[ISEA2013] Paper: Kirsten Hudson, Guy Ben-Ary, Mark Lawson & Stuart Hodgetts — The Dynamics of Collaborative Resistance: Negotiating the methodological incongruities of art, cultural theory, science and design


Key Words: collaboration, multi-disciplinary, bio-art, life, death, personhood

In potēntia is a liminal, boundary creature created as an artistic and speculative techno-scientific experiment with disembodied human material, diagnostic biomedicine equipment and a stem cell reprogramming technique called ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ (iPS). It is a functioning neural network or ‘biological brain’ encased within a purpose built sculptural incubator reminiscent of eighteenth century scientific paraphernalia, complete with a custom-made automated feeding and waste retrieval system and DIY electrophysiological recording setup. Created by artists Guy Ben-Ary and Kirsten Hudson in collaboration with Mark Lawson (Course coordinator of Product and Furniture design at Curtin University) and Stuart Hodgetts (Director of the Spinal Cord Repair Laboratory at the University of Western Australia), in potēntia prompts us to consider how techno-scientific developments have led us to a point where, rather than being a concrete and discrete category, who or what is called a person is a highly contingent formation.

Starting from the position that the collaborative dynamics of art, cultural theory, science and design offer fertile grounds to both critique and resist the fetishisation of stem cell technologies, this paper explores how the collaborative team behind in potēntia critically and creatively embrace the methodological dialectics that occur when trying to accommodate the different disciplinary methods and approaches of art, cultural theory, science and design. Constantly negotiating aesthetics versus accuracy, tacit knowledge versus discovered knowledge, risk versus rigor, experimentation versus speculation, appropriation versus expertise, protocol versus intuition, known versus unknown, proof of concept versus creativity, and problematising versus problem solving, this paper positions in potēntia as an exemplar of multi-disciplinary collaborative practice, to suggest how cross-disciplinary collaboration, although fraught with friction and challenges regarding disciplinary protocols, priorities and precedents, also presents new and unique opportunities for unexpected creative discoveries to emerge.

  • Dr. Kirsten Hudson, School of Design and Art, Curtin University, Bentley, Australia
  • Guy Ben-Ary, School of Anatomy & Human Biology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia
  • Mark Lawson, School of Design and Art, Curtin University Bentley, Australia
  • Ass. Prof. Stuart Hodgetts, School of Anatomy & Human Biology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

Full text (PDF) p. 433-436