SYMBIOTICA Sunlight, soil and shit

Next month biological arts pioneers SymbioticA will present Sunlight, Soil & Shit (De)Cycle (3SDC) – a provoking arts meets science project about the three elements in our utopian future that farming is trying to live without.

To be centred around a performative installation being held at PS Art Space in Fremantle from Saturday, February 5 until Saturday, February 26, audiences can witness a technological food cycle firsthand over the course of a three-week experiment, which will see sunshine, soil and shit removed, in favour of artificial light, substrates, and fertilizers.

As well as the 3SCD installation created by SymbioticA’s co-founders Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts in collaboration with artist and creative coder Steve Berrick, the project also includes a symposium; ticketed pop-up dining experience with culinary masters Fervor; and panel discussions to be webcast as part of The Seed Box’s The Community Garden – an environmental humanities festival to be held in Sweden.

SymbioticA are no strangers to food technology. In 2000, the team were internationally recognised as the first to grow meat in a lab, and three years later, were also the first to consume in vitro meat. Their work has been exhibited all over the world in leading cultural institutions including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, National Art Museum of China, and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.

This 3SCD project tackles the issues surrounding the fantasy of technological-based foods.

“AgTech aims to automate and control food production, while non-standardised elements such as sunlight, soil and shit are removed in favour of artificial light, substrates and fertilisers,” said co-creator and SymbioticA artist director Oron Catts.

“Bringing the farm to the lab and the lab to the farm, this project considers whether the means of production will grow ever distant from Nature. Will this metabolic rift be the precursor to open and sustainable food systems?

“In 2013 at an art exhibition in France, we were the first to consume in vitro meat – a piece of meat that was grown in the lab rather than in the body of an animal, and we did it not as a way of trying to find a solution, but more about asking what it means to eat meat that has never been in the body.

“New knowledge in biology is changing our relationship to the idea of life, and by using aesthetics to intervene, sense and gain data about the different processes involved in food manufacturing, we are allowing the public to consider their own relationship to food and technology,” Catts says.

3SCD was originally going to be presented by Derwent Valley Arts at the Willow Court Barracks, Australia’s first purpose-built mental asylum in Tasmania, but was re-located to Fremantle, WA due to border restrictions caused by COVID-19. Earlier versions of the project have been exhibited at Chronus Art Center, Shanghai, Perth City Farm and the Science Gallery, London in 2019.

SymbioticA’s Sunlight, Soil & Shit (De)Cycle (3SDC) happens at PS Art Space in Fremantle from Saturday, February 5 until Saturday, February 26. For more info and to buy tickets head to pasas.com.au

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