Tarsh Bates is interested in the body as material and as a site of intervention, in evocative objects, and in the aesthetics of care: embodied encounters that are durational, affective, relational, proximal, and particular. Her practice is concerned with the aestheticisation of reproductive bodies, our capacity for alternative possibilities for care and reproduction, and the ambiguities of reproductivity in a biotechnological era. Bates explores these concepts through biology, sculpture and performance, using artistic and scientific tools to explore the nexus of bodies, ethics and culture.
In vitero is an artistic research project contributing to Tarsh’s Master of Science (Biological Art) at SymbioticA, Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia, which examines the evolution of ‘somatic semantics’ or ways of understanding through bodies. The project is an experiment in the aesthetics of care, which investigates the potential that sustained proximity and care can offer in exploring the relationship between the carer and cared-for. Aesthetic experiences of care are explored through prolonged engagement with eight other species of living organisms housed in customised glass vessels. The organisms, commonly used in reproductive biology, include fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), thrush (Candida albicans), thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), red bread mold (Neurospora crassa), soil nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans), water fleas (Daphnia pulex), slime mold (Physarum polycephalum), hydra (Hydra vulgaris) and tarsh, (Homo sapien sapiens).
In vitero is a durational performance occuring in two locations: a scientific laboratory at UWA and a public studio at PICA. After two and a half months in the laboratory, the project moves into Studio Two at PICA and will be open to the public throughout the residency. The organisms will be installed in the gallery in their customised vessels and the artist will live in the gallery with them. During this time at PICA Tarsh Bates proposes to engage in necessary and often mundane activities required for the care of the organisms and herself. Audience members are invited to participate, to spend time with and care for the organisms.
Tarsh Bates is interested in the potential that sustained proximity and care can offer in creating intimacy between the carer and cared-for. How do our behaviours change when we care for other bodies? What does it mean to care for fruit flies, slime mould, daphnia, hydra, or soil nematodes in a gallery? Is it possible to develop a different relationship between Candida albicans (commonly known as thrush) and humans by caring for it? How do we care for creatures that are not cute, furry or even visible? Is it appropriate – or ethical – to contain organisms in glass terrariums and keep them for our own purposes, aesthetic, cultural, educational or scientific?
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In vitero is an ArtScience research project enabled by SymbioticA, the Centre of Excellence in Biological Art, UWA. It has received generous support from the Tea Tree Oil Research Group; Microbiology & Immunology, UWA; the School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University; the Aquatic Ecology & Ecosystem Studies, SESE, UWA; Plant Energy Biology, UWA; & the SABC, Murdoch University.
Tarsh Bates’ studio will be open to the public Tues- Sun, 11am-6pm from 3 September-30 October.