Located at the School of Anatomy & Human Biology, University of Western Australia, SymbioticA is an artistic laboratory dedicated to the research, learning and critique of life sciences.
It is the first research laboratory of its kind, in that it enables artists to engage in wet biology practices in a biological science department. 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.
One of the main aims of SymbioticA is to democratize this knowledge through the workshops, courses and residencies it offers. By disseminating the know-how of the life sciences and biotechnology to artists, philosophers, ethicists and other interested people SymbioticA assists in creating a platform that actively engages in proposing different directions in which this technology can be employed.
While not claiming exclusivity or superiority of any one approach to artistic engagement with the life sciences, SymbioticA favours researchers that can utilise the resources it has access to. Having access to scientific laboratories and tools, SymbioticA is in a unique position to offer these resources for artistic research. What makes the hands-on approach to biologically based art exceptional is in that it produces actual manifestations of contestable ideas. In a sense this art is "philosophy in action". In a society so saturated with, and desensitized to visual representations shown in all kinds of media, this type of art deals with the direct, and sometimes visceral, presentation of processes and outcomes of life manipulation. This direct experience, of both the artists who develop the work, and the audiences which are exposed to it, generates a reaction and a discourse that could not have been achieved by traditional representative media.