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Accepted Contribution:

Creative possibilities and speculative futures: making and thinking at the interface between art, the life-sciences and biotechnology.  
Leora Farber (University of Johannesburg)

Short abstract:

How collaborations between the visual arts, life sciences and biotechnology can give rise to new, experimentally driven creative possibilities. I draw on my experience as an artist working in collaboration with a microbiologist and the ways in which this allowed for symbiotic forms of exchange.

Long abstract:

Historically, art and science were considered to be oppositional disciplines with different theoretical, methodological and practical conceptions of what constitutes ‘research’. Within this divisive paradigm, art is seen as being in service of science; the artist-as-technician applies their skills to visually communicate scientific ideas or forms.

These entrenched divisions between art and science are increasingly being eroded through transdisciplinary collaborations. For example, in ‘biological art’ praxis, art, biology and biotechnology converge through deployment of biomatter as media and content, using scientific protocols and methods. Life-scientists and artists work synergistically to explore how transdisciplinary research can operate as a critical-creative mode of catalysing alternative knowledges, understandings, narratives, sensibilities and imaginaries.

Bioart presents a creative space of play for experimentally driven, practice-led research. Collaborators share a mutual curiosity and the recognition that, often, an objective may only be achieved through untested methods of working that involve risk and chance. Bioart offers exciting potential for introducing speculative methods of working with biomatter; engaging in new forms of collaborative praxis; exploring innovative ways of working with existing biomaterials and producing new ones; introducing methodologies in which art and science are situated as mutually valid knowledge systems; and facilitating engagement in areas of theoretical study that pertain to the entangled relationships between humans and the more-the-human.

In this paper, I explore ways in which these transformative possibilities play out with reference to my 'cultured colonies/colonial cultures' series of bacterial casts, made in collaboration with microbiologist during a 5-month residency at SymbioticA, University of Western Australia.

Combined Format Open Panel P268
Creative partners? Repositioning the arts in transdisciplinary collaborations
  Session 3 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -