SLSA: Figurations of Knowledge Conference :: Ionat Zurr

3 – 7 June 2008, Berlin Germany I have received a grant from the Australian Network for Art and Technology which assisted me in flying and attending the European Conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA): Figurations of Knowledge.  ‘SLSA consists of colleagues in the sciences, engineering, technology, computer science, medicine, the social sciences, the humanities, the arts, and independent scholars and artists. SLSA members share an interest in problems of science and representation, and in the cultural and social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine.’ The artistic component, as part of the SLSA conference, is gaining more interest and substance every year and is becoming an important research methodology to explore the themes above.

Prominent scholars and artists are attending the conference and/or presenting papers. For example, Christine Borland and Barbara Stanford presented in the Figuration of Knowledge meeting.

As my practice deals extensively with the changing understandings and changing perceptions of life, partial life and synthetic life I chose to be part of the stream titled Vitality – Contours and Boundaries between Life and Death. In my presentation I explored the interdependent relations between the “life” component and the membrane that hosts it; suggesting that in many ways it is the “container” which enabled and defined it. I’ve related my talk to recent artistic expression in biological life, including my own work with living tissues (semi-living entities), other works created by residents and students in SymbioticA as well as the recent work by Craig Venter’s company in which they attempt to create “life” from scratch (referring mainly to the Mycoplasma laboratorium).

The conference was attended by some of my colleagues, artists and scholars in related fields. The artists Kira O’Reilly, Jennifer Willet, Tagny Duff and Verena Kaminiarz, scholars such as Monika Bakke (who has written and discussed Oron Catts and my piece “NoArk”), Suzanne Anker (who co-wrote the book titled: The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age), Prof. Dr. Robert Zwijnenberg  and Dr. Miriam van Rijsingen, Directors of Art and Genomics Centre in the Netherlands, and more.

Attending the conference enabled me to meed these people and discuss further opportunities and collaborations with them.

Being in Berlin, I was able to thoroughly explore the medical museum (one of the conference streams ran within the beautiful surroundings of this museum). I could also visit Berlin’s galleries and view the artistic works shown as part of the Berlin Festival 2008.

In general, this trip was enriching on many levels; learning new discourses in the field of Art and Science and Art and Life, meeting colleagues, networking, and the ability to view, first hand, contemporary art.

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