Ghost Biologies
Ghost Biologies


Dr Eliza Burke







Ghost Biologies

Date: 07-May-2016 – 05-Jun-2016

Location: Contemporary Art Tasmania


In recent years, the term ‘organic’ has gained a particular currency within a variety of cultural domains. Conveying ideals of eco- or bio- logical purity, it occupies a complex conceptual space informing debates from environmental protection to the manufacture of consumer products. This space has emerged alongside significant developments in synthetic biology often described in a future-driven language of ‘new frontiers’ and ‘cutting edge advances’. New scientific practices such as genetic engineering and 3D bio-fabrication challenge us to adequately describe the ethical and aesthetic dilemmas that they entail. Alongside such challenges, a less certain, but no less audible, discourse about endangerment and the survival of ecosystems has emerged, expressing the need to protect species losses and restore our environments, and to look to history as well as to the future for new perspectives.

Ghost Biologies brings together five artists whose work engages with some of these challenges. Through a range of media including live biomaterials, photographs and audio recordings, the works foreground the intricacies of organic processes as a matter of urgency.
Exploring the boundaries between science and art they illuminate the unconscious of the scientific enterprise – the echoes of past practices on existing and future biologies and the uncanny traces of bio-materials when origins are uncertain. Through the decay of a cane toad, collected traces of extinct bird song, the growth of new bio-material forms and the taxidermied specimen the works question whether, in the drive towards new bio-technologies, biology has developed its own haunted domain.


Quotes from the curatorial essay:

‘Through different biologies disconnected from their host organisms and a preoccupation with trace elements, the works harbor uncanny reminders of what we thought we knew or have forgotten, or harbingers of what we have not yet understood.’

‘As we confront new practices of genetic engineering and 3D bio-fabrication it seems increasingly difficult to sustain nature/culture as a binary that can adequately describe the mechanics of these practices or the ethical and aesthetic dilemmas that they entail.’

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