Science and art collide at RMIT Gallery with a new interactive bio-art exhibition that explores the metaphor of disease through playful and contemplative artworks.
Step into Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts and you will find a cabinet of curiosities laden with antique eyeballs and glass fish augmented with human eyes; a strange and grotesque interactive bio-art work of bruised skin and a $3 million particle accelerator generated by a banana.
Morbis Artis (17 November – 18 February 2017) is an exhibition that uses actual and metaphoric communicable diseases to explore the fractured relationship between human and non-human life.
RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said 18 interdisciplinary artists and researchers, staff and PhD candidates from RMIT and Deakin University had drawn upon different media to explore the metaphor of disease and the relationship between art and science.
"These artworks range from contemplative to playful, and yet simultaneously the artists treat disease with great beauty, rendering the subject both awfully malign and deliciously exquisite," Davies said.
RMIT Gallery will host the 2016 Ursula Hoff Contemporary Lecture – Hybrid Worlds: When Art and Science Collide – on Tuesday 22 November from 5.30-6.30pm.
Academics and artists Dr Drew Berry, Dr Jonathan Duckworth, Professor Angela Ndalianis and Professor Kim Vincs will address the challenges of identity, culture, and interspecies relationships in today's "super connected" global society.
Register now for Hybrid Worlds: When Art and Science Collide
In Morbis Artis, some artworks invite literal hands-on involvement, others are strictly hands-off. That especially applies to artist Chris Henschke's Song of the Phenomena, a large decommissioned and reactivated particle accelerator.
The RMIT lecturer in the School of Media and Communication sourced the machine from the old Australian Radiation Laboratory, and re-purposed it so that it quite literally interacts with sub-atomic phenomena in organic matter, such as the potassium in bananas and pomegranates, which can act as natural radiation sources.
"In an age where we fear the way anti-matter impacts upon the nature of everyday life and the workings of the cosmos, we see how the organic itself brings potential dissolution to the human world," Henschke said.
Curated by RMIT lecturer Darrin Verhagen and Deakin lecturer Sean Redmond, the artworks in Morbis Artis are set within current debates and concerns about what constitutes life, what counts a sentient being, and who gets to determine what lives are saved, punished, exploited and destroyed.
"This exhibition explores the thin doorway that exists between life and death in what is the vexing age of species and habitus destruction, and the increasingly permeable tissues of contemporary bodies," Verhagen said.
"Each installation is organically connected through the metaphor of disease or its actual manifestation as cancerous cell, toxic insect, or bruise."
Audiences can view large scale biomedical animations by Drew Berry from the Walter and Eliza Institute that combines cinema and science to reveal the microscopic worlds inside our bodies.
RMIT alumnus Harry Nankin explores the impact of the contemporary ecological crisis through a series of delicate gelatin silver film artworks created by exposure to starlight without a camera at Lake Tyrrell in northwest Victoria, an area that once served as a celestial observatory for the indigenous Boorong people.
On a lighter note, Cameron Bishop and Simon Reis's mechanical installation seeks to rid the art world of all diseased art.
This playful machine aesthetic re-mediates art "masterpieces" as they are pressed and turned through the machine, coming out cleaned of all impressionable colour, line and shape.
Story: Evelyn Tsitas