Australian artists from The University of Western Australia are exhibiting in a seminal show at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York which explores the relationship between science and design in the contemporary world.
Design and the Elastic Mind, featuring 200 works from around the world, exhibits the semi-living sculptures by the ‘Tissue Culture and Art Project' of SymbioticA in UWA's School of Anatomy and Human Biology. Grown by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, the semi-living sculptures are designed to provoke and stimulate discussions about our changing understandings and perceptions of life in light of rapid developments in the life sciences and their applied technologies.
In the sculpture, Victimless Leather-A Prototype of Stitch-less Jacket Grown in a Technoscientific Body, embryonic mouse stem cells were seeded over a miniature jacket like shape made of bio-degradable polymers. Positioned inside a specially designed perfusion system, the cells are not only kept alive, but also grow, whilst on show in the MoMA.
The sculpture poses many questions: Is it feasible to grow and construct leather-like material without the slaughtering of animals? Or is it an ironic piece that comments on our technologically mediated victimless utopia; a future in which technology may not eliminate the victims but rather push them further from our sight?
Also on show is the ‘Tissue Culture and Art Project's, The Pig Wings Projects, consisting of wing shaped specimens grown from pig tissue which is fixed in gold. The work comments on the hyperbole surrounding the development of new biological technologies by playfully questioning if these new developments could in fact ‘make pigs fly'.
Artist Ionat Zurr says that the Victimless Leather piece is the second of its kind to ever be on display at the MoMA. "The earliest example of western art recognising the manipulation of living systems as a valid form of artistic expression was Edward Steichen's exhibition of delphiniums in 1936 at the MoMA," Zurr said.
The ‘Tissue Culture and Art Project' is an ongoing research group at SymbioticA: The Art and Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at UWA. Oron Catts is a co-founder and Director and Ionat Zurr Academic Director within SymbioticA which is dedicated to the research, learning and critique of life sciences. For more information please visit https://www.symbiotica.uwa.edu.au/