Visceral Art

The semi-living dolls will be killed at the end of the exhibition. Image: Patrick Bolger, Science Gallery

I am truly disappointed that I have only just been made aware of an art exhibition that closes today in Trinity College, Dublin before I have had a chance to go and visit.

“Visceral: The Living Art Experiment” is series of exhibits that challenge us to consider the boundaries between art and biotechnology.

SymbioticA, a leading art-science lab based in Perth at The University of Western Australia led by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, has become internationally celebrated for its pioneering and provocative experiments in art and science based on a deep understanding of the scientific processes and ethical issues involved.

You can get a sense of the diversity of inspiring displays here in the video of the exhibit.

My favourite would have been the Semi-Living Worry Dolls – inspired by the Guatemalan tradition of giving children “worry dolls” to whisper their fears and concerns to, the curators hand crafted dolls out of degradable polymers (PGA and P4HB) and surgical sutures. The dolls were seeded with living cells that throughout the exhibition, eventually replaced the polymers to form a living body. Visitors were invited to whisper their worries to the dolls. At the end of the exhibit today, the worry dolls will effectively die as the display is disassembled!

According to Dr Zurr, the exhibits focus on many ethical, philosophical, and political issues, such as the reduction of life to raw material that can be engineered, reducing life to information, the respect of humans and other animals, and environmental ethics.

I also think that these exhibits encapsulate many of the visceral responses we experience when we encounter violations of our intuitive biological and psychological reasoning that I described in SuperSense.

Thank you to Kylie Sturgess (Podblack) for bringing this wonderful exhibit to my attention.

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