Creatures of the Future Garden: Next Generation Education for a Biotech World.

Ms. Donna Franklin - Post Graduate
2012 Conference

This paper highlights the current doctoral research of candidate Donna Franklin, from The School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University. The research it discusses encompasses exhibitions, biotech workshops and art-science school projects with a view to allowing the public access to current biotechnologies and life sciences beyond dominant contexts (such as the corporate industry). Simultaneously Franklin acknowledges that in a contemporary context our understanding of non-human life is mediated by social, cultural, scientific, ethical, technological and industrial systems.

The practice of bio-art, a combination of art and life sciences, which often uses “wet” biology as the medium, provides ‘artists simultaneously with the topics and new expressive media; transgenics, cell and tissue culture, plant and animal selection and breeding, DNA sequences, synthetic biology’ (Hauser, 2008). Biological art embodies these technologies at a point of negation between the institutions in which they are located and artistic interrogation through interdisciplinary acts.

The educational agenda at the heart of this research stems from a personal interest Franklin has in generating opportunities for young people to experience the life sciences in a hands-on way in conjunction with the practice of bio-art as a form of cultural analysis. As with most technologies that develop rapidly, it is the youth of today who will have to deal with the biotech consequences of tomorrow.

With particular reference to Ken Robinson’s theories on education specialisation, the facilitation of art-science collaborative projects in school environments and gallery spaces, Franklin’s work sets up a site for a critical reflexive positioning of the lifeworld through ‘alternative directions of engagement with knowledge’ (Catts & Zurr, 2004).

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About the author

Franklin is currently a PhD candidate (Philosophy) and academic in Cultural History and Theory encompassing tutoring, supervision, lecturing and unit coordination at The School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University. Her various research projects investigate the role art/science collaboration has in generating public awareness and debate regarding developing biotechnologies. She has a particular interest in creating artworks that explore an engagement with the non-human, such as fungi, plants and animals. During her Master of Arts, she was awarded an artist residency at SymbioticA: Centre for Excellence in Biological Arts, at The University of Western Australia. Since then she has collaborated with scientists and artists to produce artworks and conduct art/science workshops for festivals, galleries and schools, locally, nationally and internationally.

Selected exhibitions include: Animals People: A shared environment, POP Gallery Brisbane, 2011; Signs of Change, Form Gallery, 2010; SuperHuman, RMIT Melbourne, 2009; Biotech revisited, EAF, 2008; Skin to Skin, FAC08; Techno Threads, Science Gallery Dublin, 2008; ARS Electronica Festival 07; Mycologia, Mundaring Arts Centre, 2007; Second Skin ENTRY06, Vitra Design Museum Germany and Taiwan, 2007; BEAPworks06, Australia; Hatched 05, PICA; BEAP04.