Oron Catts is an artist, researcher and curator whose pioneering work with the Tissue Culture and Art Project, which he established in 1996, is considered a leading biological art project. In 2000, he co-founded SymbioticA, an artistic research centre affiliated with the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia. Under Catts’ leadership, SymbioticA has gone on to win the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art (2007), the WA Premier Science Award (2008) and became a Centre for Excellence in 2008. Catts’ interest is Life and, more specifically, the shifting relations and perceptions of life in the light of new knowledge and its applications. Often working in collaboration with other artists—such as Dr. Ionat Zurr—and scientists, Catts has developed a body of work that speaks volumes about the need for a new cultural articulation of the evolving concepts of life. Catts was a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School; a visiting Scholar at the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University; as well as a visiting professor of Design Interaction (2009-2012) and a Professor at Large in Contestable Design (2015-2017), Royal College of Arts, London. In 2012-2013, he set up a biological art lab called ‘Biofilia— Base for Biological Art and Design’, at the School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Helsinki, where he was a Visiting Professor. Catts curated nine exhibitions, developed numerous artistic projects and performances. His work was exhibited and collected by museums such as MoMA NY, Mori Art Museum, NGV, GoMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Ars Electronica, National Art Museum of China. Presently, he is the co-curator of the current “Fake” exhibition at Science Gallery Dublin.
Tissues With No Bodies—How Messy Living Fragments Become Art, and a Technobabble
It has been two hundred years since Mary Shelley conjured a creature out of fragments of other bodies and created an enduring mythical being. The shadow of Victor Frankenstein’s creation is cast on contemporary attempts to fabricate bodies or their parts using living tissues and cells. The talk will chart the author’s ongoing attempts to come to terms with the use of living fragments of complex bodies outside of their original context. The concept of ‘tissues with no bodies’ is linked to the notion of ‘semi-living’ entities introduced by the author and his collaborator, Ionat Zurr, twenty-two years ago. Those ‘Nobodies’ tissues’ are now extending beyond the medical realm and the fringes of the art world into a new Silicon Valley technobabble. Their unarticulated ontology and messy existence has become a fertile ground for fabrication of the seductive narratives of plenty, immortality and exploitation. This situation calls upon thinkers to help make sense of the multiplicity of Nobodies’ tissues.