Residencies, exhibitions, workshops and conferences are just some of the activities of SymbioticA – the collaborative research laboratory in art and science at the School of Anatomy and Human Biology in the Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences.
SymbioticA is the fi rst laboratory of its kind; it gives non-science researchers the chance to enter the biological lab. It was established in 2000 by microbiologist Miranda Grounds, neuroscientist Stuart Bunt and artist Oron Catts, with funding from LotteryWest and UWA. International researchers are making their way in a steady stream into the SymbioticA laboratory for periods varying from two weeks to a year. Recently Norwegian artist and Director of the i/o/lab, Hege Tapio, was in residence researching plant cell fusion. The current resident, Phil Ross from San Francisco, is pursuing research using high-end microscopy.
Local artist Perdita Phillips has just won a residency in SymbioticA, awarded by the Australia Council. She is about to begin a project in collaboration with academics in the School of Animal Biology, exploring the collections and calls of the great bowerbird in Broome. She joins other local artists in residence Donna Franklin, Rob Muir, Cat Hope, Guy Ben-Ary, Kirsten Hudson and Singaporean performer Chandrasekaran.
Oron Catts the Artistic Director said: "SymbioticA is now considered the centre of the growing fields of Art and Biology. The wide scope of research in SymbioticA, from ecologies to molecular biology, is testament to the importance of artistic research that engages with different perceptions and levels of life".
Last year SymbioticA resident artists were invited to exhibit in China, Canada and Germany. In the first few months of 2007, the core researchers in the Tissue Culture and Art Project (Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts) have shows scheduled in Israel and Spain. Owing to the interest in the field of "bioart", SymbioticA has also begun teaching undergraduate units and a Master of Science (Biological Arts). This has attracted interest locally and internationally, with Canadian and Japanese enrolments. Academic Co-ordinator Ionat Zurr says, "It's a truly interdisciplinary course, where art graduates do science units and vice versa – the resulting expansion of knowledge is a revelation to the students."
Catts has been approached by several international scientists interested in becoming SymbioticA residents; "They see SymbioticA as a place where they can engage in playful, curiosity-based research," says Catts, "something that is getting more difficult in mainstream bio/medical research."