Growing for Different Ends: How Biomedical Technologies Become Tools for Art and Design

Growing for Different Ends: How Biomedical Technologies Become Tools for Art and Design

Bruggeman Conference Center, CBIS/ Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies

May 8, 2019 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

Tissue engineering and regenerative biology are usually discussed in relation to biomedical research and applications. However in the last decade we witness a shift; there is a growing interest in exploring spin-off tissue engineering and regenerative biology technologies for other ends, such as consumer products, art and design.  This talk will outline these developments in areas such as in vitro meat and leather, actuators and bio machine interfaces, speculative design and contemporary artistic practices.  

SymbioticA, the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts is where much of the research into artistic use of the life science takes place; the talk would draw on extensive experience of using tissue engineering and other life science technologies for artistic and deign ends to speculate about what lead to these applications and their possible future developments. Avoiding utopian and dystopian postures and using the notion of the contestable, this talk will also highlight some philosophical and ethical consideration stemming from new technological approaches to life in relating fields such as synthetic biology and metagenomics.



Oron Catts is the Director of SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Human Sciences, The University of Western Australia.

Oron Catts is an artist, researcher, designer 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, a biological art research centre at The University of Western Australia. Under Catts’ leadership SymbioticA has gone on to win the inaugural Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art (2007) the WA Premier Science Award (2008) and became a Centre for Excellence in 2008.

In 2009 Catts was recognized by Thames & Hudson’s “60 Innovators Shaping our Creative Future” book in the category “Beyond Design”, and by Icon Magazine (UK) as one of the top 20 Designers, “making the future and transforming the way we work”.

Catts was a Research Fellow in Harvard Medical School, a visiting Scholar at the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor of Design Interaction (2009-2012), and a Professor at Large in Contestable Design (2015-2017) at the 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.

Sponsored by iEAR Presents, Art_X, CBIS + HASS. Funding provided in part by the New York State Council on the Arts/ NYSCA


Photo credit: 

Image Title: Compostcubator 4,  2019

Artists: The Tissue Culture & Art Project (Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr) with Devon Ward

Medium:  6 tons mulch, metal and wire frame, acrylic, pump, hose, water, thermostat and C2C12 cell line.

 Photographer: ZHONG Han

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