Transformism, developed in partnership with The Arts Catalyst, features new commissions by two artists, Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen. Both artists, through their distinctive practices, have made new works exploring their interests in how cultural archetypes and ideas interweave with science and technology to create new shapes, visual forms and structure.
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.
Transformism is commissioned by The Arts Catalyst and organised in partnership with the John Hansard Gallery. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.
Melanie Jackson’s commission has been supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award and the Slade School of Fine Art and Revital Cohen’s by S-Air Japan.