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Arts Catalyst presents Transformism – two new commissions by Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen

Arts Catalyst presents Transformism – two new commissions by Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen on view 22 January–9 March 2013.

Transformism, an exhibition of two new works by Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen, has been commissioned by The Arts Catalyst. Both artists through their distinctive practices have made new works exploring their interests in how cultural archetypes and ideas interweave science and technology to create new shapes, visual forms and structures.

As we develop the tools to manipulate and engineer new forms and systems of life, the exhibition considers our historical and contemporary entanglements with nature, technology and the economy, and how these relationships influence emergent forms in biological and synthetic matter, through new sculpture, installation and moving image works.

The Urpflanze (Part 2) is the second part of Melanie Jackson‘s ongoing investigation into mutability and transformation that takes its lead from Goethe’s concept of an imaginary primal plant, the Urpflanze, that contained coiled up within it the potential to unfurl all possible future forms. Contemporary science likewise imagines the potential to grow or print any form we can imagine, by recasting physical, chemical and biological function as a substrate that can be programmed into being. Jackson’s work begins in the botanical garden and looks to the laboratory, from clay pits to the factory floor, from analogue to digital clay, from its own animated pixels to the interior of the screen in a series of moving image works and ceramic sculptures. She has collaborated with Esther Leslie on a text that has informed the work and a new publication, THE UR-PHENOMENON, that will be distributed as part of the exhibition.

In Kingyo Kingdom, Revital Cohen, whose projects often test the ethical parameters of biological design, explores the genus of fish that have been designed for aesthetic purposes, questioning the definitions used to indicate living creatures. Does one denominate a manipulated organism as an object, product, animal or pet? What consequences does this entail for our feelings and behaviours? Cohen’s interest in the cultural perceptions and aesthetics of animal-as-product took her to Japan, where exotic goldfish have been developed over centuries of meticulous cultivation, breeding out dorsal fins and sculpting kimono-like Ranchu fish tails. Kingyo Kingdom explores the unique culture of breeders, collectors and connoisseurs with footage from the Japanese national goldfish competition, questioning the design and commodification of this species.

An illustrated exhibition guide with an essay by Isobel Harbison will be available in print and as an eBook.

John Hansard Gallery
University of Southampton
University Road, Southampton
Hampshire SO17 1BJ, UK
Hours: Tuesday–Friday 11–5pm, Saturday 11–4pm
T + 44 (0) 23 8059 2158
[email protected]

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