and biology— at Waseda University.

Public Talk with SymbioticA Masters Students Adelaide Cohalan and Devon Ward

Date: 1 November 2013
Time: 3:00
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Devon Ward and Adelaide Cohalan

Adelaide Cohalan: Caring for Our Country:  The Aesthetics of Caring for a Pest Species in the Australian Landscape

The care of pest species in Australia presents an ethical dilemma.   How do we care for a species that threatens the existence of others?  How do we ethically reduce populations of sentient beings?  This talk will explore this dilemma by examining the range of care of the rabbit in Australia, focusing on the inoculation of, and vaccination against, the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV). Some animals are inflicted with the virus, while others are vaccinated and protected against it.  This is determined by the hand of the human, who plays a dominative role in which individuals are to be protected, and which are to be harmed.  The premise of this artwork is based around notions of care, place, Speciesism, and class in the Australian landscape.

Adelaide Cohalan is currently undertaking the Master of Biological Arts degree with SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia.  She has previously completed a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Zoology) and a Bachelor of Visual Arts (majoring in Painting) at James Cook University in Townsville, North Queensland.

Devon Ward:

This talk will explore the complex relationship between material production and beehive design. Ancient human connections with honeybees will be woven together with stories from the post-World War II housing crisis in the US, Richard Buckminster Fuller, a desert hippy commune and honeybee foraging patterns in order to present a new beehive, constructed from 3D printers. These ideas examine future relationships between humans and honeybees, as well as the hazards of new technologies in an effort to push humanist design ideas toward a contemporary ecological perspective.

Devon Ward is a prospective master of biological art at SymbioticA within the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia, in Perth. He is an artist, designer, and interdisciplinary researcher looking at the relationships between biology and technology. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Florida.

CASE STUDY: Chicks on Speed and their Object Instruments

Date: 18 Oct 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Alex Murray-Leslie

Alex Murray-Leslie is a multidisciplinary artist, working between the mediums of embodied instrument design, Music, Fashion & Art. She is founder of Chicks on Speed, an international collective of Culture Shockers. Alex has just completed her role as Entertainment Manager at The 34th America’s Cup World Series and as co-director of Diane Pernet´s A Shaded View on Fashion Film, Barcelona. Alex lectures & exhibits internationally, along side researching, curating & programming cultural happenings at art institutions, theatres & cultural festivals globally.

Artist's Talks with Hideo Iwasaki and Juan M. Castro (Waseda University, Japan) in conversation with Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr

Date: THURSDAY 24 October 2013
Time: 10:30am-12:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Hideo Iwasaki and Juan M. Castro

Hideo Iwasaki and Juan M. Castro are in Western Australia to investigate notions of deep time in the North West with Oron Catts; examining the landscape and strata for the upcoming Biogenic Timestamp project. Both artists have come into close contact with SymbioticA in the past: Iwasaki has collaborated with Catts on several prestigious projects and Castro was involved in the Adaptation exhibition in 2012. The artists will share their experiences up north, together with an overview of their creative approach. Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr will join the conversation to provide further insights into the new project.

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.

Together with interactive installations, Juan M. Castro has been working in real-time visualization of organic information and the creation of hybrid architectures with bio-materials. Born in Bogota, Colombia, he is currently living and working in Tokyo, Japan. In 2008 he founded “Biodynamic geometries” as a unit for experimental creative projects. Since its inception it has developed an exhibition program of biomedia art installations. As a postdoctoral research fellow, he is investigating the impact of “synthetic ecosystems” and “interkingdom communication” upon artistic practice in the laboratory for molecular cell network—department of electrical engineering and biology— at Waseda University

Can You Hear the Plant (Scientist) Screaming?

Date: 25 Oct 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Claire Pannell

The tales of a mad scientist. Claire will share her personal journey of discovery from the very beginnings. Once she had a promising career as an agricultural scientist and now she is developing a Foley noise art practise and putting elements of surprise into her job as a science communicator. How did she get there and how has her residency at symbiotica affected her journey?

Claire Pannell started her adult life as a soil scientist and plant nutritionist, with degrees from UWA (BSc. Agric. Hons) and Massey University, NZ (PhD) however her serious interests in music lead her to make a career change and she worked as an arts manager for 13 years. Pannell is currently employed at Scitech as a Science Communicator and is a multi-instrumentalist with a history of releases and performances in New Zealand, USA and Australia. Claire performs as Furchick with fistfuls and outbursts of joyful noise.

Music and Human Evolution

Date: 11 Oct 2013
Time: 3pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Alan Harvey

Alan Harvey's interest in the evolution and neuroscience of music, through his experiences as both musician and neuroscientist is coalescing into a book-in-development. SymbioticA has hoped to have Harvey speak at one of its seminars for many years and we're thrilled to finally have him on-board.

Harvey's current research focuses on the use of gene therapy, cell/tissue transplantation, nanotechnology and pharmacotherapy in the repair of the central nervous system (CNS), with particular emphasis on the visual system and spinal cord. He is also involved in Alzheimer's disease research, and was a co-leader of the Foundational Research Program, WA Centre for Excellence in Alzheimer's Disease Research and Care (2006-2008). To date he has published over 160 scientific papers or book chapters, including publications in PNAS, Journal of Neuroscience, Brain, Molecular Therapy, Gene Therapy, ACS Nano, Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, Current Gene Therapy, Glia, Neurobiology of Aging, PLoS ONE, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Journal of Neurotrauma, European Journal of Neuroscience, and Experimental Neurology.

Augmented Australia 1914-2014

Date: 27 Sept 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Rene Van Meeuwen

A team led by Assistant Professor Rene Van Meeuwen from the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts at UWA has won the coveted position of creative director of the Australian exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2014, one of the discipline's most prestigious and important events. The successful project: Augmented Australia 1914-2014 by team felix._Giles_Anderson+Goad, was the brain-child of felix, a company run by Professor Van Meeuwen and recent UWA graduates Matt Delroy-Carr and Craig McCormack. After spending the last three years developing the idea, process and technology, the team at felix invited Assistant Professor Sophie Giles (UWA), Winthrop Professor Simon Anderson (UWA) and Professor Philip Goad (The University of Melbourne) to join their bid for the Venice Biennale 2014. Join Rene and his team for a preview of what the Australian Exhibit at Venice will be like plus some insights into the company felix. run by Rene Van Meeuwen, Romesh Goonewardene, Mat Delroy-Carr and Craig McCormack.

Ochre Contemporary Dance Company

Date: 20 Sept 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Louise Howden-Smith,Simon Stewart & Penny Mullen

Ochre Contemporary Dance Company Founder and Director Louise Howden-Smith OAM will share intsights into the Company's unique structure and position as Company-in-Residence within the University of Western Australia’s Cultural Precinct. Penny Mullen and Simon Stewart will discuss their research, development and creative processes for Ochre’s next major production ‘Dreamtide’ and how the ocean has played a role in uncovering unique ‘finds’ and stories for the work itself. Mullen will also relate the discussion to her appointment as an Australian representative to the UNESCO-based International Dance Council (CID).

Louise Howden-Smith is the founding director of Ochre Contemporary Dance Company. Ochre is an platform for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal performance artists and arts workers for the sustainability of Aboriginal Culture and the coming together in respect and commitment, learning and reconciliation. The Company, launched in 2012 is now performing major works in State Theatre Centres, invited to perform nationally and internationally performing dreamtime and contemporary stories. Howden-Smith has given the past seven years in a voluntary capacity as a way of giving back to the Australian community for the sustainability of stories that are important to the Culture of Australia through dance music and language. Her experience in leadership and mentoring and the value and complexity of our Aboriginal Culture is a strong element of the work she does today. Louise is called upon to speak about her life and inspiration for young people on ‘if you have a dream follow it’.

Choreographer Penny Mullen teaches contemporary, commercial and classical dance at ACPA where she is engaged as Head of Dance. In her previous role as Associate Artistic Director and choreographer for ACPA, Penny choreographed works for the 2008 Deadly Awards at the Sydney Opera House, several works for the Brisbane Festival in 2009, The MABO Oration and was responsible for the commercial and contemporary dance works staged as part of several productions directed by Leah Purcell “Reflections” "Q150" & "Stolen”. Most recently she was invited to choreograph for the 2012 “Matilda awards” and her original solo “And Prepare” for the inaugural Dance Industry Night at the Judith Wright Centre. Mullen has presented works at a range of symposia in Europe and South America, together with teaching and choreographing in Brazil.

Choreographer Simon Stewart has worked with Ochre Contemporary Dance Company for the past four years contributing to its development and as associate for the 2012 Ochre production Diaphanous. Stewart is currently creating a joint work with Penny Mullen for the major production to be held in the State Theatre Centre entitled ‘Dreamtide’.

ETERNAL BREATH: Preservation of mouse lungs and transfer into silver
and wearable jewellery

Date: 30 August 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Tineke Van der Eecken

In 2011 Tineke Van der Eecken undertook a residency at SymbioticA with a view to create jewellery from mouse lungs in an attempt to bring to light the use of mice in scientific research, and in particular their relationship to lung health. 

Van der Eecken researched techniques to preserve lungs: their full shape as well as the internal tracheobronchial structure of the airways. Once this technique was mastered, castings could then be re-created in silver for jewellery.

Scottish artist Annie Cattrell created glass sculptures of lungs through corrosion casting where vessels of a body are injected with hardening resin and the flesh then stripped away. Researcher Christophe Casteleyn from the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Ghent in Belgium is a specialist in this area, and advised on methods of corrosion casting suitable for mouse lungs, including the protocols for using BATSON No17. This Plastic Replica and Corrosion Kit was made available through Murdoch University School of Veterinary Sciences for this project. A collaboration was established with Dr Sally Lansley, lung cancer researcher at the Lung Institute of Western Australia, to apply this technique in the context of an ongoing research project on lung cancer following animal ethics approval for euthanasing the animals. Meanwhile, SymbioticA/UWA researchers Stuart Hodgetts and Darryl Kirk applied a similar process to rat lungs harvested from spinal research.
The application of this technique on three sets of mouse lungs at LIWA using Casteleyn’s protocol, has been well documented through digital imagery.

From the resulting plastinated mouse lungs, shapes suited for new jewellery designs were selected, reproduced using the traditional jewellery making technique of lost wax casting, and made into wearable pendants, chains, bracelets and rings.

Digital images taken under the microscope and silver jewellery created from mouse lungs are all part of Eternal Breath, the resulting exhibition of new work at the Melody Smith Gallery in Perth between 10-24 August 2013.

Tineke Van der Eecken is a Fremantle-based Belgian-born artist who studied Criminological Sciences in Belgium and worked in social justice and not-for-profit management for over 15 years. She was Executive Officer at the Lung Institute of Western Australia from 2009 to 2011 where the idea of this project germinated. Tineke studied jewellery design and fabrication at TAFE and regularly exhibits in WA and in Europe. As a jewellery designer-maker inspired by nature, she works with organic forms in nature, usually plant material, minerals and natural gemstones and incorporates these in wearable silver and gold jewellery.

Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep : New Sleep Works By Shannon Williamson and Loren Kronemyer

Date: 2 August 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Shannon Williamson and Loren Kronemyer

In a discussion of the upcoming show Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep at Paper Mountain ARI, artist Loren Kronemyer will present a series of works based on a series of collaborative experiments at the Centre for Sleep Science.  SymbioticA resident Shannon Williamson recruited Kronemyer as a subject for a series of sleep experiments last year, which led to the formation of an artistic bond that extended into a new body of work.  Both artists approach the subject of sleep from their unique aesthetic perspectives, incorporating their shifting roles of caretaker, experimenter, subject, and collaborator.  Kronemyer will discuss her work, her experience in the sleep lab, and the recent performance Shift Work : 48 Hours, in which the two artists enclosed themselves in the lab to create a continuous 2 day sleep study.

Loren Kronemyer was born in Los Angeles, California, graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2010 with a BFA in New Genres and the department’s highest award. The artist has recently received 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.

HumanThrush entanglements: Homo sapiens as a multi-species ecology

Date: 26 July 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Tarsh Bates

Human bodies are a mammal/fungal/bacterial/insect/viral ecology which we rarely acknowledge: a normal human body is said to be composed of over 1 trillion cells, of which only about 10% are animal. This artistic research project explores what it means to be human when we recognise our bodies as a multi-species ecology. I focus on the intimate and fraught contact zones of biology, aesthetics, culture and care between Homo sapiens and Candida albicans, the single celled opportunistic fungal pathogen commonly known as thrush. Understanding and reinterpreting physical and sensual interactions is essential to explore embodied interspecies encounters and the material effects of human/non-human boundary formation. This discussion positions humans and thrush as co-evolved companion species involved in a biopolitical entanglement that is gendered, erotic and often ruthless.

Tarsh Bates completed a Master of Science (Biological Arts) in 2012. She has worked variously as a pizza delivery driver, a fruit and vegetable stacker, a toilet paper packer, a researcher in compost science and waste management, a honeybee ejaculator, an art gallery invigilator, a bookkeeper, a car detailer, and a life drawing model. Tarsh is currently a candidate for a PhD (Biological Arts) at SymbioticA UWA where her current research is concerned with gentleness, the aesthetics of interspecies relationships and the human as a multispecies ecology. She is particularly enamoured with Candida albicans.

Artist's Talks: Nigel Helyer and Cat Hope

Date: 19th July 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Nigel Helyer and Cat Hope

Nigel Helyer:Supereste ut Pugnatis (Pugnatis) ut Supereste, 2013

My French raincoat (a membrane of sorts) bears the legend Impermeable, I can assure you it is not, like most membranes worth their salt it is semipermeable!

Membranes are selectively permeable structures, controlling the exchange of ions in our synapses, or structuring the flow of surveillance information at airport security. They are the portcullis and drawbridge regulating access to a Norman Castle, a filter of privilege; they are the legal pressure valve that transported the poor and disaffected to Australia in a risible attempt to rid England of its criminal class.

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.(1)

We are defined, structured and bounded by membranes, selective barriers that function at a molecular level within our bodies and operate at the macro scale as socio-political boundaries.

Supereste ut Pugnatis (Pugnatis) ut Supereste(2) drifts in these interstitial spaces between biology, politics, culture and history constantly recalling the functional significance of the membrane as border, as a cultural and linguistic filter, as a generator of difference.

SPPS is offered as an omnisexual bacterium ingesting histories and narratives that associate through powerful metaphorical bonds.

Antique Chinese gunpowder rocketry(3) carrying payloads of poisonous and infected material hybridise with the morphology of the Bacteriophage(4). The payload of these mutant forms, glass cylinders containing infected eggs pay ironic homage that reprises the origins of modern bio-warfare research, where chicken eggs were the bio-reactor of choice at the Chemical Defense Establishment of Porton Down near Salisbury UK.(5)

And so to the slippery membrane of language, a tissue of words that wrap us in culture and identity and one that attempted to render Australia as white as egg albumen, protecting these shores from the influx of Chinese migration, a migration according to the xenophobes, as yellow as egg yolk.


That mental control depends, first of all, on physical mastery, is so obvious that few believe it. Real control begins from stillness, from deliberation of manner, and eventually speech and action. Stillness remans the rarest of virtues. How seldom does one see a man or a woman sitting still?

These words are an example from hundreds of pages of Dictation Tests that operated in all Australian ports of entry from 1901 until 1958 with the primary function of excluding undesirables (specifically Asians) from migrating.

Perhaps another for good measure, its jingoism recalling John Howard’s obsession with Cricket trivia as a criterion for citizenship.

The swagman wrapped his gnarled and desiccated digits round his minuscule ukulele and with prodigious and egregious deficiency of musicology essayed a resounding, cacophonous rendition of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ that caused a phobic frog to hurl itself suicidally into a brackish billabong.

Maybe that is Impermeable!

1 The New Testament, Matthew 19:24, The Eye of the Needle was a small gate in the walls of Jerusalem.
2 Supereste ut Pugnatis (Fight to Live) the motto of the Chemical Defense Establishment.
3 The Fire Drake Manual 14th Century Chinese military treatise edited by Jiao Yu and Lui Ji details the evolution of rocketry circa C10th.
4 A Virus that infects and then replicates within a Bacterium.
5 In 1940 biological warfare work began at Porton Down, UK in a highly secret autonomous group called Biology Department Porton now known as the Chemical and Biological Defense Establishment.

Dr Nigel Helyer (a.k.a. DrSonique) is an independent sculptor and sound-artist. He is the director of a small multidisciplinary team Sonic Objects; Sonic Architecture which has forged an international reputation for large scale sound-sculpture installations, environmental public artworks, museum inter- actives and new media projects.
His practice is strongly interdisciplinary, linking a broad platform of creative practice with scientific research and development manifest as works that embrace both the natural and social environment. Nigel is a longstanding collaborator and advisor to SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia, realising such projects as GeneMusiK, the insect installation Host and as Artistic Director of the infamous LifeBoat project 2004-2006. He has also worked as an artist/researcher at the Paul Scherrer Institut, Switzerland (as part of the Artists in Labs programme) and is artist in residence at the Institute for Marine Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania.

Cat Hope: Sound of Decay 2013

Sound of Decay is a concept, rather than a finished work. The iteration featured in this exhibition is the rendering of work in process that began in SymbioticA between 2005 and 2007. It explores the concept of decay on a number of levels, however the attempt to capture what decay might sound like and deliver it in a form that we can hear is key to the work.

Microphones in the desiccator, a discard from the Anatomy laboratory at the University of Western Australia, listen to the ‘subject’ inside as its physical form passes away, tempered by the flow of air. The delicate, hand made to order glass pipes that channel air and audio through the top of the desiccator were made by a master craftsman servicing researchers at the University, his services since rendered unnecessary by plastic disposables, which bring with them their own issues of decay.

Decay can be a sudden, long, visible or invisible process. It may take place across vastly different time scales and or in forms that are difficult for our human senses to comprehend. In Sound of Decay, a computer program is configured to ‘listen’ to the events inside the desiccator. It processes the sounds to bring them into an audio frequency range we may comprehend, and joins them together to cut out inevitable long periods of silence. The most common sounds generated by decay are extremely low and soft sounds, mostly inaudible to the human ear.Here they are amplified and transposed up into the range of human hearing. The desiccator provides a perfect auditorium for the performance, complete with an amplifying stage, for our listening appreciation.

Rather than feature the stereotypical ‘lab rat’ generally associated with science laboratories world over, this container highlights a more recent addition to the laboratory animal selection. It is an animal Australians love to hate: the Cane Toad. Introduced into Australia in June 1935 by the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, it was brought from Hawaii in an attempt to control the native cane beetle that was devouring cane plantations in Queensland. The toad is now feral, having spread across the top end of Australia, most recently entering Western Australia, damaging flora and fauna in its path. Australia’s loathing of the animal and its expanding infestation is well documented culturally. An advertisement for Tooheys beer in 2007 showed New South Wales residents at the New South Wales/Queensland border attracting the toads with lights, so they could hit them back across the border with golf clubs(1). Researchers are racing to find ways to stop the spread of the toad before infestation is complete across the continent. In Sound of Decay, the Cane Toad is in a more passive display that the one popularized in Australian culture, which has included children dressing them up as pets, smoking the glandular excretions, and driving in a way as to kill as many as possible. In this installation, it rests on its final, microphonic bed, and through close listening to one toad, we can hear what the demise of them all may sound like.

1. Squires, Nick (8 June 2007). “Cane Toad Golf Out of Bounds”. The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2013.

Cat Hope is a composer, sound artist, performer and academic. She is a classically trained flautist, self taught vocalist and experimental noise bass player with an active performance profile as a soloist and in music groups. She is the director of the internationally recognised music group Decibel and has toured internationally as a noise artist. Her installations have been show at ISEA (Japan, Tallin), Liquid Architecture, the Totally Huge New Music Festival, The Perth International Arts Festival and in Singapore, USA, Japan and Finland. Cat is currently a researcher at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University.
This work was conceived by Cat Hope and Rob Muir, as the Metaphonica Sound Collective, with funding from an Edith Cowan University Faculty Research Grant. The computer programming is by Stuart James, based on concept by Bruce Murphy.

Artist's Talk: The Mechanism of Life (after Stephane Leduc)

Date: 12 July 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr

At the very same time that Bergson developed his concept of Élan Vital in his book Creative Evolution, others attempted to do away with the metaphysical notion of vital force. One significant endeavour was taken by Stephane Leduc, who set out to prove that life is merely a chemical process.

In his 1911 book The Mechanism of Life, Leduc proposed a series of chemical experiments showing the emergence of life-like phenomena of different degrees of complexity. Using seductive imagery of mainly diffusion and osmosis Leduc attempted to prove the mechanistic aspects of life and challenge Vitalism.

With the recent advent of Synthetic Biology where the engineering mindset towards biology is set to dominate approaches to life, we see a rehashing of similar stories from a hundred years ago. One such story is the creation of the basic unit of life, the cell, out of non-living materials. The so called protocells are becoming a major field of study complete with the hyperbole rhetoric about their potential applications.

This piece will reappropriate one of the simplest protocell protocols offered by Leduc, working with the diffusion of two concentrations of solutions that create transitory cell-like droplets. The droplets resemble cells with membrane and nuclei, they last for a few moments before succumbing to entropy and dissolving into a murky liquid, “much like life.”

This protocol is automated using another hyped technology: three-dimensional printing. There is much discussion about 3D printing technology as the next industrial revolution - something that parallels the assembly line of Fordism at the time Leduc was working on the Mechanism of Life. The promise of 3D printing technology is in its core based on information transfer as the business model; the focus is on the instructions/data as the currency while the materiality is merely an optional manifestation. This is problematic as at the very same time, the 3D printing industry suggests the ability to print actual life, or at least parts of the living. This very seductive scenario of printing life from scratch is played off in this work against the unstable, uncontrollable and transient nature of the protocell droplets as a material. What would capture the public imaginary? The precise movement of the machine? The perfect arrangement of the droplets? Or the off-putting murky outcome of entropy?

To a large extent this piece deals with issues of cultural amnesia and reimagining; pointing attention to the use of certain visuals and expressions to persuade, hype and then disappoint. In a time when the idea of creating synthetic life is in the forefront, it is important to culturally probe current and past approaches to the idea of the Mechanism of Life. The printed “protocells” are unstable and temporary and take on forms that appear organic and then disappear. More than a proof on the mechanism of life, they are a suggestion for a humble approach to the question of what life is and how far are we willing to make life into a raw material for our own ends.

Oron Catts is Director of SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts School of Anatomy Physiology and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia. Catts is an artist, researcher and a curator at the forefront of the emerging field of biological-arts, whose work addresses shifting perceptions of life. Dr. Ionat Zurr is an artist, researcher and the Academic coordinator at SymbioticA. Catts together with Zurr formed the internationally renowned Tissue Culture and Art Project (TC&A) in 1996.

The work The Mechanism of Life (after Stephane Leduc) was collaboratively created with Corrie Van Sice. Her work applies concepts of bio-mimesis to the production of fabrication methodologies, which identify the inherent potential for matter to become functional, and human curiosity’s creative influence on natural systems. Van Sice earned her Masters at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, the self-proclaimed “center for the recently possible,” and worked as Materials and Processes Engineer at the popular 3d printing company, MakerBot Industries. She has partnered with synthetic biologists at Brooklyn’s citizen science lab Genspace, and began work with Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr via the Finnish Bioart Society at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in the fall 2011.

The modal weight of an interactive and electronic artwork; relational materiality, distributed cognition and the actor-network

Date: July 5 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Mark Cypher

Generally, interactive and electronic artworks are conceptualised as essentially immaterial. That is, the digital artwork is a pure abstraction that lacks the physical properties that literally ground an artwork in the empirical world. In contrast, this paper maps the effects of interactivity in an electronic artwork as beholden to a whole range of material actors. This distributed effect is explained in terms of Actor-Network Theory. The combined outcome is that the supposed immateriality of digital artworks is in fact reconstituted with a kind of relational and informational materiality. Composed of, if not dependent on, the heterogeneous nature of a whole host of actors that sustains an artwork from production into exhibition and interaction.

The events observed and experienced in many interactions involving the artwork suggest that materiality is present at every stage. The implication then is that wherever actors, cognition and materiality meet, a mutually catalysing and constituting relationship is likely to develop. Consequently, when an actor interacts with the artwork, there is a shift in relational matter and hence the way it is expressed in information materiality. Thus, meaning is co-enacted in relation with the affordances in place. This cumulative generation of meaning points to a distributed and collective expression of cognition that constantly blurs the distinctions between intention and material affordance in interactive artworks. Therefore, the description that follows demonstrates that meaning, cognition and action arise together with the modal weight of materials in interaction that then shapes the nature of the electronic and interactive artwork.

Dr Mark Cypher received a PhD in 2011 from the University of Western Australia and is currently a Senior Lecturer and Program Chair for Interactive Digital Design and Games Art and Design at Murdoch University - Western Australia. His art and design practice reflects an ongoing engagement with the practice and discourse of interactivity particularly in relation to actor-network theory. His artwork has featured in over 16 international exhibitions including, 404 International Festival of Electronic Arts (Argentina), Salon International De Art Digital (Cuba), Siggraph 2006 (USA), FILE - Festival Internacional de Linguagem Eletrônica ( Brazil), NewForms06 (Canada), BEAP -Biennial of Electronic Art (Australia), Haptic 07 (Canada), Bios4, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Spain), ISEA 2011 (Istanbul), Transitio_MX (Mexico) and Electrofringe (Australia).

The Puzzle of Neolifism, the Strange Materiality of Regenerative and Synthetically Biological Things

Date: 30 May 2013
Time: 6pm
Location: Murdoch Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, UWA
Speaker: Oron Catts

In 1906 Jacques Loeb suggested making a living system from dead matter as a way to debunk the vitalists’ ideas and claimed to have demonstrated ‘abiogenesis’. In 2010 Craig Venter announced that he created “the first self-replicating cell we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer”, the “Mycoplasma laboratorium” which is commonly known as Synthia. In a sense Venter claimed to bring Loeb’s dream closer to reality. What’s relevant to our story is that one of the main images Venter (or his marketing team) chose for the outing of Synthia was of two round cultures that looked like a blue eyed gaze; a metaphysical image representing the missing eyes of the Golem. These are the first bits of a jigsaw puzzle that will be laid in this talk. Through the notion of Neolifism, this puzzle will explore and Re/De-Contextualise the strange materiality of things and assertions of regenerative and synthetic biology. Other parts of the puzzle include a World War II crash site of a Junkers 88 bomber at the far north of Lapland, the first lab where the Tissue Culture & Art Project started to grow semi-living sculptures, frozen arks and de-extinctions, Alexis Carrel, industrial farms, Charles Lindbergh, worry dolls, rabbits’ eyes, ear-mouse, gas chambers, active biomaterials, in-vitro meat and leather, incubators, freak-shows, museums, ghost organs, drones, crude matter, mud and a small piece of Plexiglas that holds this puzzle together.

Oron Catts is an artist, researcher and curator whose pioneering work with the Tissue Culture and Art Project, which he established in 1996, is considered a leading biological art undertaking. In 2000, together with Stuart Bunt and Miranda Grounds, Catts founded SymbioticA, an artistic research centre in the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology at The University of Western Australia. SymbioticA won the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art in 2007 and a year later became a Centre for Excellence. In 2009, Oron was listed in Thames & Hudson’s ‘60 Innovators Shaping our Creative Future’ and named by Icon Magazine (UK) as one of the ‘Top 20 designers making the future and transforming the way we work’. Oron’s interest is life itself or, more specifically, the shifting relations and perceptions of life in the light of new knowledge and its application. Often developed in collaboration with scientists and other artists, his body of work speaks volumes about the need for a new cultural articulation of evolving concepts of life. Oron has been a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School and a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University. He is currently the Director of SymbioticA, a Visiting Professor of Design Interaction at the Royal College of Arts, London, and a Visiting Professor at Aalto University’s Biofilia- base for Biological Arts, Helsinki. Oron’s work reaches beyond the confines of art, often being cited as an inspiration in areas as diverse as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction and food.

Adelaide Cohalan and Devon Ward talks at SymbioticA

Date: 31 May 2013
Time: 3pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Devon Ward & Adelaide Cohalan

Sensory Trap: Communication and collaboration with honeybees in the ultraviolet
During this talk Adelaide Cohalan will present ideas that she has been working on as part of her proposal for her final year Masters project, Sensory Trap.  Sensory Trap intends to explore the subjective colour perception of the honeybee in comparison to the human by attempting to communicate with honeybee workers through ultraviolet paintings.  By overlaying several different perceptual filters, she aims to investigate the complexities of perception and deception in communication between human and non-human animals. Overall this project intends to contribute to a body of work that aims to redefine our relationship with our environment and with non-human animals by turning away from an anthropocentric view of the world.  This project will be carried out in collaboration with the Centre for Integrated Bee Research at the University of WA.

Adelaide Cohalan is currently undertaking the Master of Biological Arts degree with SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia.  She has previously completed a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Zoology) and a Bachelor of Visual Arts (majoring in Painting) at James Cook University in Townsville, North Queensland.

The increasing role of hobbyist and urban beekeepers in the maintenance of honeybee populations.
In the past seven years more than a billion honeybees have died as a result of Colony Collapse Disorder. The health of the honeybee was previously the interest entomologists, evolutionary biologists and beekeepers, but the recent collapse of colonies has created widespread concern. Artists, designers, engineers, filmmakers, popular media and policy makers are increasingly recognizing the role of the honeybees within an ecological, social and cultural context. As a result of this growing awareness, the traditional model of maintaining colonies is changing. Hobbyist and urban beekeeping has dramatically increased in developed countries around the world and offers an alternative model of colony maintenance. Rooftop apiaries are an increasingly popular in cities like London, Melbourne, New York City and Paris. In Switzerland, hobbyists maintain the majority of honeybee populations.

This talk examines the existing model of honeybee maintenance – one in which a small number of beekeepers maintain the majority of hives – and looks at a potential alternative in which a large number of hobbyists and urban apiarists maintain a small number of hives. This model is termed 'crowdkeeping' and takes its cues from Switzerland's success with hobbyist beekeeping. The presentation will also look at potential needs and requirements for hobbyists and urban apiarists. The materials and forms of urban apiaries need not adhere to the traditions of industrial beekeeping. New hive designs have the potential to increase human engagement with bees and emerging technologies such as 3D-printing may assist in the production of hives that fulfill the requirements of hobbyists and urban apiarists.

Devon Ward is a designer, interdisciplinary researcher and a prospective master of biological art at SymbioticA within the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia. He is a graphic designer for the Centre for Integrated Bee Research (CIBER) and a member of the Australian Graphic Design Association. He obtained his bachelor's of fine arts from the University of Florida and has previously worked as a print and web designer. His current research investigates the interface between technology and biology.

Before and After: Cosmetic Surgery and Embodying the Moral Self in South Korean Makeover Culture

Date: 24 May 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Associate Professor Jo Elfving-Hwang

In contemporary South Korean society, appearances matter. The sheer scale of the practice as well as the types of plastic surgeries suggests that South Korea, like many other post-industrial nations of the world, is now part of a wider global makeover culture that is driven by the constant need to improve and maintain one’s physical appearance. In South Korea, the discourses that seek to justify the practice go beyond pointing to positive psychological effects of a successful surgery, and present it as an object of investment where the ‘right’ appearance is increasingly seen to correspond to social capital. The career-related rewards for engaging with successful cosmetic surgical results are certainly far from hypothetical.  Yet in the context of South Korean popular media discourses, these discourses are not simply grounded in Western individualism, but are also necessitated by the affective, intersubjective gaze of a social group (whether it be the family or other group that the subject identifies with) which promotes a view that the individual subject’s body is also representative of the collective body of that group. Reflecting this, the narrative logic deployed in popular media and in TV makeover programmes assert that cosmetic surgery is not evidence of vanity, but quite the contrary, a positive proof of willingness to invest in self in consideration of others. Within this context, somatic subjectivity obtained through engagement with surgery is seen as an expression of moral self, rather than suggesting lack thereof.

Through an analysis of the narrative logic deployed in a South Korean cosmetic surgery makeover programme Let Me In, this paper will analyse how popular discourses of cosmetic surgery present beauty as an index of social inclusion through pathologising non-standard appearance as evidence of moral deficiency . Cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, is presented as a solution to the discursively created problem of social exclusion that allows surgically enhanced beauty to emerge not as a sign of vanity but as evidence of desirable moral attitude, which is quite literally embodied/imbedded in the images of the subject’s healed, postoperative body. I conclude by suggesting that these cultural discourses of cosmetic surgery, which seek to normalise artificially enhanced bodies, cannot be taken simply as signs of ‘Westernisation’, but as a symptom of a much wider process of shifts in emerging epistemological discourses of how self is understood in relation to the other in contemporary South Korean society.

Jo Elfving-Hwang is an Associate Professor of Korean at UWA Asian Studies. Previous to her current appointment she was Junior Professor of Korean Culture and Society and Director of Korean Studies at Frankfurt University. Jo has also taught Korean literature at the School of East Asian Studies (the University of Sheffield). In 2007 she was a Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (University of Leeds), and has also worked as an academic developer and researcher (learner autonomy and EBL) at Sheffield Hallam University.

Jo's research and teaching interests include representations of femininity and masculinity in contemporary South Korean literature and popular culture; trauma, disaster narratives and national identity in literature, as well as aesthetic surgery practices and cosmetic cultures in South Korea.

Implications of the way we live

Date: 17 May 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Professor Jorg Imberger

By way of introduction I will review the legacy of the last 100 years of "progress.  Anthropogenic emissions have triggering new carbon emission loops. destruction of habitats is leading to species instabilities with potential impacts on food production, globalization & increasing wealth inequality is leading to economic instabilities, changing food to a commodity is leading to mental and physical health issues and the massive increase in our capacity to destroy has shrunk the time scales of destruction to much less that the time scales required for healing. So what are we to do? I shall explore 10 simple suggestions:
       1. Re-establish continuity between generations            
       2. Seek harmony rather than conflict                        
       3. Learn to how live on a finite planet               
       4. Re-establish food as part of life                       
       5. Introduce carbon/water neutral living              
       6. Curb wealth inequity
       7. Foster mental and physical well being; curb advertising
       8. Subdue technology, re-introduce "Creative Loafing"
       9. Foster local diversity of job opportunity
      10. Preserve the sources of cultural diversity

Jorg Imberger is the Chairman of the Centre for Water Research and The University’s Professor of Environmental Engineering. Jorg is a winner of two prestigious international awards; the Onassis Prize in the category “Man and the Environment” and the Stockholm Water Prize. Jorg’s expertise has also been recognised in a considerable range of Australian research awards. Jorg established the Centre for Water Research in 1982. Prior to the Centre’s foundation Jorg held a Gledden Fellowship and a Science Fellowship at the University of California. Jorg’s initial objective in establishing the Centre for Water Research was to assess the impact of pollution in the world’s water bodies. The Centre has achieved this major objective through the development of a world leading range of specialised instrumentation. The Centre’s operations now combine three major research objectives: understanding and managing the environment; the development, evaluation and commercialisation of scientific instruments; and support for the water and coastal engineering industries. The combination of these spheres of activity has enabled the Centre to have a worldwide impact.

Amplifying Ambiguity, Contesting Futures

Date: 3 May 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Nora S. Vaage

In our contemporary Knowledge society, ideas for and about science are often shaped by the visions, scenarios and predictions offered by more or less clear-sighted actors within different societal spheres. Entering into the contested terrain of which futures to prepare for, some of these visions are more ambiguous than others. This talk will discuss some of the artworks coming out of the SymbioticA Centre in relation to two other speculative projections of possible futures: The movement of Transhumanism, and the synthetic biology undergraduate competition iGEM.

Nora S. Vaage is an interdisciplinary researcher at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities at the University of Bergen, Norway. She is working on her PhD dissertation on artistic research and the ethics of bio art, of which the SymbioticA Centre is the main case study. Her Master?s thesis in Art History discussed the transgenic artworks of Eduardo Kac, and she also holds a Bachelor?s in Aesthetics. Nora is a member of the research group Cnature, the Cultural History of Nature. She is a lecturer in Art Theory and the ethics of images, and a seminar teacher in Visual Culture and Visual Rhetoric at the University of Bergen.

Reframing Natures

Date: 26 April 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Dr. Vivienne Westbrook

Cultures have always interacted with nature to produce representations within particular framed contexts to which meanings can be attached and debated. In the past two decades genetic science has enabled the patterns at the centre of life itself to be represented in cultural contexts, blurring the boundaries further between science and art. For some, this breaches the ethics of appropriation while for others it defines the very nature of Nature as infinitely creative. This lecture explores the role of emotion in evaluating nature as art in an attempt to understand something of our own reframing natures.

Vivienne Westbrook is an Associate Professor at National Taiwan University and a Visiting Research Fellow at the ARC for the History of Emotions. She has a multi-disciplinary background and has published widely on the cultural afterlives of texts, figures and issues. She has more recently turned to the subject of the afterlives of sharks in art. Through this project she explores the relationship between science and art, observing cultural contexts for and emotional responses to sharks.

Guy Ben-Ary and Kirsten Hudson: In Potentia

Date: 19 April 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Guy Ben-Ary and Kirsten Hudson

Interested in how art has the potential to problematise the shifting forces that determine life and death, Guy Ben-Ary and Kirsten Hudson have developed in potentia: a liminal, boundary creature created as a speculative techno-scientific experiment with disembodied human material, diagnostic biomedicine equipment and a stem cell reprogramming technique called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Beginning with foreskin cells purchased from an on-line catalogue, Ben-Ary and Hudson use iPS cell technology to reverse engineer foreskin cells into embryonic (like) stemcells and then further transform them into neurons. What results is in potentia: a functioning neural network encased within a purpose built sculptural incubator reminiscent of eighteenth century scientific paraphernalia. Complete with custom-made automated feeding and waste retrieval system and electrophysiological recording setup, in potentia converts neural activity into an unsettling soundscape that challenges understandings of “life” and the malleability of the human body.

Created from animate and inanimate matter in collaboration with Mark Lawson and Stuart Hodgetts, in potentia summons us to consider how techno-scientific developments have led us to a point where one’s corporeality no longer imposes strict limits on the body, or even on life and death. Embodying the unsettling possibilities of the not-yet living and the not-yet dead, in potentia not only symbolises our worst nightmares regarding the destruction of clear-cut categories of life, death and embodied material wholeness; it also forces us to see that rather than being a concrete and discrete category, who or what is called a person is a highly contingent formation that is neither stable nor self-evident. Ben-Ary and Hudson’s alchemical transformation of living human material thus makes us wonder: What is the potential for artworks employing bio- and other technologies to address, and modify, boundaries surrounding understandings of life, death and personhood? And what exactly does it mean to make a living biological brain from human foreskin cells?

Guy Ben-Ary is an artist and a researcher whose work uses emerging media, in particular biologically related technologies (tissue culture, tissue engineering, electrophysiology and optics). Ben-Ary has been an artist in residence in SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, since 2000. He specializes in microscopy (light, confocal and SEM), biological & digital imaging, tissue culture and engineering and artistic visualization of biological data. His research areas are cybernetics, robotics and the interface of biological material to manmade devices. His artworks utilize motion and growth to investigate technological aspects of today’s culture and the re-use of biological materials and technologies. He is a member of the SymbioticA Research Group and spent 2006 working as an artist in resident (research fellow) in the Steve Potter Laboratory, Neuro-engineering lab, bio-medical school in the Georgia Institute of technology. Guy collaborated with the Tissue Culture & Art Project for 4 years (1999 - 2003), a member of the Neurotica Collective (that developed the award winning Silent Barrage) and in 2012 was awarded an Australia Council Creative Fellowship.

Dr. Kirsten Hudson is a founding partner of Tangent Fashion Management (2006-), Creative Director of little girl INTERNATIONALTM

Engineering and Ethics with Neural Culture

Date: 5 April 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Riley Zeller- Townson

New media artworks that feature living neural networks, such as “MEArt” and “Silent Barrage,” suggest that humans have ethical obligations to these hybrid neuro-robotic entities. These entities are interesting from an ethics perspective, as interaction between the entity and it's environment is constructed by the artists and scientists who built the piece, but the tissue that performs that interaction is built of the same material that (it is believed) experiences pain and suffering in a live rat. This presentation is part of ongoing research into the types of constructed entities we have obligations towards, as well as the extent of those obligations.

Riley Zeller-Townson is a Biomedical Engineering PhD Student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University in Atlanta, USA, in the lab of Dr. Steve Potter.  Riley's research focuses on the role of the axon in neural computation and what artificial intelligence can get out of neuroscience.  Riley is also a Neuroethics Scholar at the Emory University Neuroethics Program, where he studies the ethical claims of artwork that includes live neurons.

Postcards From the North

Date: 22 March 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speakers: Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr

Between August 2012 and February 2013 SymbioticA's Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr seconded to Aalto University in Helsinki, to help establish Biofilia- Base for Biological Arts. The resulting hybrid lab, launched in February, is a fully functioning state-of-the-art tissue engineering and molecular biology facility, situated in the Electrical Engineering School, operated by the faculty of Art, Design and Architecture.

This lecture will discuss the trials, tribulations and lessons from the trip, while reflecting upon some of the conferences and events that Catts & Zurr participated in over the last six months. In doing so the talk will address the international perception and expanding interest in the field of Biological Arts.

Oron Catts

Oron Catts is the Director of SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, UWA, and a Visiting Professor of Design Interaction, Royal College of Arts, London. Oron Catts is an artist, researcher and curator whose pioneering work with the Tissue Culture and Art Project which he established in 1996 is considered a leading biological art project. In 2000 he founded SymbioticA, an artistic research centre housed within the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, UWA. Under Catts’ leadership SymbioticA has gone on to win the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art (2007) and became a Centre for Excellence in 2008. In 2009 Catts was recognised by Thames & Hudson’s “60 Innovators Shaping our Creative Future” book in the category “Beyond Design”, and by Icon Magazine (UK) as one of the top 20 Designers, “making the future and transforming the way we work”. Catts’ interest is Life; more specifically the shifting relations and perceptions of life in the light of new knowledge and it applications. Often working in collaboration with other artists (mainly Dr. Ionat Zurr) and scientists, Catts has developed a body of work that speak volumes about the need for new cultural articulation of evolving concepts of life. Catts was a Research Fellow in Harvard Medical School and a visiting Scholar at the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University.

Dr Ionat Zurr

Ionat Zurr is an artist, curator, researcher and Academic Coordinator at SymbioticA. An award winning artist and researcher, Zurr formed, together with Oron Catts, the Tissue Culture and Art Project. She has been an artist in residence in the School of Anatomy and Human Biology since 1996. Zurr, who received her PhD titled "Growing Semi Living Art" from the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts, is considered a pioneer in the field of biological arts and her work has been exhibited internationally. Zurr has studied art history, photography and media studies. She was a research fellow at the Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Harvard Medical School from 2000 and 2001. Her PhD via SymbioticA examined the ethical and epistemological implications of wet biology art practices.

A Theatre of Individuation: Theorising BioArt Encounters after Gilbert Simondon

Date: 15 March 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Andrew Lapworth

Characterised by interdisciplinary practices at the intersections of arts, sciences, and biotechnologies, the emergent artistic genre of "bioart" is increasingly lauded within the social science literature as a crucial arena through which question and unsettle deep-rooted cultural perceptions of life and the individual, the concept of the self, and the position of the human in relation to other (more-than-human) bodies and the environment (Born and Barry, 2010; Dixon, 2009; Hauser, 2006). It is this understanding of the capacity of bioart to effect ontological change that I want to develop further in this paper through a theorisation of art-encounters as "ontogenetic events" that materially produce, rather than merely represent, subjects and worlds. To address this ontogenetic potential of bioart, the paper turns to Gilbert Simondon's philosophy of individuation, and the conceptual terrain he develops to rethink being from the standpoint of its becoming. First, I explore how a philosophy of individuation pushes our contemporary understandings of the subject through an attentiveness to its emergence from material and affective processes that both precede and go beyond it, as well as its susceptibility to immanent disruption through the shock of encounter. Secondly, I argue that Simondon opens up the possibility of theorising this evental potential of bioart by emphasising the preindividual affective forces and processes of the art-encounter, and the disorienting transformations in being these bring about. By rendering sensible and reworking molecular, material, and technological agencies implicated in the constitution of the subject, bioart can be understood to open a space of experimentation with modes of expression and experience in their very coming-into-presence. I unpack these arguments empirically through an engagement with the bioartistic practices of the Tissue Culture and Art Project, whose "semi-living" bioart, I argue, stages a disruption of pernicious contemporary habits in favour of new and creative capacities for thinking, perceiving, and relating to the nonhuman.

Andrew Lapworth completed his undergraduate degree in Geography at the University of Bristol, writing his undergraduate dissertation on the relation between the cinematic image, temporality, and subjectivity in post-Franco Spanish cinema through the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. After living and working in Paris for a year, Lapworth successfully received an ESRC 1+3 studentship and returned to the School of Geographical Sciences in 2009 to undertake the MSc in Society and Space. It was during this year that Lapworth developed an interest in spaces and practices of ‘art-science’, and wrote his thesis on the non-representational politics of contemporary bioart. Following his Masters year he enrolled as a PhD candidate in October 2010, and successfully upgraded in October 2011.
Supervised by Dr. J-D Dewsbury and Dr. Maria Fannin, his current PhD research explores the practices, logics and ethico-political potentials of contemporary ‘laboratories’ of transversal and experimental artistic research (including SymbioticA in Perth, Western Australia, and the Institut fur Raumexperimente in Berlin). Theoretically, Lapworth draws together recent philosophies of ontogenesis, new materialisms & vitalisms, and bioaesthetic theories to explore how material processes, aesthetic conditions and experimental practices in these sites reciprocally imbricate through one another to provide the means for constituting (including conceptually) subjectivity, political possibility, and artistic practice.

Token Skepticism: Podcasting Science And Pop Culture

Date: 1 March 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Kylie Sturgess

An investigation of science podcasting, using social media and the reach of online radio. What is podcasting, what can it contribute to the understanding of science and what are the pros and cons of using such a medium? Kylie Sturgess has been podcasting since 2005, and brings her experience and research into the medium of science podcasting under the microscope.

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, who has lectured on pseudoscientific and anomalistic beliefs worldwide. She is the host of the Token Skeptic podcast, a show that looks at the intersection of science, media and pop culture. Kylie writes for a number of publications, including CSICOP’s ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ online column, and enjoys combining her love of art, science, and social media as a means of communicating science to the public.

Shakespearean Ontogeny

Date: Friday 22 Feb 2013
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Dr. Richard Paul Hamilton, School of Philosophy and Theology University of Notre Dame Australia

There is a popular view of biological development which goes something like this. Biological form is the cumulative result of internal genetic forces and external environmental ones. Like all models in biology this rather neat view had the advantage of allowing researchers to navigate a path through the bewildering complexity of organic life. But like all metaphors it comes at the price of bewitchment. As Wittgenstein writes in Philosophical Investigations 115: “a picture held us captive and we could not escape it because it lay in our language”. One consequence of this bewitchment is that explanatory privilege was given to the internal 'code' enshrined in the DNA, a view most famously (or notoriously) associated with Richard Dawkins' gene-centric account of evolution. This apparently resolved a number of outstanding puzzles in theoretical biology notably the transmission of stable form across generations.

In this context, the Human Genome Project can be seen as the most fruitful failure in scientific history. Such a claim may seem puzzling, since the Human Genome Project might be considered a success, not least in the numerous promising advances in medicine that it presaged. Nevertheless, the somewhat hyperbolic claim that it would finally unlock the secret code which would reveal what it means to be human have been largely unfulfilled and with good reason. There never was such a code.

The last two decades in the biological sciences can be characterised by the slogan: Taking Development Seriously. Whereas the neo-Darwinian mathematical modellers tended to treat the actual process of development as a black box, a sustained effort is now underway to explain the relationship between evolution (phylogeny) and organismic development (ontogeny). One thing has become clear: the simple dichotomous picture of gene and environment is inadequate, even as a simplifying device. DNA rarely exists in isolation and where it does it is inert. There is no reason to give DNA causal or explanatory privilege in developmental processes. Rather, development is a complex and contingent process in which the developing organism constructs itself and to some extent its developmental environment from the resources at hand. The organism makes its own history albeit not in circumstances of its choosing.

If the code metaphor is no longer adequate what can replace it? In this talk I will suggest a new and hopefully fruitful analogy which might capture some of the complexities involved. I will compare the process of biological development to the construction of a Shakespearean play. As Shakespeare scholars have long known there are no definitive Shakespeare texts and it seems likely that Shakespeare never actually sat down and wrote Hamlet or Much Ado About Nothing. Rather the plays were workshopped and Shakespeare provided prompt notes to the players. The texts with which we are familiar are re-constructions of performances which have been handed down corrected and interpreted through numerous generations. Most crucially every new performance of Shakespeare is an interpretation be it a group of Lesbian players doing in Hamlet in Soweto or an 'authentic Elizabethan dress' performance at the Globe in London. Moreover, every performance takes place in a rich and complex interpretative environment and the audience plays as much a role in the play's construction as the author or players.

Similarly, all the natural world is a stage, or so I shall argue.

Dr. Richard Paul Hamilton completed a PhD on love as a social phenomenon, under the supervision of Professors Susan James and Jennifer Hornsby at Birkbeck College, The University of London. He works on moral philosophy, the philosophy of the emotions, the philosophy of action and the philosophy of social sciences with particular interests in the legal definition of morally contested concepts. His most recent publications have dealt with evolutionary psychology and love as an essentially contested concept. He is currently engaged in a project investigating the biological bases of moral conduct. Before arriving at Notre Dame, he taught at the University of Manchester, the University of Leeds and Manchester Metropolitan University.