Shawn Bailey | Jennifer Willet
BIOTEKNICA is a not-for-profit artist collective founded by Shawn Bailey and Jennifer Willet in 2000. Its purpose is to investigate critically the ethics, aesthetics, and technological potential for new art forms that lie at the intersection of the arts and the biological sciences.
BIOTEKNICA began as a media studies and interventionist art project that projected its viewers into a future where designer organisms are generated on demand. The organisms produced by BIOTEKNICA are modeled on the Teratoma, an unusual cancerous growth containing multiple tissues like hair, skin, and nervous systems. Monstrous as this may seem, scientists today see the Teratoma as an instance of spontaneous cloning, and are conducting research on the Teratoma with the goal of developing future technologies. BIOTEKNICA both embraces and critiques biotechnology, considering the contradictions and deep underlying complexities that these technologies offer the future of humanity.
Since 2004 BIOTEKNICA has adopted a critical participatory methodology bringing our theoretical specimens out of their virtual environment and into biological science laboratories. Serving as Research Fellows at SymbioticA: the Art and Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at The University of Western Australia, Willet and Bailey began growing living prototypes that serve as new representations of the BIOTEKNICA product line. Here they commenced research with tissue culture protocols in the production of artwork as pioneered by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, of the internationally recognized Tissue Culture & Art Project and SymbioticA founders. In 2006, Bailey and Willet returned to SymbioticA and worked in collaboration with Catts and Zurr on a new project entitled Teratological Prototypes. The four artists successfully constructed and exhibited a complex functional laboratory installation for ISEA: Zero One San Jose in the summer of 2006.
BIOTEKNICA: LiveLifeLab is a new installation and durational performance that reflects BIOTEKNICA research and production to date. Here the traditional gallery setting serves multiple functions: exhibiting prototyped objects; video and digital print documentation; a live art performance site; and a tissue-engineering laboratory. In the context of LiveLifeLab, Bailey and Willet will conduct an ‘experiment’ of sorts (an art action) in which the two artists will construct a functional tissue culture lab in the gallery, and continue their ongoing research into creating new living art forms for the duration of the installation.
This work results from ongoing questions arising for artists working with specialized scientific protocols and confronts the problems of access – accountability – and specialization – that typically inhibit non-specialist engagement and understanding of the sciences.
LiveLifeLab is a propositional performance and installation that may result in transformative experimentation for the artists and viewers alike; or might simply fail, in infrastructure – material transfer agreements – sterility and/or aesthetics.
We wish to thank our supporters:
SSHRC, The Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada
The Canada Council for The Arts
CALQ, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec
SymbioticA, School of Anatomy and Human Biology at The University of Western Australia
The Banff Centre for the Arts