©︎ Hideo Iwasaki

22nd Art Division Excellence Award

Culturing cut

Media installation / Bio art

IWASAKI Hideo [Japan]


Bacteria-based work stemming from an observation that biology papers, while associated with objectivity, are in fact filled with subjective expressions like “Surprisingly” and “Interestingly.” Writing a paper on his own research on cyanobacteria, pond-dwelling, photosynthesizing microorganisms, the artist cut all subjective phrasing from it and clipped its diagrams too into organic, abstract kirie paper cuttings. Spots where he had removed subjective descriptions he inoculated with the bacteria researched, which slowly propagated through the empty spaces left in the paper. A unique pattern then came to take shape in the way the elements intertwined: Blocks of text describing bacteria with all subjective observations cut out from them, diagrams reworked to represent scientific figures, kirie in organic forms, the trajectory of the bacteria’s slow spread through the text discussing them. An experiment examining modes of scientific description to trace a new auxiliary line between scientific inquiry and artistic expression.

Reason for Award

Researchers in any field take meticulous care in describing or commenting on their own work. As students of art history or aesthetics, for instance, must be very cautious with descriptions of aesthetic “beauty,” I am reminded of being admonished as a student myself, “Refer to papers from science and engineering based on third-party replicability” to avoid careless, subjective use of “beautiful” in papers. Yet if it turns out that these supposed exemplars of neutrality (which for this work would be research papers in biology) are actually filled with emotional, subjective observations…? Through bioart and finely crafted kirigami cuttings, the artist effects deconstruction, reconstruction and visualization of issues and missteps with objectivity and description in research papers. On a theme of “life,” shared by science and art, he presents his work-as-expression in conjunction with hacking and generative form to offer as a result this highly appraised piece.