Open call for an artist to explore research in microbiology

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The Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) is pleased to announce this first open call for the ARTcib SciArt Residency at three academic partners of the acib academic partner network. With this open call we aim at opening up the academic as well as industry-related research at acib to dialogue with artists and to push the boundaries of the inter- and transdisciplinary discourse in the field.

 

In this first ARTcib SciArt Residency we invite an artist to explore the research at three research groups in microbiology, focusing on the role of yeasts as transformative agents, the potential of self-sustaining systems concerning carbon and nutrient cycles, and computational modeling of organisms and such settings in the context of an ongoing artistic discourse with respect to space art.

The residency will take place in Vienna with a minimum of 8 weeks on-site with the scientists at three different universities. The on-site residency period will take place between summer 2024 and early spring 2025 and can be divided into several shorter visits. Additionally, the residency will be supported in a hybrid format with online sessions between the on-site visits. The residency start will take place on-site.

The first phase of the residency will be dedicated to artistic research, exploration, and artscience collaboration, including potential hands-on work in the laboratories, a joint artistic experiment, and dedicated work with the scientific partners working on computational models. The second phase of the residency will focus on the definition of an original, leading-edge artwork and its production. In summer 2025, the artwork will be exhibited as part of a highly visible, international group show.

Curatorial brief

Space has inspired societies, art, and science alike. Visions of space and space travel inspire such creative work to envision societies that live in space, cope with the extreme environments in space travel or in potential habitats in outer space. Art, design, architecture, technology development, science, and cultural engagement meet to lead a critical discourse and propose specific approaches. Tests of equipment and technologies developed for space often happen in harsh places on Earth in analogue missions that might resemble places on far away celestial bodies. At the same time, in the wake of climate change and ecological environments challenged by human activity, scientific and technological developments aim at circular production and creating efficient self-sustaining systems that help to ease pressure on the environment and cope with harsh conditions in a changing world.

The artificial and the biological often merge in these endeavors, looking at biology to create bio-inspired or bio-driven solutions. One aspect that both artistic and scientific communities investigate it the potential of biological materials and staging biological organisms as transformative agents. In the past decades, fungi and algae took a center stage.

What about adding other organisms such as yeasts
and their transformative capacity?

Or looking at the metabolic system of single celled organisms
as the starting point for investigations?

Scientific context and hosts

The winning artist will spend time in the following laboratories and research groups:

  • the Metabolic and Cell Engineering group at University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, led by Prof. Dr. Diethard Mattanovich, Head of Institute of Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology. Scientists in this group who worked on the proposed topics and will collaborate with the artist are Dr. Simone Bachleitner and Dr. Özge Ata. Depending on the artist’s proposal, other scientists might join.
  • the Research Group Biochemistry at Technische Universität Wien, led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Steiger, and
  • the Biochemical Network Analysis group at University of Vienna, led by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Zanghellini.

The three scientific groups who will host the artist, are working together on several research projects in complementary fields. The joint interest of the three groups encompasses microbial metabolism, natural and synthetic pathways that allow microbes to metabolize CO2 and waste materials into raw materials or products such as nitrates for fertilizers, microbial proteins as food source, or organic acids as source for bioplastics. A strong focus in the research is on yeasts as agents for transformation to deal with waste and by-products such as CO2 to enable circular economy for industrial production and to reduce the pressure of such waste materials on the ecosphere.

The first research group investigates yeast metabolism with a focus on the use of CO2 and related substances like methanol and formic acid as substrates for cell growth and chemical transformations. The group researches natural pathways and develops synthetic routes that enable yeasts to metabolize these substrates to produce desired raw materials (e.g., lactic acid or microbial proteins). They do this by engineering and cultivating such yeasts with synthetic biology techniques in the laboratory.

The second group has a stronger process focus, researching how the use of yeast and fungi to produce organic acids and proteins from waste and CO2 can become more efficient and can be established in circular economy to produce raw materials for products. Additionally, to carbon circles, they look at the role of nitrates as substrates in a circular system. Thereby, they work with processes such as gasification to make use of waste that otherwise is extremely difficult to recycle.

The third group works on computational modeling of biological systems, microbial metabolism, cell organization, and evolutionary processes of microbes in certain environments. In dialogue with experimental scientists, the group develops models to understand e.g., the metabolic potential of cells in certain conditions, growth rates, or why organisms in extreme environments developed certain ribosomes. Current research interests encompass work with CO2 and yeasts, but also other organisms such as Archaea.

Eligibility and criteria of evaluation

The call is open for artists from any country who are at least 18 years old. Artists from any artistic background are welcome to apply, but the envisioned proposal must take into account a dialogue or collaboration with the hosting scientific groups and laboratories, and that the envisioned outcome is to be exhibited after the residency.

The selection will take place in a jury meeting. The jury consists of five members who will evaluate the submissions based on the following guidelines concerning eligibility and criteria:

  • Capacity: openness and capacity to go into dialogue with diverse groups in the realization of works of artistic excellence,
  • Connection: demonstrate interest in the theme and the scientific host, i.e., a clear link between the artistic proposal for the residency, the curatorial brief, and the research at all three research groups and laboratories
  • Collaboration: the proposal’s potential for raising interesting art-science explorations and meaningful dialogues between the artistic and scientific partners, contributing to their artistic and scientific development, and transdisciplinary experience for the artistic and scientific partners
  • Contribution: relevance of the proposal by showing novelty of ideas, combining unexpected viewpoints, and enter the scientific and cultural discussion as proposed by the open call
  • Feasibility: the proposal’s feasibility, and coherence between the artistic proposal and the artist’s background, scientific environment provided by the scientific hosts, envisioned timeline of the residency, and budget

Benefits

  • Artist fee € 10,000
  • Production budget for the creation of the new artwork up to € 25,000
  • Travel and accommodation expenses covered
  • In-depth residency phases on site with all three research groups and laboratories at three universities in Vienna which are part of acib, including potential hands-on work, in combination with hybrid phases while the artist is not on site in Vienna, to be scheduled in alignment with the artist’s and scientists’ calendars. The on-site phase will amount to 8-12 weeks that can be planned in several trips
  • Access to scientific materials and joint experiments with scientists
  • Throughout the residency, the artist will be supported by artscience mediator Sonja Schachinger and curator Dr. Claudia Schnugg
  • A highly visible exhibition at the end of the residency, international group exhibition curated by Dr. Claudia Schnugg, envisioned dates May – July 2025

All fees and budgets are fixed. All mentioned costs, fees, and budgets will be divided in case of team applications. For example, in case you are applying as a team of two artists, the artist fee will be the fee for the team, both artists’ travels will be supported by the available travel and accommodation budget, and the production budget needs to be calculated for the joint work. We welcome applications of individual artists and can host up to three team members in a residency.

How to apply

Your application should have a single PDF file (maximum 5 MB in size) with the following sections:

Curriculum vitae (please include):

  • personal information (such as first name, birth date, and city/country of residence, contact details)
  • a short biography or artist statement
  • details of qualification, work experience (such as previous exhibitions, residencies)
  • potential previous art-science collaborations, and
  • potential links to webpage and social media.

Project proposal:

  • Introductory motivation letter highlighting your interest in the theme and scientific research, and potential connection to your artistic practice (up to 500 words),
  • Main project proposal presenting your envisioned artistic project, detailing goals and contribution to the discourse as described in the curatorial brief and scientific description, your envisioned artistic research process, and approach to your process with the scientists. Please keep eligibility and selection criteria in mind while writing this proposal (up to 1000 words).

Artistic portfolio:

  • please focus on highlights of your artistic production and relevant previous works (artscience collaboration, works in a similar field as advertised in this residency, etc.)
  • please include links to material available online (e.g., webpages for more detailed impression of the works, links to videos and exhibitions).
  • Only submissions including all three sections are eligible in the jury process.
  • A submission to this call will automatically imply acceptance of the outlined terms and conditions.
  • In case of any further questions, you can contact us via email at sciart@acib.at

Send your PDF file to the email address sciart@acib.at. Your PDF should not be larger than 5 MB. If your PDF file is larger, please use an online tool like WeTransfer to submit your data. If you want to add a video, high-resolution photos, music, etc. to your PDF, please also use an online tool.

Prize Summary: 
€ 10.000
Prizes Details: 
  • Artist fee € 10,000
  • Production budget for the creation of the new artwork up to € 25,000
  • Travel and accommodation expenses covered
Event date: 
July 15, 2025
Location: 
Vienna, Austria
Deadline: 
12/May/2024

Entry Fee:

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