MAJOR COLLABORATIVE WORK: WASTELANDS (BY TAGNY DUFF), 2018
WhiteFeather, as a collaborator, co-designed and developed a key part of the Wastelands project by Tagny Duff. WhiteFeather's co-invention of a new bioplastic with art conservator, Courtney Books, provided the basis for the biomaterial development used to construct the carrier bags for the project. WhiteFeather solely produced the new biomaterial, and adapted design sketches provided by Tagny Duff, to then solely create the carrier bags used to house biogas generators conceived by Duff for the Wastelands project.
The work was first shown at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in 2018.
The total project, Wastelands by Tagny Duff received an honourable mention at Ars Electronica 2019, and was nominated for the STARTS Prize. WhiteFeather's work on the project contributed significantly to its overall aesthetic, functionality and conceptual framework. Read more about WhiteFeather's contribution, here.
SALIVAM resulted from a 10-month collaborative research investigation with Dr Denis Groleau, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Microorganisms and Industrial Processes at Sherbrooke University, through the Art-Science Interface Residency program facilitated by Sporobole centre en art actuel. The research process encapsulated not only scientific laboratory experiments punctuated by art-based DIYbio approaches, but was also a process of developing a non-hierarchical transdisciplinary research relationship within an academic setting.
The Salivam project utilizes the techniques of bacterial culture, enzyme extraction and collagen degradation to address themes and concepts developed by the researchers. Some of these are: intimacy, including bacto-intimacy, or the micro-proximity of bacteria cells with their substrates during their metabolic processes, as well as industrial biotech product development from classic artistic materials, and a humorous critique of the technological hype around anti-aging formulas.
Together, the researchers successfully isolated and purified nonpathogenic strains of Bacillus cereus from soil samples taken from the site of the historic Village des Tanneries in Montreal, as well as directly from the artist’s saliva. These samples, which began as unknown micro-ecologies, over time revealed their capacity to produce a strong collagen-digesting enzyme. These enzymes have been extracted and filtered in order to explore their use for creating sculptural collagen drawings, as well as their potential for human use.
The exhibition was presented as an interactive experience, where visitors were invited to create their own bio-art works by drawing on collagen with the enzymes, as well as test the anti-aging cream on cast collagen faces.
The research blog for the project is here.
THE BACTINCTORIUM, 2017-2018
The Bactinctorium was a long-term collaborative research project with Alexandra Bachmayer, Geneviève Moisan and Vanessa Mardirossian, exploring the potential of pigment-producing bacteria as textile dyes. The project applies traditional textile dye techniques to bacteriological protocols in the development of new transdisciplinary methodologies. Part of the grow-it-yourself movement, as well as the slow textile movement, this research-creation was to subvert, democratize and disrupt the textile dye industry. Taking a feminist approach to DIY bio, the group developed a new protocol for menstrual blood agar, the first of its kind, on which to grow their iron-loving bacteria.
This research-creation project, initiated and mentored by WhiteFeather, was supported by facilities access and funding through the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University. WhiteFeather was collaborator on an Individual Research Grant awarded to Alex Bachmayer and Vanessa Mardirossian by the Textiles and Materiality Research Cluster of the Milieux Institute, and led the research activities in the Speculative Life BioLab at the Milieux Institute. WhiteFeather also led numerous workshops and master classes in bacteria dyeing at Concordia University, NSCAD University and for Studio XX in Montreal.
Bucci is a unique kind of Gucci knock-off, incorporating the agency of microbes and machines together in an organic-mechanic mashup of media to produce a post-human garment. WhiteFeather worked collaboratively with co-designer, Théo Chauvirey, to develop Bucci at the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University.
"Our role as designers is to allow the organic and mechanical tendencies, or the agency of microbes and machines, to flourish in producing the shape, drape, hand, structure and even longevity of the garment material. Issues of care and control include the lack of human ability to ultimately control the design outcomes of both the microbes and the machines – no machine ever executes perfectly without occasionally failing, or what we consider failure, due to its lack of conformity to our desires, just as organic life forms are unpredictable.
Philosophically aligned with the slow fashion movement, this project requires the patience and understanding of both a kombucha “booch” SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) which produces cellulose as a waste product, and a hand-built (problematic, glitchy) Makerbot which uses industrially-produced cellulose filament to print bioplastic designs. These two types of cellulose together form the hybrid cloth that our Bucci garment is constructed from.
The wearing of the Bucci garment is the wearing of living matter. Its microbes continue to live in stasis, protected by the cellulose walls and waiting for rehydration and nutrients so that their metabolic processes can begin again. The pH of the cellulose produced by booch is acidic, meaning it can exfoliate the skin on a human body, contributing towards the renewal of self over time, simply by wearing it."
Video: Théo Chauvirey.
Model: Clara Cloutier.
Light/audio installation: Alexandre Saulnier.
Teaser for film featuring Bucci.
Film by Vjosana Shkurti and Agustina Isidori.
BIOMATERIA: BIOTEXTILE CRAFT, 2014-present
BIOMATERIA is a vital materialist mixed media and digital installation of works, as well as an ongoing research-creation project towards formal scientific outcomes. The artworks in Biomateria form an inquiry into the aesthetic, conceptual and practical crossovers between textile techniques, wet biology laboratory practices and micro-ecology. Much of this work specifically comments on the relationship between nonhuman agents (cells) and human technological and creative industry, via the crafting of textile-based forms seeded with live mammalian cell lines.
Through a series of reflections on making and conceptualizing, a methodological strategy and philosophy for thinking around the hybrid works in Biomateria is proposed: “Haptic Epistemology”. The process-based and hands-on nature of research-creation, in addition to the ‘matter’ (physical, political, cultural) of life science praxes, is a core research concern. The works mean to, in addition to craft and aesthetics, explore the variety of nebulous political areas concerned with BioArt: DIY bio/ bio-hacking, ethics, academic bureaucracy and institutionalism, as well as artistic goals, responsibilities and failures. Interdisciplinary practice between art and science, including methodological intersections, current policies, and thinking around the formation of new policies, have been studied as key considerations in both the execution and display of BioArt. Also considered are economic nuances in relation to labour practices, from a feminist materialist and craft perspective.
The works presented in exhibitions are a combination of actual and representational. Applied science/ technology, enforced institutional bureaucratic indicators, and artistic manipulations/ representations are displayed in tandem.
In-kind, infrastructural and technical support for the completion of this project: Fluxmedia/ Dr. Tagny Duff, Dr. Michael Sacher, Djenann St-Dic (Sacher Lab), Dr. Andrew Pelling, Alexandre Leclerc (Pelling Lab), Tony Nieto, Marc Beaulieu, and Kelly Thompson.
*more images of the project to come