The scientific knowledge of life expands at an enormous rate, and with it the public discussion of its implications. Stem cell research, bionics, genetic modifications—these topics transcend science and leave laboratories, enter culture and politics, and challenge our fundamental understanding of what it means to live and be human. The influence is mutual: politics and culture influence the science, whether directly via legislation and funding, or indirectly via public discourse and education. How can artists meaningfully engage in this enormously complex societal exchange? What art can be produced in such engagement, and why?
Oron Catts’s response to this challenge is to integrate artists in all aspects of the exchange, in culture and in science. An artist, thinker, researcher, and curator—his pioneering work on integrating art with cutting edge biology was instrumental in establishing the new field of bio-art.
Catts chose an extremely unorthodox route as an artist and established an academic institution. SymbioticA is a platform for collaborative critical dialogue between artists and biology researchers, the first of it’s kind. For nearly twenty years SymbioticA has been a part of the School of Anatomy and Human Biology at The University of Western Australia. Physically embedded within scientific research, SymbioticA creates conditions for artists and scientists to develop relationships. In SymbioticA the very distinction between disciplines is rendered meaningless and the critical cultural discussion of life is inseparable from the research itself.
Oron Catts will visit the University of Minnesota to participate in discussions about life, research, cultures, and the possible roles arts and artists can play in academic research.
If you would like to have a conversation with Oron outside of the public events and workshops, contact Boris Oicherman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Artist Lecture | November 27, 7 p.m. | More info and to reserve your spot>>
This talk will unpack the role played by different cultural institutions (such as art/science/natural history museums), research settings, cultural workers (artists, curators, and critics), popular media, and industry in their dealings with biotechnological artifacts. Catts will also discuss the existence of biotechnological artifacts within a timeline and scale of global scientific, technological, economic, and cultural narratives and endeavors. Panelists will include: Brenda Ogle: professor of bioengineering, and the head of the System Regeneration Lab at the U of M. Steve Kelley: lawyer and a former legislator active in the legislation allowing U of M to conduct stem cell research. Mark Borrello: historian of science and technology at the U of M.
Workshop: Tissue Engineering | November 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. & November 29, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
This workshop is for artists and humanities practitioners.
Tissue engineering enables researchers to grow three-dimensional living tissues of varying sizes, shapes, and types. These technologies escape the biomedical research labs, as increasing numbers of commercial biological products enter free markets, creating a major influence on popular perceptions of life, death, body, self, and medical thinking. Due to this transition from scientific labs to popular culture, tissue engineering technologies have increasingly become an area for artistic engagement. This two-day intensive workshop will introduce artists and humanities practitioners to basic principles of animal tissue culture and tissue engineering, as well as to its history in science and arts. For more information, contact Boris Oicherman (email@example.com).
Life in Arts and Sciences: A Hands-on Workshop | November 30, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
This workshop is for students and scholars of life sciences.
In the life sciences, researchers study living systems by removing them from their environment and placing them in the sterile confines of the lab. Art often operates similarly: objects in galleries are isolated from every day life, giving viewers a new perspective. This workshop, designed for students and scholars of life sciences, blends these two worlds. It examines a practice from daily work in the lab—working in a sterile environment—and situates it in a museum gallery through the construction of a DIY sterile hood. This workshop will cover issues concerning sterility in science and art. It will also explore ways that art is utilizing the knowledge and application of life sciences to inform us about the nature of our bodies and the concept of life. For more information, contact Boris Oicherman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Weisman Art Museum, BioTechnology Institute, University of Minnesota Medical School
Bell Museum, College of Biological Sciences, Department of Art History, Institute for Advanced Studies, Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, MnDrive Brain Conditions, School of Architecture, Science Communications Lab