Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr

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The work probes the strangest of living systems, both unintentional (“natural”) and constructed (“designed”). We are looking at life forms that seems to defy common ideas about self, gender, identity and individuality as well as liveness, artificiality and technology.

Exceedingly life becomes a raw material for human wants and desires. Constructed life escapes science labs to become a medium for artistic and consumer products. New life forms that defy classification appears while we still do not understand many existing lifeforms. We challenge the Natural History Museum curators to come up with examples of animals that bring into question our cultural notions of identity, bodies, self, individuality, gender, sex and reproduction. Biomess celebrates and challenges the strangeness of life by using luxury retail aesthetics to make non-charismatic life forms into objects of desire. We will combine living organisms, natural history specimens and lab-grown life, arranged as a “bio-Gucci” style environment.       

In Biomess the two rooms mirror each other; one presents organisms living, evolving and adapting to our shared environment, while the other presents organisms designed by humans  – Hybridomas – in the name of ‘progress’ who are dependent on human technology for their survival. The Hybridoma are placed in a custome designed bioreactor within a deconstructed decommission laboratory incubator.

Both living and semi-living entities are mysterious and not under our full control and comprehension. However, the design of the installation, reminiscent of a luxury retail outlet, brings into question human forays into a new era of exploration and exploitation of biological life as a new commodity to satisfy unfulfilled desires.

The notion that the art object is eternal, never changing and commodified is still rooted within the art museum ethos. Our artworks embody the complete opposite and contest this anthropo-assumption. The living, semi-living and previously living beings presented in Biomess were put there by us (and not by their own will). Their life and fate, to a large degree, depends on our treatment and care. Yet they are not commodities and carry their own agency(ies), which is different and unknown to us.

Commodification of life is the monstrous act. These times, known as ‘the biological turn’, are characterised by human attempts, on a global scale, to engineer and commodify life, including our own. The notion of the commons is being fragmented into saleable objects.

This artwork celebrates the messiness, subversiveness and rule-defying nature of life. It is about reminding us human animals that we are an integrated part of the wonderful monstrosities called living systems. Let us rejoice in moist!

+ Biomess – hyper otherness was curated by Robert Cook. The exhibition was held at the Art Gallery of WA in 2018 and was the result of a collaboration with the Western Australian Museum and The Art Gallery of Western Australia.
+ Bioreactor designed by Nathan Thompson
+ Display system designed by MasterPlanners, Australia
+ Photographs by Bo Wong

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