RCA talks

Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr: Making Neolife – A Case for Contestable Design

26 January 2016 | 5pm

Kensington, Lecture Theatre 1

Free, booking required.

Royal College of Art Visiting Professors Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr will give a talk on Jan 26 called ‘Making Neolife – A Case for Contestable Design’. The talk, open to a public audience, will focus on the growing number of artists, designers and companies that are using living systems as materials, subjects and products for various ends (such as tissue engineering and synthetic biology). Catts and Zurr will highlight some of the most important philosophical and ethical considerations stemming from these new technological approaches.

Background: Catts and Zurr founded Symbiotic A, an artistic research lab at the University of Western Australia, Perth (as one of the worlds most isolated cities, a frontier spirit allows for truly ground-breaking experimentation), where life sciences and art meet. For example in 2003, they grew a piece of meat in the lab, 'Semi-Living Steak' and served it to diners at a museum in France. Their work raises serious questions about the nature of life and to consider the life that is simmering away in labs.

As artists, Catts and Zurr use the same tools as biologists, and their work is as much about cell biology as it is about art – they have grown wings from pig bones and made miniature dolls from mouse tissue. In 2008 a curator at MoMA needed to 'kill' one of their works of art – the thumb-sized jacket made from mouse tissue, part of their Victimless Leather project was growing so rapidly it was going to clog the incubation system that kept the other pieces alive.

Oron Catts is the Co-Founder and Director of SymbioticA: the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia and a Professor of Contestable Design at the Royal College for the Arts UK (2016).

Dr Ionat Zurr is researcher and SymbioticA’s academic co-ordinator. Both are Visiting Professors at Biofilia – Based for Biological Arts, Aalto University Finland (2015-2020). They are considered pioneers in the field of Biological Arts and publish widely, exhibit internationally and their work has been collected by MoMA New York.

Catts and Zurr currently based in London, as Visiting Professors to the RCA’s School of Design, from January 2016.

Catts & Zurr ideas and projects reach beyond the confines of art; their work is often cited as inspiration to diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction, and food.

They are both currently based in London, as Visiting Professors to the RCA’s School of Design, from January 2016.

Catts & Zurr ideas and projects reach beyond the confines of art; their work is often cited as inspiration to diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction, and food.