Session: Day 1, Stream 3


Life…but not as we know it


Oron Catts


Oron Catts: SymbioticA, University of Western Australia, Australia

Sam Fox: Hydrapoesis, Perth, Australia

Cat Hope: Decibel/Edith Cowan University, Australia

Nigel Helyer: Sonic Objects, Australia

Guy Ben-Ary: SymbioticA, University of Western Australia, Australia

Benjamin Forster: artist, Perth



Semipermeable explores the membrane as a site, metaphor and platform, with SymbioticA (UWA) acting as a quarantine zone to test cultural and biological membranes and borders.

From the earliest life forms to newest life to be created, the membrane acts as the definition of self. The membrane is active, selective and fragile. The most fundamental requirement for life is an intelligent barrier that selectively separates the inside from the outside, a way to allow useful resources, materials and information in, while keeping the undesirable out. Scientists working on developing protolife and synthetic life are researching the importance of the membrane in the communication, development and specialisation of cells.

This physical, biological membrane has become a powerful metaphor for other systems, including cultural, political, national and economical. Humans have evolved a high dependency on edge detection; the strongest visual (and auditory) cues deal with where one thing ends and another begins. This is also how humans tend to arrange – from perceptions of individual self to societies and nations.

In Semipermeable (v.1) physical theatre, media and sound disciplines interact with biological possibilities and scientific modes of research to explore notions of containment, hybridisation and contested zones. A space where creative, political, social and biological disciplines illuminate collaborative opportunities as artistic practice, Semipermeable reflects on:
* native/ introduced
* pure/hybrid
* puncturing the body/puncturing the nation
* parasitic/symbiotic
* protolife/synthetic life

The semipermeable membrane is gaining importance in scientific research including attention directed at developing ‘intelligent’ barriers. It is now time to culturally articulate and re-visit the notion of the membrane.



Oron Catts

Oron Catts is an artist, researcher and curator whose pioneering work with the Tissue Culture and Art Project, which he established in 1996, is considered a leading biological art undertaking. In 2000 Catts Co-founded SymbioticA, an artistic research centre in the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology at The University of Western Australia. He is currently the Director of SymbioticA, a Visiting Professor of Design Interaction at the Royal College of Arts, London, and a Visiting Professor at Aalto University’s Biofilia- base for Biological Arts, Helsinki. Catts’ work reaches beyond the confines of art, often being cited as an inspiration in areas as diverse as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction and food.

Sam Fox

Sam Fox is a performance maker who draws on his dance, visual theatre and writing practice to create hybrid works that entail finely crafted challenges for audiences. Sam is committed to a dual practice of facilitating creative engagement and collaborative projects in community alongside his original contemporary performance practice. Sam is the founder/director of Hydra Poesis which explores critical exchange and inquiry with audiences and is a BA Dance Graduate of WAAPA (2003). While building his own performance practice Sam has developed as a facilitator and producer of multi-arts, community based projects, festivals and research programs.

Cat Hope

Cat Hope is a composer, sound artist, performer and academic. She is a classically trained flautist, self taught vocalist and experimental noise bass player with an active performance profile as a soloist and in music groups. She is the director of the internationally recognised music group Decibel and has toured internationally as a noise artist. Her installations have been show at ISEA (Japan, Tallin), Liquid Architecture, the Totally Huge New Music Festival, the Perth International Arts Festival and in Singapore, USA, Japan and Finland. Cat is currently a researcher at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University.

Nigel Helyer

Dr Nigel Helyer (a.k.a. DrSonique) is an independent sculptor and sound-artist. He is the director of a small multidisciplinary team Sonic Objects; Sonic Architecture which has forged an international reputation for large scale sound-sculpture installations, environmental public artworks, museum inter- actives and new media projects. His practice is strongly interdisciplinary, linking a broad platform of creative practice with scientific research and development manifest as works that embrace both the natural and social environment.

Nigel is a longstanding collaborator and advisor to SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia, realising such projects as GeneMusiK, the insect installation Host and as Artistic Director of the infamous LifeBoat project 2004-2006.

Guy Ben-Ary

Guy Ben-Ary is an artist and researcher based at SymbioticA, an artistic laboratory dedicated to research, learning and hands-on engagement with the life sciences, located within the University of Western Australia. Recognised internationally as a major artist and innovator working across science and media arts, Ben-Ary specialises in biotechnological artwork, which aims to enrich our understanding of what it means to be alive.

Benjamin Forster

Benjamin Forster (born 1985 Canberra, Australia, lives in Perth) utilises drawing, digital and biological technologies, installation and print in order to trace the boundaries of logic, the function of economy and the role of the artist in art making. Forster’s recent solo exhibitions have been A Luminary Series of Records Played in Parallel, Perth Cultural Centre with Sohan Ariel Hayes (2012) and Rational, CCAS Manuka, Canberra (2010). Forster has also participated in the group exhibitions, NEW13, ACCA, Melbourne (2013), Primavera, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2012); Spatial Drawing, VENN Gallery, Perth (2012); and How to talk to a mountain, Paper Mountain, Perth (2012).