SymbioticA BioArt Workshop, Bangalore

Three delegates from the SymbioticA workshop pose in lab coats and gloves.
Oron Catts & Gary Cass, SymbioticA, Biotech Art Workshop, Bangalore, 2005.

India's first intensive Biological Art Workshop and Masterclass National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore

Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, in collaboration with The Arts Catalyst and SymbioticA, organised an intensive five-day workshop for artists and others interested people. Led by SymbioticA’s Director Oron Catts and his scientific collaborator Greg Cozens from the University of Western Australia.

This hands-on workshop demonstrated the tools of modern biology through artistic engagement, which in turn gives voice to the broader philosophical and ethical exploration into the extent of human intervention with other living things. It involves exploration of biological technologies and issues stemming from their use, and serves as a theoretical and practical introduction to the creation of biological art and is aimed at educating artists from India in issues of biotechnology and the life sciences.

The workshop covered hands-on engagement with these technologies in order to be able to carry out and critique manipulation of living systems from an informed practical perspective. The practical components include DNA extraction and fingerprinting, genetic engineering, plant and animal tissue culture and basic tissue engineering techniques.

The workshop will present work of contemporary artists dealing with biotechnology. Scientists will be involved discussing ethical issues raised by artists' work in this area and leading visit to NCBS laboratories. At the end of the week, the ideas explored in the workshop will be opened out with a public discussion event at a venue to be announced in Bangalore.


Attendance at the workshop was by selection through open submission or by invitation made by Srishti, SymbioticA, the artist in residence at NCBS, and The Arts Catalyst's curator, currently in residence at Srishti. Artists are expected to be available and present for the entire week-long workshop, as this is an intensive process of learning and social interaction.

The organisers believe that the effects of the workshop will be felt in the long-term, as the artists, having learned the technology, will start working on their own biotech projects, or at least feel their work is informed by the experience.

About SymbioticA

SymbioticA is part of The School of Anatomy and Human Biology, Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, University of Western Australia. SymbioticA is an artistic laboratory dedicated to the research, learning and critique of life sciences. SymbioticA is the first research laboratory of its kind, in that it enables artists to engage in wet biology practices in a biological science department.

SymbioticA sets out to provide a situation where interdisciplinary research and other knowledge and concept generating activities can take place. It provides an opportunity for researchers to pursue curiosity-based explorations free of the demands and constraints associated with the current culture of scientific research while still complying with regulations. SymbioticA also offers a new means of artistic inquiry, one in which artists actively use the tools and technologies of science, not just to comment about them, but also to explore their possibilities.

Links to the organisers' websites

National Centre for Biological Science, Bangalore

The workshop was supported by

The School of Anatomy and Human Biology, and Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, University of Western Australia, NCBS and the Sir Rattan Tata Trust.