Jennifer Willet creates art connecting inside the bio lab with outside.
Projects like 2011’s BioARTCAMP in Banff National Park built a portable bio lab with 20 artists completing biological experiments and artwork in raw nature, removed from the sterile, stereo-typically white bio labs.
A professor and bio artists, Willet runs Incubator Art Lab at the University of Windsor, a bio lab and exhibition space.
Her works try to re-contextualize and bring a new perspective to organisms in labs.
“I think somehow in our minds we’ve decided that the organisms in our lab are not part of our ecology, so we don’t need to afford them the same sort of considerations that we afford organisms out in nature, or in our home,” said Willet.
To Willet, that consideration isn’t just academic. She sees humans as reacting differently to living organisms than artistic representations. After all in bio art the representation is alive.
“I think there are these bodily responses to other bodies, the same way that when a cat lets us pet it we have this very visceral response, I think those responses come with all sorts of organisms,” she said.
It’s exactly this sort of reaction that needs to be considered ,said Willet. There are some serious ethics and politics to consider, and not just by elite specialists in labs.
“Right now were able to produce and reproduce bodies. And this technology is going have a really significant generational, environmental, biological outcomes for hundreds of years. So I think it’s really imperative that other people outside the biological sciences engage with these technologies so we can all share in the decision making systems around these technologies.”
Willet and her students at Incubator lab continue producing new art. Recently they paraded bioluminescent bacteria for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, and right now there is a retrospective of student work at the Ontario Science Centre.