Symposia & Conferences

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A mix of artists, scientists, philosophers, social scientists, designers, lawyers and activists have participated in SymbioticA coordinated symposia.

Past symposia include The Aesthetics of Care?, Metaphors and Misunderstanding, BioDifference, Strange Attractors and Still Talking. Speakers have included Steve Wilson, George Gessert, Lori Andrews, Steve Baker, Ken Rinaldo and Beatriz da Costa.

SymbioticA attracts exciting thinkers and innovative arts practitioners. Having produced five local symposiums and one international symposium in China, SymbioticA’s symposiums often coincide with a major exhibition, discussing in detail thematic concerns raised in the show.


  1. Quite Frankly: It's a Monster Conference
  2. Agency in movement symposium
  3. Visceral symposium
  4. Unruly ecologies: Biodiversity and art
  5. The body, art and bioethics
  6. Still, talking
  7. Strange attractors
  8. Metaphors and misunderstandings
  9. Biodifference
  10. The aesthetics of care?

The Contestable Food Systems Symposium

Location: PSAS Fremantle/Walyalup, Western AustraliaThe Contestable Food Systems Symposium
Date: 10th February 2022
Time: 10:30am-5:00pm
Speakers and Abstracts: PDF

The Contestable Food Systems Symposium: an interdisciplinary meeting on the future of food.

This one-day curated symposium will explore and contest some of the fantasies surrounding tech based future food systems. It will focus on the attempts optimise and standardise food production by removing uncontrollable variables such has sunlight (shorthand for seasonality and weather) and soil (or more generally, what we used to call nature…).

The idea of decontextualising biological outputs from ecological systems in the name of sustainability will be unpacked by a range of epistemologies by interdisciplinary speakers such as artists, farmers, historians, philosophers, STS and environmental humanities scholars.

In AgTech’s narrative, the means of production are growing ever distant from nature, in which we can achieve “abundance without consequences”. But more likely, AgTech calls for a metabolic rift; a state when a broken nature can no longer be able to provide us with means of existence. Can we imagine different food futures?

Speakers include: Tarsh Bates (SymbioticA graduate), Ionat Zurr (SymbioticA/School of Design), Heather Bray (UWA Sci-Com), Svenja Kratz (Artist, UTAS), Oron Catts (SymbioticA), Bede Mickan (School of Engineering & School of Agriculture and Environment), Catie Gressier (Anthropology and Sociology UWA), Julia Powles (UWA Law School), Steve Bull & Kelli McCluskey (Artists).

Quite Frankly: It's a Monster Conference symbiotica logo

Date: 17-19 October 2018
Location: University Club of Western Australia

2018 marks 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Shelley’s “Creature” is usually conceived as a human creation, the stitched-together, tragic victim of scientific and technological experimentation. We rupture these stitches, revealing that the Creature is more than the sum of its parts. SymbioticA and Somatechnics join forces to present Quite Frankly: It’s a Monster Conference. We invite you to explore the dynamic ecosystems evolving within and from the gaps between the Creature’s fragments. FULL PROGRAM.

Agency in Movement Symposium symbiotica logo

Date: Friday 21st June 2013
Location: The University of Western Australia G06 Moot Court Faculty of Law
Time: 9am-5pm
(Please RSVP [email protected] for catering purposes)

Full list of abstracts and speakers

The Agency in Movement symposium employs a variety of disciplines to explore the complex relations between movement and vitality.
Motion is observed by attaching a frame of reference to a “body” and measuring its change in position relative to another reference frame. Therefore, movement is relative, means ever changing and is perceived as visceral and “alive”. The Symposium will include invited speakers from diverse disciplines (art, performance, biology, biophysics, biomechanics, and philosophy) who will explore and interrogate the conceptual and technical relations between life (biological or artificial), movement and perceptions of "vitality”, with the hope that some interesting meeting points and/or negations will emerge.

The symposium stems from an Australian Research Council project exploring the use of skeletal muscle tissue which is grown, stimulated and activated in a techno-scientific surrogate “body”. This moving twitching (semi) living material evokes, makes unease, and asks, in sensorial and theoretical means about issues of aliveness and agency. The project is concerned with onto-ethico-epistemological (Barad 2010) questions about life and the affect created through the phenomenon of movement.

We will be probing into the (sometimes) uneasy and undefined areas of shifting perceptions of life, heralded by developments in the life sciences and applied technologies, coupled with the introduction of engineering principles into life sciences. In the light of ‘new materialism’, ‘agential realism’ and when life is becoming a raw material to be engineered, we will examine the position and role of movement as agency.

Speakers include:
Monika Bakke, a philosopher who interrogates cross species and non-human communication at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland.; Andrew Pelling leads the Laboratory for Biophysical Manipulation at the University of Ottawa, which experiment with in vitro muscle cells and with artists. Elizabeth Stephens, a science historian from the Centre for the History of European Discourses. Elizabeth will analyse some historical discourses and understandings in relation to vitalism.  Tony Bakker and Gavin Pinniger, Muscle Physiology, the University of Western Australia. Stuart Hodgetts, a biologist from UWA will contribute to the understanding of the neuromuscular interface. Chris Salter, the Director of the Hexagram Concordia Centre for Research, whose artistic research explore the performative, focusing on dynamic and temporal processes over static objects and representations. Jennifer Johung, will contribute her perspective on performance and agency in art (Art History, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee). Oron Catts, SymbioticA’s Director, will discuss the demonstrable in science and the arts. Gabrielle Decamous, will look at semi-living material as a device in undermining the polarized understanding of the world (Kyushu University, Japan). Miranda Grounds of UWA provide her extensive knowledge in the cell biology aspects of skeletal muscles.  Ionat Zurr will explore an artistically grown and induced semi living movement which attempt to reintroduce a sense of agency. Stelarc, an Australia artist and Joanna Zylinska, Goldsmith University UK, will be reflecting on these issues in the closing panel.


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Visceral: A SymbioticA Symposium

From 28 January to 25 February 2011, SymbioticA will be re-located to Dublin, Ireland, where SymbioticA and Science Gallery, Dublin will host the exhibition Visceral: The Living Art Experiment.As part of the exhibition, the Visceral Symposium will take place on the 29th of January 2011, and will review the cultural strategies that engage and scrutinise the life sciences, with a particular emphasis on hands-on artistic research embedded within a biological laboratory.

Art and biology, from a philosophical, art historical, geographical, political and scientific perspectives will be discussed by two of SymbioticA’s co-founders and some of the researchers who have been SymbioticA residents over the last decade.

Speakers: Prof. Miranda Grounds, Oron Catts, Kira O’Reilly, Adam Zaretsky, Meredith Walsh, Adele Senior, Deborah Dixon, Marta De Menezes, Tagny Duff, Jennifer Willet and Ionat Zurr

Date: 29th of January 2011

Location: Science Gallery, Dublin

For the schedule and speakers' bios and abstracts visit Science Gallery's website: Visceral Symposium


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Unruly ecologies: Biodiversity and art

A SymbioticA Symposium exploring the possibilities and difficulties of the diversity of life through critical investigations in art, ecology and activism

Date: Friday 26 to Sunday 28 November 2010

Location: Perth and Mandurah, Western Australia

More information

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The body, art and bioethics

A SymbioticA Symposium exploring our culture and the ethics of use and ownership of living materials from the cell to the whole animal in art, science, law and philosophy.

Keynotes: Dr Catherine Waldby, Dr Luigi Palombi and Elizabeth Costello

Date: Friday 6 August 2010

Location: The University of Western Australia

Website: Body Art Bioethics

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Still, talking

This SymbioticA Symposium presented an afternoon discussion around the ideas of the Still, Living exhibition. Symbiotic and parasitic engagement across living systems and artistic practice will be dissected by artists, scientists and academics.

Speakers: Beatriz da Costa, Ionat Zurr, Adele Senior, Jens Hauser, Kirsten Hudson, Guy Ben-Ary, Verena Kaminiarz and more.

Location: The Bakery ARTRAGE Complex

Date: 19 September 2007

Website: Still.Talking

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Strange attractors

A SymbioticA Symposium drawing inspiration from the Strange Attractors exhibition - artists, scientists and cultural commentators discuss the area of art and science collaborations and notions of how science and technology effect and infect culture. A cross cultural panel of Chinese and Australians will explore the effect science and technology has on art and society.

Presented by Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Novamedia, The University of Western Australia and SymbioticA.

Speakers: Douglas Bakkum, Stuart Bunt, Christine Cargill, Oron Catts, Peter E Charuk, Philip Gamblen, George (Poonkhin) Khut, Jin Jiangpo, Hu Jieming, Ma Lin, Jon McCormack, Wang Nanming, Jane Quon, Julie Ryder, David Rye, Hellen Sky, Ionat Zurr.

Date: Sunday 23 July 2006 9-5pm

Location: Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai

Website: Strange Attractors

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Metaphors and misunderstandings

When Science and Culture Clash and Merge. A SymbioticA Symposium.

Interdisciplinary research has become an increasingly important focus in academia in recent years. Although collaboration across disparate fields instigates new configurations of knowledge and practice, it can also lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

The Metaphors and Misunderstandings Symposium addressed some of the issues that emerge in communication across disciplines – with specific reference to the intersection of the life sciences with the fine arts and the humanities. How do metaphors of language and practice within art, biology, philosophy and ethics affect or infect the cross-over of the arts and sciences?

Speakers: Dr Thierry Bardini, Oron Catts, Professor Miranda Grounds, Ionat Zurr, Boo Chapple, Jennifer Willet, Shawn Bailey, Marie-Pier Boucher, Megan Schlipalius.

Date: Friday June 16 2006

Location: The University of Western Australia

Website: Metaphors and Misunderstandings

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The BioDifference Conference held at BEAP 2004 discussed the various approaches and paradoxes of Biological Art. The living, the non-living and the in between were manipulated, politicised, aestheticised and debated along with issues surrounding activism, feminism and formalism.

Academics, artists and scientists presented a diverse range of papers looking at the politics, the personal, the science, the literature and the art of art dealing with living systems.

Speakers: The Key note speaker was George Gessert and the Plenary paper was presented by Steve Wilson. A panel discussion regarding the politics of dealing with living systems included Ionat Zurr, Shannon Bell, Stuart Bunt, Faith Wilding and Paul Vanouse. Individual papers were presented by: Helen Merrick, Ken Rinaldo, Tess Williams, Kira O’Reilly and Boo Chapple.

Date: 11 September 2004

Location: The University of Western Australia

Website: An audio and visual archive on BEAP2002 and BEAP2004 is available at BEAP

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The aesthetics of care?

The inaugural SymbioticA Symposium was a seminar held at BEAP 2002 focusing on the artistic, social and scientific implications of the use of biological/medical technologies for artistic purposes held in conjunction with BioFeel.

A lawyer, scientists, animal liberationist, artists, philosophers and art historians presented papers on the complexities of this new realm of scientific, artistic and humanist issues.

The publication of papers was republished in 2004 with an update from Biotech Lawyer Lori Andrews, George Gessert and Redmond Bridgeman.

Email SymbioticA to purchase a hard copy of the 2004 publication.

Aesthetics of Care [PDF, 2.2 MB]
Updated 21 Dec 2010

Date: August 5, 2002

Location: Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Northbridge, Western Australia.

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