January 25, 2013 - Arts Catalyst - Transformism
January 25, 2013


Left: Revital Cohen, Kingyo Kingdom (video still), 2012. Photo: Cohen Van Balen. Right: Melanie Jackson, The Urpflanze (Part 2) (still), 2012. Commissioned by The Arts Catalyst.

two new commissions by Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen

22 January–9 March 2013

John Hansard Gallery
University of Southampton
University Road, Southampton
Hampshire SO17 1BJ, UK
Hours: Tuesday–Friday 11–5pm, Saturday 11–4pm

T + 44 (0) 23 8059 2158
info [​at​] hansardgallery.org.uk


Transformism, an exhibition of two new works by Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen, has been commissioned by The Arts Catalyst. Both artists through their distinctive practices have made new works exploring their interests in how cultural archetypes and ideas interweave science and technology to create new shapes, visual forms and structures.

As we develop the tools to manipulate and engineer new forms and systems of life, the exhibition considers our historical and contemporary entanglements with nature, technology and the economy, and how these relationships influence emergent forms in biological and synthetic matter, through new sculpture, installation and moving image works.

The Urpflanze (Part 2) is the second part of Melanie Jackson‘s ongoing investigation into mutability and transformation that takes its lead from Goethe’s concept of an imaginary primal plant, the Urpflanze, that contained coiled up within it the potential to unfurl all possible future forms. Contemporary science likewise imagines the potential to grow or print any form we can imagine, by recasting physical, chemical and biological function as a substrate that can be programmed into being. Jackson’s work begins in the botanical garden and looks to the laboratory, from clay pits to the factory floor, from analogue to digital clay, from its own animated pixels to the interior of the screen in a series of moving image works and ceramic sculptures. She has collaborated with Esther Leslie on a text that has informed the work and a new publication, THE UR-PHENOMENON, that will be distributed as part of the exhibition.

In Kingyo Kingdom, Revital Cohen, whose projects often test the ethical parameters of biological design, explores the genus of fish that have been designed for aesthetic purposes, questioning the definitions used to indicate living creatures. Does one denominate a manipulated organism as an object, product, animal or pet? What consequences does this entail for our feelings and behaviours? Cohen’s interest in the cultural perceptions and aesthetics of animal-as-product took her to Japan, where exotic goldfish have been developed over centuries of meticulous cultivation, breeding out dorsal fins and sculpting kimono-like Ranchu fish tails. Kingyo Kingdom explores the unique culture of breeders, collectors and connoisseurs with footage from the Japanese national goldfish competition, questioning the design and commodification of this species.

An illustrated exhibition guide with an essay by Isobel Harbison will be available in print and as an eBook.

Saturday 26 January
12–2pm Private view
2–4pm Crafting Life: Materiality, Science and Technology symposium

Melanie Jackson’s The Urpflanze (Part 2) will be exhibited at Flat Time House, 210 Bellenden Road, London SE15 4BW, UK, 28 March–12 May 2013.

Revital Cohen’s continuing project will be exhibited later in the year.  
Details of both will be posted on www.artscatalyst.org

Melanie Jackson’s commission has been supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award and the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL and Revital Cohen’s by S-Air Japan.

The Arts Catalyst and John Hansard Gallery present Transformism
Arts Catalyst
Share - Transformism
  • Share
Click to subscribe to e-flux and be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements
Subscribe to e-flux
Be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements.
Subscribe to architecture
Explore the most recent content from e-flux architecture and urbanism
Subscribe to e-flux programs
Keep up-to-date on all upcoming talks, screenings, and exhibitions at e-flux in New York