[ISEA2011] Paper: Patricia Adams – Corporeal_Expressions: tracing both biomedical and emotional links from an artistic perspective


What issues are involved in twenty-first century representations of corporeality from an artistic perspective? What parameters and methodologies are required when contemporary biotechnology and neuroscience are rapidly changing the ways we see ourselves and actively remodeling the human body? These questions drive my research and have formed the basis of my art/science practice. They are discussed here in relation to my artworks and as part of my continuing investigations into what constitutes “humanness” in both the biotechnical and virtual domains.

My cross-disciplinary art/science projects, my methodologies and my aims are illustrated here. Central to my explorations is the juxtaposition of what is commonly termed “hard” scientific research with artistic re-interpretations of the resulting research data. These readings of experimental research image data are sensual and arouse emotional empathy between the viewer/participant and the artwork content. In this way they raise questions about contemporary biomedical research and current socio-cultural issues.

For the ‘machina carnis’ cross-disciplinary collaboration with a biomedical scientist I experimented on my unscreened adult stem cells. The fundamental practical and theoretical investigations informing this innovative research model were:

  1. What will occur if a visual artist engages with biomedical engineering as a first-person researcher?
  2. Can two customarily divergent disciplines create hybrid spaces where scientific research can be interrogated by an artist?

These questions are extended and re-examined in the context of the artwork: ‘Changing Fates_matrilineal’. This artwork introduces the discourse surrounding female genetic inheritance through mitochondrial DNA in connection with more ephemeral human residues and traces contained in material possessions and personal memories. Once again, the aim of this exploratory project was to generate individual engagement at the interstices between a participant’s personal experiences and the symbolic traces embedded in the remediated image data. Most recently the ‘mellifera’ project has explored corporeality and identity through both real-time and virtual sites and also a variety of participatory tropes. In all these examples of completed artworks, the use of technologies is discrete and the affective qualities are featured – with a particular focus on the feelings they arouse – creating layered networks of physical, emotional and sensory artwork encounters.

  • Dr. Patricia Adams is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, RMIT University School of Art, Melbourne and a visiting artist at the Visual & Sensory Neuroscience Group, Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland. She has worked at the art/science nexus for over ten years and her doctoral research project involved a cross-disciplinary collaboration with a biomedical scientist during which she explored the impact of experimental techniques in biomedical engineering on expressions of corporeality. Here, Trish personalised her engagement with the scientific data, and was the first artists to take the unscreened source material for her experiments from her own body in the form of adult stem cells from her blood. During her research Trish poses questions about what it means to be human in the twenty-first century, and the ways in which our understanding of ourselves will be changed by contemporary biotechnical developments. Her ongoing interest in corporeality and constructs of the “self” led her into neuroscience where she participated in experiments on the European Honey bee. In the recent mellifera project, with artist/researcher Dr. andrew Burrell,  this research has been incorporated into explorations into digital “presence” in Second Life and real-time and virtual participant interactivity. In addition to her artworks Trish has presented her research outcomes through publications and at conferences such as: New Constellations: Art, Science & Society, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2006; Perth Digital Art & Culture Conference, 2007; ISEA2008,  Eye of the Storm, Tate Britain, 2009; ISEA2011 and Virtual Anatomies, The University of Queensland, 2011. trishadams.tv

Full text (PDF) p. 17-22