Sarah Craske, recent graduate from MA Art and Science, takes top prize at the prestigious MullenLowe Nova Awards. We asked her about the award winning project and what she’s going to do next…
What is Biological Hermeneutics?
The work Biological Hermeneutics explores what a transdiscipline can look like, through the speculative presentation of a collaborative approach to knowledge and data, practice and space, language and method, equipment and materials.
The translation of an historical text – a 1735 copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses – was presented through artistic and scientific enquiry. Our Bacterial Printing methodologies were demonstrated by the inclusion of the microbiology still growing in bioassay dishes, cultured directly from the book’s pages and installed on shelves similar to those found in walk in incubators. Our developing archive of book bacteria was also installed alongside The Metamorphoses Chapter; digital and silk screen prints that accurately located the bacterial colonies back onto the original pages themselves. These results, interpreted by myself, reinforce the contextual view, which is so important to me as an artist – human interaction with Ovid’s tales having been brought back to life.
The work, which has taken over two years to develop, was created in collaboration with microbiologist Dr Simon Park and historian of science Professor Charlotte Sleigh.
How do you feel about winning the top prize of the Nova Awards?
Surprised. It’s really wonderful to win. It is reassuring that what we have been so intently pursuing over the past two years is recognised to have some cultural value. The work has felt risky, uncomfortable and difficult at times, so it is rewarding that it is being recognised for the risk and innovation we have been trying so hard to apply and achieve. Also personally as an artist, I am seeking recognition that the work contributes and furthers debate within creative practice, which I believe this award endorses.
What will the prize enable you to do?
I will be reinvesting the money into continued transdisciplinary practice. We haven’t decided yet what this will exactly mean – I didn’t expect Biological Hermeneutics to win, so no plans had been made! However, the award now enables further risk taking to take place, which I hope will lead to further innovation. It provides the space to enable experimentation, which is invaluable and a rare opportunity. Usually with money comes required outcomes and targets, this award genuinely allows for creative freedom. We have talked about developing a printing process using bacterial inks developed from the bacteria found on the book … we could do more scientific testing to see where that leads.
Why was it important to work in a transdisciplinary way?
I personally believe the collaboration of disciplines is extremely important. My MA Art & Science research focused on the importance and role of creativity in solving what are philosophically named ‘wicked problems’. Issues of knowledge, data, sustainability, global warming, etc… I believe can only really be solved if the disciplines are able to work together, whilst retaining their expertise and specialism. This is reinforced by the funding councils also recognising this potential in collaboration, who are now encouraging interdisciplinary practice. Therefore, trying to create a truly collaborative and inclusive practice role model is extremely important to me. Biological Hermeneutics was a speculative proposal of what a transdiscipline could look like.
I think more genuine art and science collaboration is occurring, however there are still challenges to overcome to enable Art & Science practice to become easier. These disciplines have been developing and establishing themselves for hundreds of years, and some of the results of that are the institutional mechanisms that now have difficulty in adapting to new ways of working, which breakdown these established boundaries. To put this into context, the MA Art & Science is the only Masters programme of its kind currently in the UK.
All photography by Vic Phillips
Congratulations to all other winners of the Nova and to those shortlisted from a pool of 1300 graduating Central Saint Martins art and design students – especially to MA Art and Science graduate Julius Colwyn, shortlisted for his work In the Midst of Things.
Read more about the Nova Awards in the press
MullenLowe: About the Nova Awards