[ISEA2011] Panel: Oron Catts – Agency in a Dish: Sup­posed a Semi-Liv­ing Brain be Art (Maker)

Panel Statement

Panel: NeuroArts

In the year 2000 The Sym­bi­ot­icA Re­search Group (SARG) em­barked on a pro­ject that in­tended to cul­tur­ally scru­ti­nise the pos­si­bil­ity of em­body­ing en­gi­neered neuro-as­sem­blies. The idea that neu­rons cul­tured over elec­trodes can act in the world, and that the world would have a di­rect af­fect on the neu­rons, sug­gest that with in­creased com­plex­ity these en­gi­neered neuro-as­sem­blies will re­quire eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tion. This paper will de­scribe the con­cept of the semi-liv­ing, in par­tic­u­lar that which re­spond;  Neu­ronal tis­sue can be cul­tured and grown in­de­pen­dently from the con­text of the bi­o­log­i­cal body and then en­gage in rudi­men­tary two way in­for­ma­tion ex­change with the world around it.  Some of the main is­sues that this no­tion raise will be ex­plored by fol­low­ing the tra­jec­tory of the neu­ro­engi­neer­ing re­lated re­search at Sym­bi­ot­icA – from SARG’s Fish & Chips to Neu­rot­ica’s Silent Bar­rage.

  • Oron Catts is Di­rec­tor of Sym­bi­ot­icA- The Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence in Bi­o­log­i­cal Arts, School of Anatomy and Human Bi­ol­ogy, The Uni­ver­sity of West­ern Aus­tralia, and Vis­it­ing Pro­fes­sor of De­sign In­ter­ac­tion, Royal Col­lege of Arts, Lon­don, UK.  Oron Catts is an artist, re­searcher and cu­ra­tor whose work with the Tis­sue Cul­ture and Art Pro­ject (which he founded in 1996 with Ionat Zurr) is part of the NY MoMA de­sign col­lec­tion and has been ex­hib­ited and pre­sented in­ter­na­tion­ally. In 2000 he co-founded Sym­bi­ot­icA, an artis­tic re­search lab­o­ra­tory housed within the School of Anatomy and Human Bi­ol­ogy, The Uni­ver­sity of West­ern Aus­tralia. Under Oron’s lead­er­ship, Sym­bi­ot­icA has gone on to win the Prix Ars Elec­tron­ica Golden Nica in Hy­brid Art (2007) and be­came a Cen­tre for Ex­cel­lence in 2008.  In 2009 Oron and Ionat were 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”. The lat­est show he cu­rated was Vis­ceral – the Liv­ing Art Ex­per­i­ment at the Sci­ence Gallery, Dublin, 2011. Oron has been a re­searcher at The Uni­ver­sity of West­ern Aus­tralia since 1996 and was a Re­search Fel­low at the Tis­sue En­gi­neer­ing and Organ Fab­ri­ca­tion Lab­o­ra­tory, Har­vard Med­ical School, Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, Boston from 2000-2001. He worked with nu­mer­ous other bio-med­ical lab­o­ra­to­ries around the world. In 2007 he was a vis­it­ing Scholar at the De­part­ment of Art and Art His­tory, Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity. Some of his past art pro­jects in­clude tis­sue en­gi­neered food and leather, in which the “steaks” and “jack­ets” were cul­tured in a lab­o­ra­tory set­ting to in­ter­ro­gate the pos­si­bil­ity of vic­tim­less an­i­mal prod­ucts; the Pig Wings Pro­ject, in which sev­eral pairs of wings made from pig bone mar­row stem cells were grown, and Extra Ear-1/4 Scale, in which a minia­ture replica of Aus­tralian per­for­mance artist Ste­larc’s left ear was grown using human car­ti­lage cells.