Jennifer: “Eye Of The Storm” is an interdisciplinary art and science conference that will be hosted by the Tate Britain on the 19 and 20 June 2009. It will provide a platform for debate over highly controversial subjects and abstruse theories, from the applications of stem cell research to the structure of the universe. Perth will be represented by Oron Catts, the Director of the collaborative art and science laboratory, SymbioticA. Other Australian representatives include Stephen Healy, of the School of History and Philosophy at the University of New South Wales, and Trish Adams, artist in residence at the University of Queensland’s Visual and Sensory Neuroscience Group.
Trish’s work has consistently stimulated both scientific and artistic discussion. Through her provocative and risk-taking projects she personalises her engagement with scientific data. As part of her residency with the Queensland Brain Institute she fed bees on the palm of her bare hand, which had been smeared in honey. Their movement was magnified and shot in greyscale, to produce a slow-motion DVD installation entitled “HOST”. “HOST” allows a scientific analysis of bee behaviour, their navigational memory and cognitive abilities, while at the same time examining the psychological impact of such close interaction of a human with a bee. Trish has described how her “initial vulnerability gave way to a sense of close engagement” as she stood in the bee house, unprotected.
During her collaboration with the School of Biomedical Sciences, Trish took stem cells from her own blood and cultured them to create beating, synchronised heart cells. The artwork probed recent research that suggested the ability of adult stems cells to undergo transformation. At the same time, the work also propounds the complex and emotionally-charged question- “How human are the cells in the petri dish, and do they still belong to Trish Adams?”
SymbioticA’s Tissue Culture and Art Project also featured living cells. “Victimless Leather”, on show at the Museum of Modern Art in March, was a semi-living exhibit constructed using connective tissue from mice as well as human bone cells, and biocompatible polymer moulded into the shape of a torso. The living cells were fed to be kept alive.
Modern science, like contemporary art, has always sparked dynamic conversation in its wider social, political and cultural contexts. In both the scientific and artistic worlds, an idea leads to a concept and a method, the results are carefully scrutinised and occasionally there comes an opportunity to celebrate the outcome. “Eye of the Storm” is this opportunity, and Australian collaborative art and science practices will feature prominently.