New Alchemists

Australian and international artists combine art and science in a suite of video, installation, performance and sculptural works to test curator Dr Alicia King’s hypothesis that ‘biotechnologies don’t exist in a vacuum – they effect each and every one of us, and challenge our preconceptions of what life is and the way that we inhabit the world.’ Participating artists include; Art Orienté Objet (Marion Laval and Benoit Mangin) (France), Michaela Gleave (Aus), Ian Haig (Aus), Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr (Aus), (in collaboration with Corrie van Sice), Nadege Philippe-Janon (in collaboration with Bill Hart) (Aus), Thomas Thwaites (UK) and Lu Yang (China).


On film Arte Orienté Objet perform a blood serum transfusion from horse to woman in what looks to be a subterranean basement, quite befitting the controversial bio-experiment. Laval’s intention in May the Horse Live in Me was to put herself in the place of the animal; she feels that it is essential to this project to have a modified experience and is not satisfied with mere ‘illustration’.

Lu Yang seeks a moment of transcendence in her film Delusional Mandala. The protagonist/avatar is nude but ‘unsexed’ in the animated mindscape undergoing shock therapy to the brain. As the pulses increase the scenes become increasingly psychedelic and offer a meditation on biology, neurology, medicine, and theology.

The body is a battleground for Ian Haig. The artist is known for his low-fi and multi-media experiments that invite the audience to sit with feelings of attraction and repulsion to the human form and acknowledge that our bodies can be engineered for the better and yet degenerated by technology.

Michaela Gleave enjoys the entanglement of perception and natural phenomena – as the way we see the world affects our knowledge of the universe. We Are Made Of Stardust is literally a sign, but also a statement to this natural relationship experienced in the artificial surrounds of hot pink fluorescent light.

Sampling and taking leave from biology, humanity and technology the artists in ‘New Alchemists’ investigate the balance and subjectivity of artificial and sincere experiences. “The intent of the show isn’t to either glorify or condemn the use of technologies… working with technology, particularly biotechnology, motivation often comes from critically exploring areas that the science negates – the broader ethical and philosophical ramifications”, explained King.

While deeply involved with the physical and dark matter of human experience the artists on view suggest that which lies outside the category of ‘living’ is equally compelling.