Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Presented in partnership with the Ontario Science Centre (OSC); Free with regular admission

Idea Projects is a product of the Ontario Science Centre’s partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, which provides three-month studio residencies to selected artists exploring science and technology through art. This exhibition brings together five of the resulting projects, all made in 2019, which engage science through creative experimentation and participatory activism. These site-specific installations, positioned throughout the Great Hall of the Ontario Science Centre, employ photography in ways that consider the medium’s utilitarian role in the sciences, and challenge the presumption of scientific objectivity.

With an emphasis on producing radical projects with life itself as the medium, Ontario-based Alien Agencies Collective (Joel Ong, Günes-Hélène Isitan, Nicole Clouston, and Tosca Teran) engage in a bio-art practice, mixing the non-human (microbial and mycelial) and the human. The photo-based works presented in the exhibition reflect scientific research processes, and draw attention to “alien” or unfamiliar worlds and interconnections, highlighting the aesthetic agency of non-human entities, and our entanglements with them. The images in the biomedia art series HumanScapes (2018) by collective member Günes-Hélène Isitan are recorded using the organic materiality of photographic film placed in contact with life itself, rather than through the effect of light. Contrary to “taking” a photograph, Isitan’s unique process makes it possible to “grow” an image. Instead of foregrounding an artist’s authorship, this process allows microorganisms to “paint” their presence on film, under their own agency.

Each of these multi-layered installations brings together science and art to investigate cultural and societal concerns. Unlike traditional scientists, these artists provide subjective and emotional evaluations of a complex and fragile world affected by human behaviour. Idea Projects unites two forms of inquiry and reveals the potential for scientific and artistic collaborations to reimagine the global landscape.

The OSC’s Studio Residences are offered in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto

Curated by Ana Klasnja