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Sarah Jane Pell
Artist, Astronaut Candidate
Melbourne, Australia

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Oron Catts

Director/artist/curator/researcher | SymbioticA, The University of Western Australia

Perth, Australia

"Culturally scrutinising Neolifism by actually doing it"

Generally thinking:

Education & Academia
Technology & The Future
Global Issues
Arts & Entertainment
Creativity & Design
Body, Mind & Science

My tags:

ArtCultureEducationFoodHistorySciencePerformanceProduct DesignVisual ArtsWriting

Very good at:
+ biological arts
+ cultural critique of new knowledge
+ work across mindsets and disciplines

About me & my work:

I am the Co-Founder (2000) and Director of SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Human Sciences, The University of Western Australia. Under my 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 1996 I established the Tissue Culture and Art Project which is considered a leading biological art project.

More recently I 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 I was a Visiting Professor.

My interest is Life; more specifically the shifting relations and perceptions of life in the light of new knowledge and its applications. Often working in collaboration with other artists (mainly Dr. Ionat Zurr) and scientists, I have developed a body of work that speaks volumes about the need for new cultural articulation of evolving concepts of life.

My ideas and projects reach beyond the confines of art; and my work is often cited as inspiration to diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction, and food.

I 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, Royal College of Arts, London.

In 2009 I was recognised 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”.

Some quotes about my work:

“Two of the largest science–art schemes raise most of the big questions and provide some answers about the nature of these collaborations. The first, the Sciart grant scheme of the Wellcome Trust, Britain's leading biomedical charity, was introduced in 1996 and has lent its name to the whole area of activity. The second is a laboratory, equipped with experimental apparatus and organic materials but staffed by artists. The SymbioticA research centre at the University of Western Australia, Perth, was inaugurated by artists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr as the Tissue Culture & Art Project (TC&A) in 1996, and was formally incorporated into the university as SymbioticA in 2000.”

Martin Kemp, Nature 470, p334, 2011

“The most celebrated and influential among all "culture" designers are Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, who in 1996 founded the Tissue Culture & Art Project (TC&A) at the University of Western Australia in Perth. In 2000, they also established SymbioticA, a collaborative artistic laboratory dedicated to the study and critique of life sciences located within the School of Anatomy and Human Biology that has hosted more than 50 residents, including scientists and philosophers. To describe their tools of the trade—fragments of bodies that are partly grown and partly constructed, and are sustained by artificial means—Catts and Zurr coined the term "semi-living". If the things we surround ourselves with every day can be both manufactured and living, growing entities, "we will begin to take a more responsible attitude towards our environment and curb our destructive consumerism."

Paola Antonelli, NY MOMA senior Design Curator in States of Design 07: Bio-design, Domas Magazine 952 November 2011

“Catts' SymbioticA laboratory is pioneering that development, and he can take personal credit for lifting biotechnology out of the preserve of medicine and into design.”

Icon Magazine, Architecture, Design, Culture, UK May 2009

My links:

SymbioticA | SymbioticA is an artistic laboratory dedicated to the research, learning, critique and hands-on engagement with the life sciences. Based at The School of Human Sciences, The University of Western Australia

The Tissue Culture & Art Project | The Tissue Culture & Art Project (TC&A) was set to explore the use of tissue technologies as a medium for artistic expression. We are investigating our relationships with the different gradients of life through the construction/growth of a new class of object/being - that of the Semi-Living. These are parts of complex organisms which are sustained alive outside of the body and coerced to grow in predetermined shapes. These evocative objects are a tangible example that brings into question deep rooted perceptions of life and identity, concept of self, and the position of the human in regard to other living beings and the environment. We are interested in the new discourses and new ethics/epistemologies that surround issues of partial life and the contestable future scenarios they are offering us.


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