Artist: Elaine Whittaker
Screened For and the animation Screened were exhibited as part of the installation Shiver at the Red Head Gallery in Toronto in April 2015. The works were highlighted on the Art & Science Collaborations Inc. website when Elaine Whittaker was their August (2015) member feature and interview. Opening in November (2015) three pieces, including Screened for Plague, Screened for Influenza and Screened for Rotavirus were in the BioArt exhibit at the Gwacheon National Science Museum in Seoul, South Korea. Four pieces, Screened for West Nile Virus, Screened for Tuberculosis, Screened for Malaria, and Screened for SARS, were on display in the art and science show entitled Compendium, at the Islip Art Museum on Long Island New York in December (2015). The works were also highlighted for an interview by Laura Horne-Gaul for Tussle Magazine, and in a review by David Saric for ArtToronto.ca.
All Images: 2015, 16” x 16” , Digital Prints
Copyright © Elaine Whittaker 2015
SCREENED FOR – ALGORITHM-BASED VIDEO
Artist Biography: Elaine Whittaker
Inspired by an aesthetic of life in which art, science, medicine and ecology intersect, Elaine Whittaker’s transdisciplinary works consider biology as contemporary art practice. Recent works have centred on the aesthetics of disaster, the fear of pandemics, and on the body as a site of infection reflecting on narratives and elements of anxiety that are found in popular culture, scientific research, and personal experience.
Her art is principally based in installation, and includes sculpture, painting, digital imagery and sound. It has been shown in solo and group exhibits, nationally and internationally, encompassing themes of water, blood, biotechnology, the genome, AIDS, cloning, climate change and infectious disease. These include, among others, Gwacheon National Science Museum (South Korea), Islip Art Museum (USA), Ontario Science Centre (Toronto), Dublin Science Gallery (Ireland), ARC Gallery (Chicago, USA), Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art (Winnipeg), and the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (USA). She has been an invited participant in residencies, workshops and festivals on science, art and medicine, and her artwork is featured in William Myers book, BioArt: Altered Realities (2015), and on blogs, websites, literary, academic, and medical periodicals. She is represented by the Red Head Gallery in Toronto, Canada.
Are we our diseases? Is the world just one big petri dish incubating the source of its ultimate destruction? Screened For is a series of digital prints that turns fear of the viral, of the microbial, and of impending pandemics, into beauty. Larger than life portraits depict the artist wearing protective mouth and nose masks painted with an array of microbial infectious diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis, SARS, and West Nile Virus. With eyes peering out tentatively, the viewer is confronted with questions: are the very devices we employ to protect ourselves providing the safety we need when faced with the rampant spread of infections and disease? What constitutes true protection? Can disease be truly beautiful? Ultimately, Screened For asks viewers to consider that fear and beauty reside in an uncomfortable dialectic, in this precarious time of contagions, epidemics and bioterrors.
Screened For takes inspiration from several scientific disciplines, including Clinical Microbiology, Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology and Public Health. Whittaker’s colourful re-interpretations of science illustrations, traditionally used to depict pathogenic imagery, preserve a long established link between art and science. The artist brings elements of health science to Screened For by using standard protective equipment as a canvas for her work. Wearing each mask, allows for a physical association between pathogens and diseases, rather than focusing on their symptoms. The very foundation of health related research is conceptually addressed in this artwork, which confronts a ubiquitous fear of our own mortality.
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