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LIVING ARTEFACTS – Una Henry and Xandra van der Eijk, Materiality of Place

Are the things around us mostly dead, or are our surroundings alive? Earth Sciences Professor Jerome Gaillardet considers the role of materials in the Critical Zone, Earth’s permeable near-surface layer: ‘It is necessary to realize that in the Critical Zone materials are not fixed; they move continuously, carried by air, by rivers, or by humans, and that the water with which they interact follows complicated filtration paths that are often not known or less rapid’ (Gaillardet 2020). In Vibrant Matter, political theorist Jane Bennett proposes that matter, or material, has its own agency, its own aliveness, its own vibrancy (Bennett 2010). Understanding the physical and material world as separate from the human, as inorganic, as lifeless, or dead, perpetuates myths of human domination, and reduces matter to economic value. With the latter being the dominating narrative in western society, how might artistic research help shift the perspective? This talk proposes the materiality of place as a departure point and artistic framework, as one possible answer to this question.

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‘In my work the concept of time is a recurring theme.’

Xandra van der Eijk is researcher within the Biobased Art and Design research group. She is also the Pathway Leader of Ecology Futures at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures. Xandra has recently accepted a PhD position at Ulster University in Northern Ireland.

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‘The dynamic relationship between humans and living artefacts will continue to evolve reciprocally with mutual care.’

Elvin Karana is Research Professor of Biobased Art and Design at the Avans and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, leading the research group Materializing Futures at TU/Delft. 

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Research Group: Biobased Art and Design

The research group Biobased Art and Design capitalises on the role of artistic practice in unlocking the unique potentials of living organisms for everyday materials and communicating these to a broader public. In doing so, the group aims to instigate and accelerate our widespread understanding, further development and usage of such materials. The group’s research approach encourages tangible interactions with the living organisms, such as algae, fungi, plants and bacteria, to explore and understand their unique qualities and constraints through diverse technical and creative methods taking artists, designers and scientists as equal and active partners in the material creation.

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