Versatile living art awarded

Eva James

The antlers on the wall on either side of the hall come from all over the world. The same thing goes for the audience - young men and women with fast glasses or flashy lipstick are sitting beside men in suit or a casual sweater. There is tension in the air. We are in the ‘Pesthuis’ at Naturalis for the announcement of the winners of the third edition of the Designers & Artists for Genomics Award, which rewards leading bio-art initiatives.

Three teams of artists and scientists will each receive a sum of 25,000 euros which they will use to carry out their project. Paul Voogt, director of Naturalis, announced that the projects will be presented at the new location of the museum in the center of Leiden - the first exhibition in the new building. Marleen Stikker (Waag) praises the artists: "You are all winners because you search for new approaches and discoveries. This is valuable knowledge to the Netherlands." Then she gives the stage to the 13 artists that each get three minutes to present their submission.

Glimpse into the world of bio-art
This edition of DA4GA has more entries than ever, mostly by artists from abroad, and the quality of the proposals is of a high standard. This is reflected in the presentations. We got a glimpse into the world of art with living material: a lollipop that makes nicotine taste dirty, clothing made from potato waste and fungi, a symbiotic machine and a blood library, DNA predictions, scientific pingpong and a telephone conversation between microsystems, a visualization of algae that light up when a scientific publication is popular and a family portrait of genetic code.

Three Winners
The awards are presented by Hans Clevers as the president of the KNAW, The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He hopes that the disciplines art and science will come closer together. He indicated that the richness and creativity that arise when the two worlds meet surprised him. The jury was also unanimous in its verdict. All winning projects showed a strong association seen between art and science, and lead to a promising collaboration.

Towards the exhibition
Living Mirror, Fishbone Chapel and Ergo Sum received the prizes. Living Mirror takes pictures of you and uses magnetic bacteria to display the image. Hans let us know that the jury is curious about how they will place the mirror in a historical context. When it comes to Ergo Sum - for which artist Charlotte Jarvis will publicly harvest stem cells from her own body as a political act to create a doppelganger - the jury is looking forward to the implementation - how will these small body parts be presented in Naturalis? The jury praised the Fish Bone Chapel for its versatility, but asks the team where they will put their focus on: the building itself or the educational aspect? In the following months the winners will work hard to finalize their projects - on to the exhibition in June!

Colja Laane, Director of NGI and co-initiator of DA4GA presented the prizes and mentions that a 4th edition will follow in 2013 and that he looks forward to the promising exhibition.

Haseeb Ahmed, one of the winners, will be presenting at our next Do It Together Bio. He worked at MIT and is now a research fellow at Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. He will present his work and his plan to grow a never dying liver in vitro.

About the author

  • Eva James worked as Communicaton Manager at Waag. In this function she was responsible for the external communication of the organisation.