Monday 18 December 2017

Art really comes alive in 'lab' exhibition

Susie McAdam examines a live cricket, part of the 'Host' exhibit, at the launch of 'Visceral: The Living Art Experiment'
Susie McAdam examines a live cricket, part of the 'Host' exhibit, at the launch of 'Visceral: The Living Art Experiment'
The 'Cryobook Archives', which feature a series of handmade books made of human and pig tissue

Nicola Anderson

GRUESOME, fascinating or just plain weird, a ground-breaking international exhibition of living art has blasted the traditional boundaries between art and science.

From tiny books crafted out of human skin left over from a tummy tuck surgery and a microscopic movie projected on to a backdrop of a fish's eye and human semen to the intricate sculpting of a person's sleep pattern, no stone has been left unturned in Visceral: The Living Art Experiment.

Opening today at the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin, the exhibition is the result of a decade of ground-breaking work by researchers and artists at SymbioticA, an artistic laboratory at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

Science Gallery director, Michael John Gorman concedes there is something that makes the viewer "a little uneasy, perhaps even queasy" about the idea of creating artworks from living tissue.


"The very idea of tissue-engineering becoming an art form makes us squirm," he said, explaining that the VISCERAL exhibition provokes the viewer into asking questions about the implications of biotechnology. One project in the exhibition invites volunteers to give a tiny blood sample and then their white blood cells can battle it out for dominance against those of other volunteers.

The 'Cryobook Archives' exhibit, by artist Tagny Duff from Montreal, Canada, features a series of handmade and traditionally bound books using human and pig tissues as the cover.

Ms Duff admitted there had been some parallels drawn with her work and the infamous stories of Nazi Germany where human skin was said to have been used as lampshades. However, she revealed human skin was also used in the binding of anatomy books in the 1500s to "honour" the contribution of the donor to science.

Another exhibit entitled 'Host', invites us to join an audience of 200 live crickets whose reaction to a very serious scientific lecture on the sex life of insects is recorded. Artist Nigel Helyer explained that while the viewers were watching the crickets from the human perspective, the crickets had their own interpretation of what was going on.

The 'Midas' project by Paul Thomas and Kevin Raxworthy allows viewers to touch a gold-coated model of a skin cell to "play" the vibrations of atoms.

Meanwhile, anyone who passes the Science Gallery windows on Pearse Street at 3am may be startled to observe a person sleeping on a bed being routinely disturbed by Canadian artist Lisa Carrie Goldberg in an effort to sculpt their sleep patterns to match the rises and falls of a landscape or building of their own choice. Visceral: The Living Art Experiment opens today and runs until February 25, Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 noon to 6pm. Admission is free and organisers say the exhibition is only suitable for visitors over the age of 15.

Irish Independent

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