This presentation will discuss the challenging nature of making art with microbial pathogens in an era of global epidemics and fears of bioterrorism. I present a series of artworks that explore the physical, emotional and political relationships between humans and Candida albicans (an opportunistic fungal pathogen of humans). These relationships span immunology and epidemiology, sexuality (both human and microbial), public health and body discipline, institutional frameworks and the biopolitical implications of the recent revolution in our understanding of the human body as being at least half non-human. In addition to the challenges of working with pathogens, the rapid simplification of genetic engineering technologies (eg the Bento Lab, “an easy-to-use, laptop-sized DNA analysis laboratory”) and increasing commodification of human microbes (eg fecal transplantation) raises complex questions about whether these organisms have ethical standing: are they living or merely machines? This presentation will ask the audience to consider the perspective of the microbe, of the pathogen, as a creature that is more-than-human, through a series of artworks developed in a microbiological laboratory.
- Tarsh Bates, SymbioticA, The University of Western Australia