Synthetica | 2018 Science Festival

Synthetica Launch Special Event: 7pm-9pm, Fri 30th March

In partnership with the Edinburgh International Science Festival we would like to announce this year’s programme! Over the last few years we have been working with the Edinburgh International Science Festival and Summerhall to bring you a dynamic visual arts programme in addition to two weeks of jam packed hands-on art-science activities in ASCUS Lab. Click here for more info about our ASCUS Lab Science Festival Workshop Programme.

Join us for the launch of Synthetica at Summerhall for Science Festival 2018 the latest contemporary art exhibition for the Edinburgh International Science Festival that explores how our notions of the natural and the artificial may need to change in an era in which hybrid and synthetic life forms have come into existence.

Image credit: P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness (2016) Ting-Tong Chang

Synthetica Exhibition
31st March – 13 May 2017 | 11:00 — 18:00 Daily

What happens when art and science connect, when artists and scientists meet and collaborate?

Synthetica, a special contemporary art exhibition co-curated by Edinburgh International Science Festival, Summerhall and ASCUS Art & Science, will showcase the work of established international artists working in the field of bioart, including renowned bioartists Oron Catts, Dr Ionat Zurr and Marta de Menezes. Through works derived using the tools, techniques and often living tissues of scientific research, Synthetica will explore how our notions of the natural and the artificial may need to change in an era in which hybrid and synthetic life forms have come into existence.

As human beings, we have an incredibly strong sense of what we define as “alive”. We grow plants in our garden and know that they are alive. We skim our fingers across the ridged surface of a wooden countertop and know that it is not alive. Yet, as scientists study the nature of living things, working on the frontier that separates living things from everything else, the lines become blurred.

Now more than ever, the definition of life is a vital question that holds implications for vast branches of synthetic biology, genetic engineering and ultimately the search for life elsewhere in the universe. We live in an exciting time where life has become a raw material, for scientific and artistic purposes, and the possibilities for human health and human society are seemingly endless. But how does our culture, our society and even our language come to terms with these new ideas of life? Are we re-writing the working definitions of what is “alive”?

Scroll down to browse a summary of the contributing artists

Synthetica Exhibiting Artists

Image courtesy of Ting-Tong Chang

Ting-Tong Chang: Sciennes Galleries

Using robotic devices to simulate living animals, P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness brings lifelike characteristics to lifeless animal bodies. The sophisticated mechanism of each automaton contain within them a notion that life can be simulated by art and science. By blurring the line between the animate and the inanimate, these inventions embody a philosophical question to our perception of what makes a living being. This question posed by automatons is still a recurrent theme of science fiction; what we think of the future is in fact deeply rooted in the past.

Image courtesy of Marta de Menezes

Marta de Menezes: Meadows Galleries

A selection of works forms a brief retrospective on the incredible career of Marta de Menezes. The concept of identity and a dichotomy between the natural and the artificial are recurrent themes in Marta de Menezes’ practice. Beginning with Immortality for Two, the first collaborative work with her partner Luis Graça, which explores the reciprocal immortalisation of cells from two people in love, through to The Origin of Species, using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to alter living organisms that are the product of selective breeding and domestication, and ending with her latest work Truly Natural, that will confront you with a live genetically altered organism.

Image courtesy of Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr

Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr: War Memorial Library

Well-known bioartists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr (The Tissue Culture & Art Project) present their landmark work Pig Wings (2000). Advances in tissue engineering, xenotransplantation and genomics promise to render the living body as a malleable mass. Questioning the effect of these powerful technologies on the body and society, Pig Wings presents the first ever wing shaped objects grown using living pig tissue.

Pig Wings was developed at the Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and SymbioticA Laboratory at the University of Western Australia.

Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr and Tarsh Bates: War Memorial Library

Following a residency at the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology at the University of Edinburgh, Oron and Ionat, joined by Tarsh Bates, will present a work in progress exhibition, Crossing Kingdoms, poetically exploring the products of cross-kingdom cell fusion in synthetic biology. The work raises questions, through actual manipulation of life forms, about the practical and ontological nature and identity of novel organisms that fall outside scientific and cultural classification systems. In what ways do multi-kingdom cell fusions challenge our categories and understandings of life? How can they be taxonomised? What are the impacts on the envrionment and society? Crossing Kingdoms reflectively dwell into traversing tangible and conceptual borders of life and living systems.

In collaboration with the Cachat Lab (UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology, University of Edinburgh) and the Jamie Davies Lab (Deanery of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh). Supported by the Research Collaboration Award from the University of Western Australia.

Synthetica is supported by Creative Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund

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