A ‘filthy’, inclusive anatomy book by Kuang-Yi Ku and Henry de Vries (AmsUMC/GGD), a new intuitive way of sensing and communicating with the world by Marlot Meyer and Marcel de Jeu & Jos van der Geest (Erasmus MC), and the resurrection of the mythical Zeeland goddess Nehalennia who can help us live with mud and flood instead of fighting it by design studio Nonhuman Nonsense and Marte Stoorvogel (NIOZ).

These are the winning projects proposed by three collaborating teams of artists/designers and scientists for the eleventh international Bio Art & Design (BAD) Award, which were selected this week in Eindhoven. They each receive €25.000 to develop their proposal and create an installation that will be exhibited at the end of this year at MU Hybrid Art House.

New consortium 
From this year onwards, the BAD Award is made possible by a consortium of cultural partners with a strong interest in biotechnological breakthroughs in the (life) sciences and the ethical, societal, and cultural implications surrounding this research: BioArt LaboratoriesDutch Design FoundationMU Hybrid Art House and Next Nature. We'd like to thank scientific organization ZonMw for their great contributions over the past years as a valued BAD Award partner. 

Each of the partners is not only regionally leading in their field but is also part of the national cultural basic infrastructure. In addition, the BAD Award teams up with St Joost School of Art & Design and their Master Institute of Visual Cultures joins as an educational partner. The consortium aims to not only make the BAD Award financially possible in the coming years but also support the artists, designers, and scientists involved in their further collaborations and careers by linking networks and knowledge. Here are the winning teams.

Hacking Heuristics

Marlot Meyer and Marcel de Jeu & Jos van der Geest (Erasmus MC)

Hacking Heuristics will, in collaboration with an intelligent machine, research, learn, and ultimately create an experience of a ‘new’ form of embodied language which explores a more intuitive, non-anthropocentric way of sensing and communicating with the world.

According to the jury, this project advances an ambitious goal of re-introducing forgotten or unnoticed information back into the body. 'It is intriguing how they envision this by featuring a strong and essential AI component, as well as an invitation to the audience to experience new haptic sensations and a sublime sense of surrendering control'.

Filthy Anatomy

Kuang-Yi Ku and Henry de Vries (AmsUMC/GGD)

Filthy Anatomy aims to challenge medical patriarchy and heteronormativity of anatomical education by expanding these to include speculative queer anatomies, and to unfold the anatomical interpretation of sexual minorities. Moreover, it explores the symbiosis between humans and microorganisms, resulting in ambiguous body borders.

The jury welcomes this re-examination of how we look at our bodies and how parts of the medical profession remain stuck in educational resources, like the foundational Atlas of Human Anatomy that dates back to the fifties of the 20th century. The team will, in a decentralized way, re-make this book into an Atlas of Filthy Anatomy, signaling how knowledge building is practiced and re-evaluating textbooks and the power they are granted. The jury was compelled by the notion of microbial exchanges during sex acts that are unknown or misunderstood. This inspired the memory of a quote from Alfred Kinsey (1966), who wrote: ‘the only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform’.

Mud & Flood: The Return of Nehalennia

Design studio Nonhuman Nonsense and Marte Stoorvogel (NIOZ)

The project proposes a resurrection of the ancient Zeeland goddess of Nehalennia, reborn as a contemporary goddess of the mud and the flood, who can help us remove the hard boundaries between water and land, based on the science of NIOZ.

The jury was impressed by the amount and quality of research done for the proposal, as well as the obvious enthusiasm of the scientific partner. The project combines a local context with a mythological figure, both characterized by potential and peril. The jury appreciated the team’s perspective of the sea as a platform of engagement; with water as a body with which to co-exist, instead of combat. The jury was also admiring the poetic and perhaps overdue concept of a hydrofeminist goddess the artists put forth, as a means to advance toward a re-enchantment of the world.

Contesting the binary

This year’s winners were selected out of a long list of 120 proposals by artists and designers from all over the world, who responded to the Open Call at the beginning of 2022. This long list was reduced to a short list of eleven contestants who, after careful matchmaking, got the opportunity to write a joint proposal together with a scientist/researcher connected to a prominent Dutch research institute.

Working as a team, the artists and scientists presented their plans during a full day of pitches for and Q&A’s with this year’s independent jury consisting of writer/curator William Myers (chair), cultural visionary and Arts at CERN initiator Ariane Koek, professor of materials innovation and design at TU Delft and CARADT Elvin Karana, NTR science editor-in-chief Gerda Bosman, writer/sociologist Ruben Jacobs, and previous BAD Award winners Emma van der Leest, bio-designer and founder of Blue City Lab, and Zackery Denfeld, bio artist and founder of The Center for Genomic Gastronomy.

The jury noticed some common grounds between several projects. Contesting the state of the binary was one that stood out clearly. This was done by rejecting borders, biases, and even the concept of alienness in favor of fluidity and multiplicity. 'Another noticeable feature was the number of proposals that utilize AI and computation as a tool or, even further, as a collaborator. This trend, as well as technologies from the Life Sciences such as CRISPR CAS-9, are demonstrating new aesthetic possibilities, and inviting informed critique', according to Myers.

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