Oron Catts, of Tissue Culture and Art, "Growing Neolifism”

Join us for a presentation by artist Oron Catts, who will speak about “Growing Neolifism,” his work with Tissue Culture and Art. *Co-sponsored by iEAR Presents!. Funded by NEA and NYSCA.

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. He is the founding director of SymbioticA, which he co-founded in 2000, an artistic research centre housed within the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia.

Tissue engineering and regenerative biology are usually discussed in relation to biomedical research and applications. However, in the last decade we witnessed 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, such as those by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr’s Tissue Culture and Art.

Oron Catts will draw on his extensive experience of using tissue engineering for non-medical and artistic ends to speculate about what leads to these applications and their possible future development and applications. Avoiding utopian and dystopian postures, opting instead to present scenarios open to be contestably challenged, this talk will also highlight some philosophical and ethical considerations stemming from new technological approaches to life, relating fields such as synthetic biology and metagenomics.

More about Oron Catts

Oron Catts is the founding director of SymbioticA, which he co-founded in 2000, an artistic research centre housed within 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. In 2009, Catts was recognized by Thames & Hudson’s book 60 Innovators Shaping our Creative Future 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.” His work has been widely exhibited internationally in venues such as NY MoMA, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, and National Art Museum of China. Catts was a Research Fellow in Harvard Medical School, a visiting Scholar at the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University, a Visiting Professor of Design Interaction, Royal College of Arts, London, and a Visiting Professor at the School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Helsinki, where he was commissioned to set up Biofilia – Base for Biological Art and Design. Catts’ ideas and projects reach beyond the confines of art; his work is often cited as inspiration to diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction, and food.

Want to work with Oron Catts directly in the Lab? NATURE Lab, in collaboration with the Arts Department at RPI, is offering the following workshop the day before his speaking event:

NATURE Lab Workshop! Tuesday, March 18, at RPI

*Contact Professor Kathy High for more information and workshop registration.

The idea of growing products rather than manufacturing them has been explored and critiqued through the notion of the semi-living by the Tissue Culture and Art Project (TC&A) since 1996. It stems from the developments in biomedical research in the 1990s, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine specifically. The premise was that we can evoke the latent regenerative abilities of the biological body to grow organs and tissues either inside or outside of the biological or techno-scientific bodies. Like with synthetic biology, the engineering mindset of making products out of living being needs to be scrutinized. In the context of tissue engineering, in-vitro meat and in-vitro leather are two of the main examples.

Oron Catts has grown both meat and leather using tissue engineering and was the first person to grow and eat a piece of in-vitro meat. Catts will lead this workshop which will cover some of the main techniques of regenerative biology that are used for in vitro meat and will explore the broader cultural and artistic implication of using living tissue within non-medical context.