Five Minutes with Donna Franklin

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Donna Franklin stitching her dress Fibre Reactive

Donna Franklin stitching her dress Fibre Reactive.

Artist, Super Human: Revolution of the Species, 5 November- 5 December 2009

This artist’s work in Super Human is a dress called Fibre Reactive, which is made from living fungi (Pyncnoporuscoccineus)

As an artist working with technology, what is the most important thing that you consider when creating a new work?

The cultural and sociological role the work will have and its future applications.

Can you elaborate about the importance of scientific research to your work?

Scientific research is a vital process for the creation of the work, it is a key component to the methodology behind the creation of the works.

How and where does a work begin when it comes to utilising technology?

The technology used to create the living garment, stems from the application of mycology. Mycology (study of fungi) provides the context and history for the work.

It talks about our on-going investigations into the natural world, and in addition how we filter the natural world through cultural systems. The garment surface consists of the mycelium grown by the orange bracket fungus (Pyncnoporuscoccineus).

Can you highlight some of the technical challenges you face working in the cutting edge of art and technology?

Maintaining a balanced environment for the living component, especially sterile conditions.

Can you explain the process of collaboration in your artwork?

There is a focus on learning from the cross-disciplinary interactions with the intention of generating new approaches to established knowledge. The requirement for those participating in the collaboration is to contribute / work with technologies from each discipline. For example: science, mycology, education and art.

What comes first – the art, the idea or the interaction with technology?

It’s simultaneously the three. The technology will spark the ideas and the art and ideas seek out the technology.

At some level, your work requires viewers to physically engage with your art. At what stage in the process do you factor in how audiences will be part of your art?

I always consider how the audience will respond to the work, the more visceral the reaction, the better. I hope they will consider what it would be like to wear the piece, and then consider either their own mortality or responsibility towards living things.

This is philosophical, but it touches on the issues raised in Super Human – is technology making us more or less human and how do you explore that in your work?

It depends on what type of technology we are interacting with. It can distance us from real lived experiences: leading to a lack of empathy and understanding the consequences of our actions. Technology can also provide solutions to human and environmental issues. The outcomes seem highly dependant on power and access.

The aim of this work is to draw attention to the commodification of living entities and therefore question our current responsibilities interactions with life and the environment, in doing so encouraging the viewer to consider their own ethical position in light of these potential futures.

How do practitioners in science and technology respond to your work?

Mostly intrigued, also asking why – regarding its scientific function. I also use the work as an educative tool, to inform as many people as possible about the importance of fungi to our survival.

What excites you about the possible interface of art and technology in the future?

Knowledge has no boundaries, this is what excites me. There is so much potential for the interactions of art and technology to provide solutions, new ways of thinking and new ways of approaching cultural and social education for the betterment of our interactions with life and living systems.

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