Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts at RMIT Gallery (17 November - 18 February 2016) is an interactive bio-art exhibition that uses actual and metaphoric communicative diseases to explore the fractured relationship between human and non-human life.
The exhibition is composed of 11 artistic works, with each piece using a different media or art form to explore the catastrophic chaos of the world it draws upon. Each artist imagines disease differently, and yet within the terror of their imaginings there is simultaneously great beauty, and much hope. Disease, then is rendered sublime in this exhibition: both awfully malign and deliciously exquisite.
In this panel discussion, artists from the exhibition talk about their work, and the art and science collsion.
In Alison Bennett’s touch-based screen work, the viewer is presented with a high-resolution scan of bruised skin. Invited to touch the soft and damaged tissue before them, their eyes become organs of touch, and their fingers work as sensory digits that feel as they move over what becomes a damaged but delicate bio-art surface.
In Drew Berry’s work, infectious cells are set free onto walls so that the very connective tissue of the exhibition room teems with the droplets of life and death. Herpes, influenza, HIV, polio and smallpox bacteria take flight, are magnified, so that those entering the space are hit by scale and size, and take part in this chorea of the senses.
In Sean and Josh Redmond’s three-screen video installation, ants become a different type of political disease. Combining found and actuality footage, the work uses the metaphors of ant invasion to re-envision the current refugee crisis and the way stateless people are made to be matter-out-of place. The central image of the piece, a flimsy toy dinghy floating on the salty water, recalls Australia’s turn back the boat policy, and the haunting truth that it is children who are made to suffer most. This is a disease of political undertaking.
Lienors Torre’s multi-media and glass work on degenerative vision explores how our view of the world is metered and tainted by digital technologies. Consisting of a large glass eyeball, Ipad and augmented application, and a glass cabinet full of glass jars filled with water in varying degrees of opacity and with engraved eye images on them, eyes quickly become raindrops, as the liquidity of vision is brought to watery life. There are tears and scars that reflect across the eyes of this exquisite art-piece.