As many people question our increased reliance on AI and technology, the growing friction between what we consider natural and artificial will be explored at NOT NATURAL, a new exhibition at Science Gallery Melbourne open from 17 February 2024.
At the centre of the exhibition sits Patricia Piccinini’s large-scale sculpture Kindred depicting a loving orangutan-human family, which explores our increasing ability to control nature and the plethora of possibilities and ethical dilemmas that come with that power.
Other works at NOT NATURAL explore the world of synthetic biology, species de-extinction, chimera creatures and artificial intelligence; including:
- Murnong (All times) by Tahlia Palmer, an artist of Murri and European background, focuses on the pre-colonial staple food crop for people living throughout the eastern region of Australia, shattered by the introduction of sheep.
- Thylacine De-Extinction, a collaborative project between Tasmanian artist Emma Bugg and Professor Andrew Pask at the University of Melbourne’s Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research (TIGGR) Lab. Real Tasmanian tiger specimens from the University collection will be on display and visitors will be invited to contribute their own opinions on de-extinction through an in-gallery survey.
- Neil Mendoza’s Spambots allows machine learning to empower a group of animatronic cans of luncheon meat.
Curated by Science Gallery Melbourne curators, Tilly Boleyn and Bern Hall, in collaboration with a curatorial panel of young people, with input from academic experts, the NOT NATURAL invites the audience to reflect on our society’s ongoing interest in controlling, shaping and adapting to the natural environments around us.
"NOT NATURAL brings together a series of speculative projects that intersect biology, design and technology and ask some bold questions about the future we are currently stepping into" Tilly Boleyn said.
"Are we redesigning evolution or is evolution re-designing us – and just because we can, should we?"
Other highlights of the exhibition include:
- Robert Hengeveld’s Kentucky Perfect incorporates an internationally overstated measure of technology to create and maintain the perfect lawn.
- Frenchborn, UK-based artist Noémie Soula’s Mythical Living Data, an installation that speculates on how creating chimeras with natural and artificial data-based DNA can respond to ever increasing pollution levels in our environment.
- Tully Arnot’s Birdsong is a ceramic bird whistle programmed to attract and communicate with real birds.
Science Gallery Melbourne Director Dr Ryan Jefferies said NOT NATURAL opens a pandora’s box of possibility, where the "tools of genetic engineering and the global rise of artificial intelligence allow us to gene-edit, re-design and de-extinct almost anything. Yet at a time of mass extinction and possible ecological collapse, why are many of us still separating ourselves from nature, when we and our technology are inherently part of it?"