MATTER OF FLUX
WhiteFeather Hunter | Lyndsey Walsh | Shu Lea Cheang and Ewen Chardronnet
The group exhibition MATTER OF FLUX brings together three art projects by WhiteFeather Hunter, Lyndsey Walsh and Shu Lea Cheang with Ewen Chardronnet. The exhibited artworks critically reflect about nature, matter and health of female and nonbinary bodies through artistic and scientific research – exploring the use of menstrual serum for tissue culture, proposing new modes of care within the context of female and nonbinary health and discussing both traditional forms and new possibilities of reproduction. In context of the group exhibition, Art Laboratory Berlin will also realise a festival of the same title in June 2023 that seeks to initiate a wider network of and for female and nonbinary artists, scholars and cultural players in art, science and technology.
The project The Witch in the Lab Coat (since 2019) by artist and researcher WhiteFeather Hunter is a PhD research-creation and scientific research project (in progress) that explores the intersection of feminist witchcraft and tissue engineering through the development of a body- and performance-based laboratory practice. It is a work in progress until mid-2023, currently conducted at SymbioticA International Centre of Excellence in Biological Art at the University of Western Australia. The Witch in the Lab Coat includes the sub-project, Mooncalf, original research by WhiteFeather, which is a scientific and cultural exploration of the development of menstrual fluid for use in tissue culture, as well as multipotent stem cell isolation from menstrual blood. This research was featured by Merck/ Sigma-Aldrich for International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021, as part of their #nextgreatimpossible series. WhiteFeather is fortunate to be supported in her research by UWA supervisors Ionat Zurr, Stuart Hodgetts, and Tarsh Bates and the external supervisor François-Joseph Lapointe. Some related experiments were conducted at Pelling Lab with the support of Andrew Pelling.
Lyndsey Walsh’s project Self-Care explores the personal journey of the artist and reconciliation with their BRCA1 gene mutation diagnosis and the implications of preventative care measures on their sense of body image and notions of self-care. Self-Care is a device that imagines a reality where an individual can take on the caring responsibilities of their cancer, either before they have developed cancer or after it has been removed from their body. Through this device, the narrative of cancer as a bodily enemy is transformed into a narrative about caring systems. The individual/ wearer of the device is given an opportunity to learn about their cancer as an extension of their own self by adopting it with the use of a new technoscientific prosthesis. Self-Care is an artistic attempt to reckon with ruptures in identity caused by the rising use of genetic diagnostics in medicine. Using the artist’s own body, Self-Care weaves a narrative about health, gender, and identity that seeks to resist the confines of the medical gaze. The work features a specially designed chest binder housing living breast cancer cells, which allows the artist to take on the caring responsibilities of their cancer before it emerges in their body. Through this device, the artist explores caring systems and reclaims the potential violence done onto the breasts as liberation through nonbinary gender expression.
Shu Lea Cheang together with Ewen Chardronnet will show the project UNBORN0x9. The art project questions the development of foetuses in artificial wombs outside of the body (ectogenesis) and the cyborg future of parenting. The project explores the role of obstetric science in the increasingly technological experience of human reproduction, speculating on new types of bonding that may emerge with artificial wombs. Here, pregnancy is integrated into a high-tech vision of the body as a biological component of a cybernetic communication system. In collaboration with the echOpen fablab who engages in the development of open source and low cost echo-stethoscope with smartphone application, UNBORN0X9, forks the prototype of a creative tool and hacks the (for humans) inaudible ultrasonic waves in a sonic conversion that allows the interpretation of an audiovisual and ultrasonic emotional score by performers and musicians. UNBORN0x9 is a Future Baby Production, initiated by Shu Lea Cheang and Ewen Chardronnet along numerous collaborators, represents the common group effort to raise issues such as the possible impact of low cost echo-stethoscopy on Global Health issues, questions of access to healthcare and motherhood, ectogenesis and the technicisation of reproduction, and the back-and-forth between science-fiction imaginary and science in the making at large.
WhiteFeather Hunter is a multiple award-winning Canadian artist and scholar, holding an MFA in Fibres and Material Practices from Concordia University. She is currently a PhD candidate in Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia, supported by primary supervisors, Dr. Ionat Zurr (SymbioticA International Centre of Excellence in Biological Art, School of Human Sciences/ UWA School of Design), and Dr. Stuart Hodgetts (Spinal Cord Repair Lab, CELLCentral, UWA School of Human Sciences). Before commencing her PhD, WhiteFeather was founding member and Principal Investigator of the Speculative Life BioLab at the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University (Montreal) from 2016-2019. Her biotechnological art practice intersects technofeminism, witchcraft, micro and cellular biology with performance, new media and craft. Recent presentations include at Ars Electronica, Art Laboratory Berlin, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Royal College of Art London, Innovation Centre Iceland, and numerous North American institutions. WhiteFeather’s recent doctoral research into developing a novel menstrual serum for tissue engineering experiments was spotlighted by Merck/ Sigma-Aldrich for International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021 as part of their #nextgreatimpossible campaign.
Lyndsey Walsh is an American artist, designer, researcher and writer based in Berlin. Their practice primarily deals with new media as well as living and biological materials, and they implement many processes of artistic inquiry into hands-on laboratory experiments. Their work often places a critical lens on the politics and ethics of working with living materials and nonhuman and human “bodies”, as well as the knowledge systems that are built from them. Walsh has conducted artistic and design-based research in scientific laboratories around the world and has exhibited in Australia, United States, and Germany. They are currently a visiting scholar in the Hegemann research group at Humboldt Universtät zu Berlin’s Department of Experimental Biophysics and is supported by UniSysCat Cluster of Excellence. They are also an Art Writer for Unbore Collective, a BioArt collective based in the Netherlands.
Shu Lea Cheang is an artist and filmmaker whose work aims to re-envision genders, genres, and operating structures. Her genre-bending gender hacking art practices challenge the existing operating mechanisms and the imposed boundaries of society, geography, politics, and economic structures. Cheang constructs networked installation and multi-player performance in participatory impromptu mode. She drafts sci-fi narratives in her film scenario and artwork imagination. She builds a social interface with transgressive plots and an open network that permits public participation. As a net art pioneer, BRANDON (1998-1999) was the first work of web art commissioned and collected by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Ewen Chardronnet is a collective artist, author, journalist and curator. He’s currently production executive manager of art2m.eu think&do tank and editor-in-chief of the French/English bilingual web magazine Makery.info. In his work he is interested in practices, tactics and speculations that connect artistic research and scientific knowledge to the creation of social situations that intertwine discourses and shifts of perspectives in the very fabric of society. In 2015 he initiated the art/science platform Roscosmoe.org that accompanies the development of artistic works related to the marine environment and evolutionary biology. Ewen is also co-founder of the Laboratory Planet collective & journal and of the Aliens in Green associated project.
Opening night, exhibition Matter of Flux, Art Laboratory Berlin, 26 May 2023, photos: Tim Deussen:
Insight: Matter of Flux, reflecting on nature, matter & health of female & nonbinary bodies, in CLOT by Annique Cockerill (8 June 2023)
Matter of medicine? Matter of witchcraft?, in art-in-berlin by Lisa Rocke (7 June 2023)
Diskussion ums Phantom Baby : Ausstellung zur möglichen Zukunft des Gebärens, in Tagesspiegel by Vanessa Oberin (15 June 2023)
Kunst und Wissenschaft. Kreativ und konfrontativ im Labor, in Tagesspiegel by Martin Ballschak (10 Juli 2023); printed version, at „Wissenschaft in Berlin“ [Research in Berlin], p. B26