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New Alchemists

Presented by Salamanca Arts Centre.
Curated by Dr Alicia King. 

Salamanca Arts Centre’s
Major Curated Exhibition for 2016

New Alchemists is curated by Dr Alicia King and features a diverse suite of contemporary works by local, Australian and International artists. New Alchemists explores ideas of futuristic biologies and post-human engagements within the broad intersections of art and science. Paralleling a view of the artist as contemporary alchemist, the selected works channel experiences beyond our accessible human and non-human worlds. Through play, ambiguity and provocation, the works engage in narratives that collapse our sense of familiarity and embodied otherness with the world around us.

Featured Artists

Art Orienté Objet (France)
Michaela Gleave (Australia)
Ian Haig (Australia)
Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr (Australia) (in collaboration with Corrie van Sice)
Nadege Philippe-Janon (mentored by Bill Hart) (Australia)
Thomas Thwaites (UK)
Lu Yang (China)

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Internationally acclaimed bioart pioneers Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr collaborate with Corrie van Sice to create a rapid prototype machine, which builds proto-cells from salt water. These cells impress momentarily, forming clear membranes and nuclei, before diffusing by force of entropy into less orderly and clearly non-living solution. Borrowing its title from the 1911 text by Stephane Leduc, The Mechanism of Life carries out basic protocols that Leduc used as demonstrations of the earliest concepts of synthetic biology. His text attempted to exhibit the merely chemical nature of life, or the fuzzy boundaries between the animate and inanimate.

Similarly engaged with ideas of life as mechanism vs life as magic, Michaela Gleave’s The World Arrives at Night (Star Printer) prints data relating to one star per minute of stars as they appear over the horizon for the location of the viewer. A collaboration with Astronomer Michael Fitzgerald, the piece explores the mechanisms of the universe and the human construction of understanding – paradoxical forces operating in our cultural perception of ‘life’ today.

UK artist Thomas Thwaites is most well known for his reverse technological alchemy in his BBC series From Scratch, featuring The Toaster Project in which he creates a toaster from scratch, mining the earth for materials to make the metals and plastic components which create the tech-nological device as we know it today. In New Alchemists Thwaites explores the physiological space between human and animal.

French duo Art Orienté Objet (Marion Laval and Benoit Mangin) are fascinated by the sciences of life, from biology to behavioural sciences. May the Horse Live in Me presents documentation
of a performance in which serum containing the blood of a horse is transfused into Laval’s blood- stream. Echoing shamanistic hi-tech ritual, both horse and human are present in a makeshift laboratory space for the exchange.

Ian Haig’s fantastically low-fi visceral experiments play upon ideas of attraction and repulsion, body horror, and the defamiliarisation of the human body to investigate perspectives of the body in contemporary and popular culture. Haig employs high and low-tech components to explore the contemporary media sphere and its relationship to the visceral body and the degenerative aspects of pervasive new technologies.

Emerging Tasmanian artist Nadege Philippe-Janon, in collaboration with mentor Dr Bill Hart, creates a new collaborative installation-based work focused on expanding microcosms and fictitious biologies.

Recognised as one of the most influential young Chinese artists, and recently shown at the 2015 Venice Biennale, Lu Yang’s new media practice explores themes of pathology, biology and the monstrous. In New Alchemists, her iconic video work Delusional Mandala, challenges biological and gender norms. In a broader sense the work explores the idea of genetics as matter in combination with the increasingly cultural and social constructs of our genetic material.

Saturday 23 July – Sunday 28 August 2016
10:00am – 5:00pm daily

Friday 22 July 2016 @ 5:30pm

Saturday 23 July 2016 @ 12:30pm

On Tour

After its debut in Hobart, the exhibition will tour regional galleries across Australia and Tasmania in 2017-2018, coordinated by Contemporary Art Tasmania (CAT).


UQ Art Museum (QLD) Saturday 17 June – Sunday 3 September 2017
Devonport Regional Gallery (TAS) Saturday 9 Dec 2017 – Sunday 7 January 2018
Flinders University City Gallery (SA) Saturday 17 February – Sunday 15 April 2018

Read the review of New Alchemists by Linda Smith (tasliving, The Mercury, 30-31 July 2016)

Read the article on New Alchemists by Loretta Lohberger (The Mercury, 3 August 2016)

The exhibition is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its principle arts funding body, and Contemporary Art Tasmania’s Exhibition Development Fund.


Image credit: Art Orienté Objet (Marion Laval-Jeantet & Benoît Mangin), May the Horse Live in Me, 2011, Film and relics of original performance.

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