A new exhibition fuses science and art to explore disease as both reality and metaphor.
Humankind has always melded science and art in order to create. The alchemy of paint is just one example.
However, creating art out of the very matter of life using scientific techniques and technology blurs the lines between laboratory and gallery even further.
This ever-growing arts discipline, known as bioart, is on full display in the exhibition “Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts,” an exhibition of 11 separate but connected installation works.
Infectious cells projected onto the walls of the gallery, multi-media and glass works depicting degenerative vision and touch-screens that allow viewers to manipulate bruised tissue are just some of the pieces that give exhibition visitors the sensation of walking into, and among, living organisms.
“Bioart is bringing the very materials of science into the gallery, whether it’s microbes, microscopes, or big machinery like scanners,” explained exhibition co-curator Sean Redmond, Associate Professor of Screen and Design at Deakin University and Deputy Director of the Deakin Motion.Lab – Centre for Creative Arts Research (DML-CCAR).
“We’ve started incorporating science into the very materiality of art, and by doing so we’re trying to say something quite provocative and powerful about their relationship.
“Bioart melds and fuses the two, enabling them to grow together and produce really exciting work.”
Assoc Prof Redmond explained that bioart is of great interest to researchers as it bridges art and scholarship.
“The framework of bioart tends to be about the state of the human race and the planet,” he said.
“Scholars in this area use bioart to think about the transition of the human race and where we’re headed.
“It really brings critical thinking and creative practice together.”
Assoc Prof Redmond has co-curated “Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts,” with RMIT Senior Lecturer in Sound Design Darrin Verhagen.
The artwork is set within current debates and concerns about what constitutes life, what counts as a sentient being, and who gets to determine what lives are saved, punished, exploited and destroyed?
It also looks at disease in not just its molecular and biological manifestation, but also the way certain aspects of culture and politics are seen to be sick, infected or toxic.
“Public discourse tells us that some spaces, things, and objects are more diseased than others,” Assoc Prof Redmond said.
“We are taught to see disease in the homes of outsiders and the nests of insects, in the fabric of pariah nation states and the tissues of certain religions and philosophies.”
However, the exhibition also focuses on the positives of disease.
“Disease, in lots of ways, is obviously something that irks and scares us. It makes us mortal, but of course disease is also the thing that we use to develop new cures and medicines,” Assoc Prof Redmond said.
Among the exhibition’s artists are Assoc Prof Redmond, members of Deakin’s School of Communication and Creative Arts and biomedical animator Drew Berry, a pioneer in the use of computer graphics to portray the scientific world.
“Each artist imagines disease differently, and yet within the terror of their imaginings there is simultaneously great beauty, and much hope,” Assoc Prof Redmond said.
“It’s not just dark, it’s also playful. It’s not just a stand and stare exhibition, it’s one where you can move in and between the artwork and touch it and change it.”
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Morbis Artis curators: Deputy Director of DML-CCAR, Associate Professor Sean Redmond (left) and RMIT's Dr Darrin Verhagen.