Biomess celebrates the diversity of natural and designed life and challenges our perceptions of its strangeness.
Media: Natural History specimens, such as taxidermy, fixed and in formaldehyde; Luxury display cases; A bioreactor – holds a flask with hybridoma cells.
Biomess celebrates the diversity of life and challenges our perceptions of its strangeness by transforming life forms into objects of desire.
The artwork is part of a significant body of work by Catts and Zurr whose practice centres on working with life or living systems as a medium for artistic expression both as a material and as subject matter. In this installation, natural history specimens sourced in collaboration with curators of natural history collections are encased within immaculate luxury retail display cases. Over the course of the three year national tour of this exhibition, these specimens will be replaced with new specimens sourced from local natural history collections on the tour itinerary. Alongside the cases, an unfamiliar apparatus – a bioreactor – holds a flask with hybridoma cells, which are a type of lab-made hybrid cell line used for research and the production of antibodies.
There are many naturally occurring organisms that do not conform to human notions of identity, self, individuality, gender, sex and reproduction. Through biotechnology, new constructed lifeforms defy scientific and cultural classification systems and escape the lab to become a medium for artistic and consumer products. The frequent allusions to “natural” and “unnatural” in cultural debates of identity and gender seem entirely unwarranted when confronted with the incredible diversity of natural and artificial lifeforms. The specimens on display within the high-end retail cabinets point to the increasing commodification of all life forms whether naturally occurring or lab-made alluding to extractive approaches humans exercise towards life and living systems.
By placing these exquisite cabinets and the bioreactor in the gallery context we are asked to consider our attitudes to and the implications of life forms as art. The installation’s “monstrous” hybrid of cultures, aesthetics and values acts as both a loose narrative and a critique of the anthropocentric and consumerist view of life.
This artwork was developed at SymbioticA, School of Human Sciences, The University of Western Australia.
The Tissue Culture & Art Project
Award winning artists, researchers and curators, Catts and Zurr formed the internationally renowned Tissue Culture & Art Project in 1996.