Living artworks in bio-art exhibition

Until 15 December 2013, the exhibition of the winners of the Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award was on display at Raamsteeg2 in Leiden. Just the day after the opening, the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant already published a nice review by Casper van Veen: "This exposition in Leiden shows the works at the intersection of art and science. What can living cells in a display tell us about the world we live in?"

The exhibition shows the work of Charlotte Jarvis ('Ergo Sum'), Haseeb Ahmed ('Fish Bone Chapel') and Laura Cinti & Howard Boland ('Living Mirror') made in collaboration with three scientific institutes, Netherlands Proteomics Centre, Netherlands Toxigenomics Centre and FOM-Institute AMOLF respectively.

Charlotte Jarvis says in the article: "Look, this is him", while showing a video of a heart cell. "He has grown from stem cells out of my bottom. Can you see it beating?" Jarvis decided in 2012 to create a 'self portrait' from stem cells, cells that can grow into any kind of cell - you just have to program them well. Also read this blog about the project.

Artist-researcher Haseeb Ahmed chose a complete different approach within the same theme. His Fish Bone Chapel revives the memento mori-theme. Zebrafish are, because they are acting like an embryo the first five days of their existance, not official life forms. They are therefore often used in medical testing. Ahmed used toxics to mutate the skeletons of zebrafish. All substances he used are part of our daily life. Ahmed: "I believe that these substances can exist because of a human-centric world view. We use toxics without thinking what they can do to animals and our environment."

In the last chamber, the artist duo Howard Boland and Laura Cinti present their Living Mirror. It just looks no more than a flickering light, but this is deceptive. The artists collected bacteria and placed them in a magnetic field. When shining a light through them, these micro organisms themselves are creating the flickering effect, that is almost organic. "For our live, we are depending on these life forms. That's why this projection is a living Mirror of the human species just as well."

This project was made possible by a subsidy from the Creative Industries Fund NL. This KiiCS project was supported by the European Commission within the Seventh Framework Programme.

(With thanks to De Volkskrant)