Catts and Zurr are artists, researchers and curators, whose work explores the philosophical and ethical considerations of new technological approaches to life, including regenerative biology and synthetic biology.
While tissue engineering and regenerative biology are usually discussed in relation to biomedical research and applications, Catts and Zurr’s extensive experience of using these technologies for non-medical and artistic ends enables them to speculate and culturally scrutinise these applications and their possible future development.
Catts is currently director of SymbioticA housed within the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology at The University of Western Australia, and Zurr Assistant Professor at the School and the centre’s academic coordinator.
The RCA has commended The University of Western Australia for generously permitting Catts and Zurr to undertake these special roles at the RCA, while maintaining SymbioticA's ongoing activities.
Dr Paul Thompson, Rector of the Royal College of Art, said, ‘The appointment of Oron Catts and Dr Ionat Zurr as visiting faculty at the RCA is a major advance for this university, as we seek to explore the cultural, ethical and aesthetic implications of synthetic biology. Catts and Zurr have taken biotech out of the life science lab and placed it into the design studio, under the gaze of the artist. They will play a very significant role in the new RCA.’
Dr Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York commented, ‘Biodesign is one of the most promising and complex new fields of research and practice. Working on semi-living designs that are constructed and grown, and nurtured by artificial means, “culture” designers Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr are influential trailblazers, who have trained designers and civilians to tackle complex ethical dilemmas and acquire a more responsible stance towards biotechnology.’ Antonelli, an honorary doctor of the Royal College of Art, served on the search committee.
In 2009 Catts and Zurr ware featured in Thames & Hudson’s 60 Innovators Shaping our Creative Future, and by Icon magazine (UK) as the top 20 Designers, ‘making the future and transforming the way we work’. Their work has been widely exhibited internationally, including at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and National Art Museum of China. They have been Research Fellows at Harvard Medical School, visiting Scholars at the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University, and Visiting Professors at the School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Helsinki, where they set up Biofilia – Base for Biological Art and Design.
They are acknowledged pioneers of biological arts and their work has been exhibited internationally, including the ‘Victimless Leather’ experiment at the seminal MoMA New York exhibition, Design and the Elastic Mind, which was visited by over half-a-million people in 2008.
Catts and Zurr’s work sits firmly within the context of Critical Design, which has a long history at the RCA, illustrated most visibly in the careers of Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby who stepped down from their RCA faculty roles this summer. Dunne and Raby have placed the RCA at the forefront of speculative design internationally for almost two decades.
Oron Catts said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to join the RCA and expand on my research in the context of contestable design. By developing working prototypes for cultural discussion, I hope we can cultivate a new approach to critical design; one based on intimate and experiential knowledge of the life science.”
Ionat Zurr said: “I am looking forward to working with the RCA, and building on my two decades of experience working with living materials and teaching ways
of making and thinking about life.”
Chris Cobilis email@example.com +61 6488 5583