Fluxmedia’s researchers WhiteFeather Hunter and Tristan Matheson will present Biomateria + Contagious Matters, from November 2, 2015 to December 11, 2015.
FOFA Gallery, Main Space, Black Box and Ste-Catherine’s street Vitrine
Biomateria + Contagious Matters is a vital materialist mixed media and digital installation of works on the themes of contagion theory and microethnography, haptic epistemologies/ communications and microecologies. Tristan Matheson’s work specifically navigates 3D cellular environments as a lived experience for viewers, that reflect communicative concepts found in social theory. These concepts are applied to pathogenic worlds recreated in large format, using cancer cells as actants through the use of time-lapse technology. WhiteFeather Hunter’s work specifically comments on the relationship between nonhuman agents (cell forms) and human technological and creative industry through the production of craft-based textile forms enculturated with mammalian tissue cells. The premise of the exhibition is to explore areas of overlap between technologies that manipulate bodies, life and material existence, as well as digital (new material) interpretations of those relationships.
For Biomateria, WhiteFeather had engineered unique biotextile forms, beginning with miniature horsehair and human haircloths, handwoven on 3D-printed looms in sterile biosafety lab environments. The textiles are immersed in cell culture media in petri dishes and seeded with human bone cancer and connective tissue cells, which use the weavings as scaffolds for growth. These forms present new ways of growing mammalian tissue in vitro. Hacking the laboratory apparatus and negotiating institutional bureaucracy is also an essential part of the work. This project has been supported by residencies at SymbioticA Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts (University of Western Australia), Fluxmedia (Concordia University) and the Pelling Lab for Biophysical Manipulation (uOttawa).
Part of WhiteFeather’s work also includes weaving image-based Jacquard cloths of the microscopic ecologies. These works collectively speak to the role of haptic intelligence: both human material fluency through hands-on making, and the congruent haptic epistemologies of nonhuman agents (cells) as they reach towards each other, make membranous contact and connect to intersecting fibres in order to build living structures.
Contagious Matters associates biological matter, specifically cancer cells, with the concept of contagion, via using Tristan’s working methodology: microethnography. This method-in-development, in its relational co-existence with ethnography, navigates or explores the micro world by examining micro matters’ social activities. The re-suspension of the concept of contagion through both the sciences and the social sciences via this hybrid methodology will hopefully bring to light new methods of evaluating micro matter- apart from the human experience alone. The installation merges technology, science, art and culture through the use of traditional artistic media/practice and scientific media/practice. The visual use of the developing methodology attempts to capture the concept of contagion via cancer’s movement and rapid growth within its ecology, allowing viewers to think about the concept of contagion as a social event and not merely as a physiological one. Viewers of this multi-media installation will examine cancer culture via three elements; an audio narrative by the artist’s mother who had co-existed with cancer, a static painted “portrait” of cancer, and a video projected onto the painting reflecting upon material discourse. This fusion of the seen and unseen, between the micro and the macro worlds, reverses itself in this creative exploration, where the voice is a mere aural presence versus that of the seen micro matter.