Reproductivities: Remaking Life

June 24, 2018 - November 30, 2018

Reproductivities is an exhibition that draws connections between different ways of reproducing life – in plants, in humans, and in art – to ask how the carefully crafted cultures of in vitro life reflect the larger worlds around them.

Recent technological means of modifying human, plant and animal reproduction share many elements in common with the visual arts in both form and content. Reproductivities explores how life is being remade, reframed and reconceived in contemporary society with an emphasis on the artistic and aesthetic dimensions of this process. Linking in vitro cell technologies, horticulture, photography, painting and performance, the exhibition asks not only how biotechniques such as IVF (in vitro fertilisation) or genetic modification are understood, but how they introduce new ways of seeing ourselves and our world.

The link between human reproduction and plant reproduction, between tissue culture and horticulture, is at the heart of Gina Glover’s and Camilla Lyon’s art work. Both represent the subject of IVF through depictions of blooming and blossoming plants and fertile seeds of life. Gina Glover recomposes Nobel Prize winner and IVF inventor Robert Edwards’ (1925-2013) microphotographs of early embryonic life to gesture both toward hand-made inner worlds and the abstract realms of the scientific imagination. In Camilla Lyon’s work, the careful cultivation of garden plants is juxtaposed with the culture of in vitro fertilization procedures. Developed during a residency at Murray Edwards College, which coincided with the artist’s own experience of several IVF cycles, Lyon’s vivid watercolour paintings of plants re-present reproduction in a different frame. For her performance commission – Transpositions, taking place during the Festival of Ideas, artist Sophie Seita responds to the New Hall Art Collection in particular the concept and choreography of transposition, and the cross-pollinating possibilities of flowery metaphors with queer thinking.

The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of works drawn from the permanent collection that are located across the College that relate to the themes of the exhibition. In addition, a section of the College Garden has been devoted to growing corn to celebrate the work of the American plant geneticist, Barbara McClintock (1902 – 1992) who received a Nobel Prize in Medicine for her pioneering work on horticultural reproduction.

The exhibition runs from 24 June to 30 November 2018