A collaboration between six artists and scientists led to the creation of Future Emerging Art and Technology (FEAT), a science-themed art exhibition at the LifeSpace Science Art Research Gallery at the University of Dundee in Scotland. The exhibition aims to “explore, engage and communicate new technologies to the widest possible audiences, opening up societal discussions, raising awareness and making them more accessible.”
“The works in this exhibition are a challenge to scientists in more than one way. Firstly, they ask us to understand the content of complex research projects involving new technologies from a totally different perspective, that of the artist. For instance, how can a performance art work tell us what supercomputing entails? Secondly they suggest the potential of involving artists in scientific research projects to create engaging, persuasive and experimental reflections on the bigger picture – the real-world implications of that research, at a human scale.” – Dr. Sarah Cook, LifeSpace Curator
FEAT features works exploring gene regulation, quantum physics and underwater robotics to name a few, boasting a diverse collection of mediums including simulations, visualizations, performances and sculptures. The artist included in FEAT are boredomresearch (Vicky Isley and Paul Smith), Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand, Anna Dumitriu, Špela Petrič and Miha Turšič, Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt), and Pinar Yoldas.
Art the Science interviewed several of the artists about their practice and creative process for FEAT.
ATS: What was working on FEAT like?
Miha Turšič: My experience with FEAT was one of the most fulfilling and full of surprises. Being confronted with totally different mindsets, methodologies, insights and reflections introduced me to new levels of understanding mutualities of intersections between arts and sciences.
ATS: Which came first in your life, the science or the art?
Semiconductor: We trained as fine artists. Before working together we both had an interest in the physical world and how we experience it. Through wanting to initially explore beyond the limits of perception we turned to the tools and processes of science to reveal matter that we can’t experience. Doing this led us to researching in many science labs where we started to become more interested in science as a process and asking more philosophical questions of science.
ATS: What materials do you use to create your artworks?
Semiconductor: We work mostly with the moving image, we came to it by wanting to introduce time into the physical world and reveal it as being in a constant state of flux. We use a combination of materials to achieve this including computer generated animation, where we have developed our own approach and techniques to exploring how we experience the natural; physical world through the tools and processes of science.
Anna Dumitriu: For my FEAT project I worked with altered historical artefacts, textile, CRISPR tools, antibiotic agars, and E. coli bacteria. Specifically my work “Make Do and Mend” references the 75th anniversary of the first use of penicillin in a human patient in 1941 and takes the form of an altered antique wartime women’s suit marked with the British Board of Trade’s utility logo CC41, which stands for ‘Controlled Commodity 1941’ meaning that the use of materials has been deemed to meet the government’s austerity regulations. The holes and stains in the suit have been patched and embroidered with silk, patterned with E. coli bacteria grown using a dye-containing growth medium, forming pink colonies or spots. The genomes of these E. coli bacteria have been edited using a technique called CRISPR to remove an ampicillin antibiotic resistance gene and repaired using a technique called homologous recombination to scarlessly patch the break with a fragment of DNA encoding the WWII slogan “Make Do and Mend”, which encouraged housewives to repair their clothes during the wartime rationing period.
We now face a serious global problem of antibiotic resistance as disease-causing bacteria evolve mechanisms to resist our attempts to destroy them, and the wonder drugs, such as penicillin, no longer work. This is in some part because we have misused these drugs since we kick-started the arms race of the antibiotic age in 1941. Our antibiotic stocks have not been protected as the ‘controlled commodities’ they should have been. As a counterpoint today’s governments now seek to control the use of CRISPR, but this is difficult because of its accessibility and potential to revolutionize biotechnology.
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