Sustaining Life, Designing Life was a major two-day international symposium, organised by AV Festival 06 and The Social Futures Institute at the University of Teesside. The symposium was an exploration of life from a social, scientific, technological, artistic and ethical perspective. With artists and scientists alike fabricating new life forms and ecologies, our understanding of what life is and where it can happen is shifting, evolving and mutating. The symposium examined the shifting ethical, scientific, philosophical and artistic borders of life. Over two days, the symposium staged a series of sessions that explored how life can be sustained and designed.
On Day 1, we asked, what is the impact of technology on Sustaining Life? Designers, artists and scientists have made claims about the way people’s lives can be sustained and enhanced through the mediation of natural systems and digital technology. The day included sessions on Transforming The Body: is the body being transformed from something that people are born and have to live with to a blank canvas for improvement, decoration and celebration? Sustaining Environment And Ecology: what role can artists and designers play in raising consciousness about environmental issues and designing sustainable environments? Sustaining Lives And The Geopolitics Of Food Production: what are the impacts of modern methods of food production and consumption on life in the richest and poorest countries of the world?
Speakers included: Gina Czarnecki, Artist (Australia / UK); Professor Robin Bunton, Social Futures Institute, University of Teesside (UK); Amanda Drago, Choreographer, Dancer (UK); Professor Eileen Green, Social Futures Institute, University of Teesside (UK); Heath Bunting & Kayle Brandon, Artists (UK); Kate Rich, Artist (UK); Professor Gerda Roper, School of Arts and Media University of Teesside (UK); Dr Tom Shakespeare, Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre (PEALs) (UK); John Thackera, Doors of Perception, Design of the Times (UK/NL), Lynette Wallworth, Artist (Australia).
On Day 2, we asked what role does science and technology play in Designing Life? Genetic engineering allows for the creation of synthetic biological worlds, which are constructed in the laboratory. Life is increasingly something that we can design and evolve through our interactions with science and technology. The day included sessions on: Mimicking Life: if artificial life mechanisms, robotics and cybernetic systems can successfully simulate life, what are the consequences for humanity and society? Life In The Lab: now that biotechnology laboratories are becoming places in which life is sculpted, is it time to relax ethical objections to the limits of scientific interventions?
Speakers included: Oron Catts, Tissue Culture and Art Project (Australia); Andy Gracie, Artist (Spain / UK); Dr Jill Scott, School of Art & Design Zurich (Switzerland); Dr Sally Jane Norman, Director, Culture Lab, University of Newcastle (UK); Kira O’Reilly, Artist (UK); and Kenneth Rinaldo, Inventor and Artist (USA).
Curated by AV Festival 06. Co-produced with University of Teesside