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  • © Hideo Iwasaki

Excellence Award

Culturing <Paper> cut


Media installation / Bio art [Japan]

Bacteria-based work stemming from an observation that biology papers, while associated with objectivity, are in fact filled with subjective expres- sions like “Surprisingly” and “Inter- estingly.” Writing a paper on his own research on cyanobacteria, pond- dwelling, photosynthesizing microor- ganisms, the artist cut all subjective phrasing from it and clipped its dia- grams too into organic, abstract ki- rie paper cuttings. Spots where he had removed subjective descriptions he inoculated with the bacteria re- searched, 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 observa- tions cut out from them, diagrams re- worked to represent scientific figures, kirie in organic forms, the trajectory of the bacteria’s slow spread through the text discussing them. An experi- ment examining modes of scientific description to trace a new auxiliary line between scientific inquiry and ar- tistic expression.

© Hideo Iwasaki




Artist and biologist. Uses a multitiered approach to explore the complex elements making up life within the intricate intertwining of science, the humanities and art. Directs metaPhorest and is a professor at Waseda Uni- versity.

( 2019 )

Award Reason

Researchers in any field take meticu- lous care in describing or comment- ing on their own work. As students of art history or aesthetics, for in- stance, must be very cautious with descriptions of aesthetic “beauty,” I am reminded of being admonished asastudentmyself,“Refertopapers from science and engineering based on third-party replicability” to avoid careless, subjective use of “beauti- ful” in papers. Yet if it turns out that these supposed exemplars of neu- trality (which for this work would be research papers in biology) are actu- ally filled with emotional, subjective observations...? Through bioart and finely crafted kirigami cuttings, the artist effects deconstruction, recon- struction 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-expres- sion in conjunction with hacking and generative form to offer as a result this highly appraised piece. (MORIYAMA Tomoe)

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