In the late 18th century Victor Frankenstein travelled to Perth, Scotland to rest. He wanted to “view again mountains and streams and all wondrous works with which Nature adorns her chosen dwelling-places”. Perth was his last respite before he headed to “some obscure nook in the northern highlands of Scotland” where he would finish his labour: the creation of a companion to the creature.
Two hundred years later, by a strange twist of history, the city known for its unhallowed biological art practice is Perth, Western Australia. For almost twenty years SymbioticA, at the University of Western Australia, has been recognised as the destination for artists and researchers with latent Frankensteinian tendencies to visit and learn the (sometimes dark) craft of wet biology as cultural practice.
The hard-to-shake comparisons to Frankenstein and his lab were not chosen by SymbioticA. Rather, they were imposed by the cultural shadow cast by a book written by an 18 year old Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley back in 1818. As with Stockholm syndrome, the people of SymbioticA learned to live with the constant reference to Frankenstein and his creature. They ended up owning it, so much so that in the year of Frankenstein’s bicentenary they commemorate and celebrate the work which became a point of reference to the strange workings of, and with, life.
We at SymbioticA are working the only way we know: by making and showing artworks together, talking about life and other things. All are welcome to come and “view again all wondrous works”, with their bodymind, and see the adorned and disturbed in their “chosen dwelling-places”.
Quite frankly, you must come and share the Perth syndrome of Unhallowed Arts with us; it will be monstrous.
-Oron Catts, Director of SymbioticA