WhiteFeather November 2 2017

Material / Immaterial


WhiteFeather positions her BioArt practice within the context of craft, via material investigations of the aesthetic and technological potential of bodily and vital materials. Her work, situated within and referencing textile methodologies, has ranged widely. 

Various projects have included: traditional textile constructions of human hair; rogue taxidermy sculpture with recycled fabrics/fur, found flesh and bone; digital representations of the body absent in the digital world; and, mammalian tissue engineering on textile scaffolds. She also hacks/builds electronics, uses web-based platforms to generate new mythologies via viral and interactive media, works in narrative video and approaches performance as embodied research in both the laboratory and the landscape. 

WhiteFeather’s current research-creation practice is focused on the material applications of living systems, the haptic intelligence of microorganisms and their interaction with machines. She presents this work within the frameworks of feminism, witchcraft/empathy and nonhuman agency.

Featured Films

BLÓM + BLÓÐ (2016)

blóm + blóð (Icelandic for "flowers + blood") presents performance as embodied research, in the landscape as laboratory/ studio. [8:00, digital video] 

The artist navigates the autumnal terrain of Norðdurland vestra (Northwestern Iceland), collecting natural dye and fibre stuffs, using landscape elements as tools for making and experimenting with flora and fauna in the creation of a textile work. The end (textile) result is never shown, the emphasis being on process as the creative work in focus, and the acquisition of new knowledge as one of the results. Utilizing the landscape as a laboratory means more than simply the outdoor acquisition of art/craft materials – it mobilizes human empathy through experiential learning, in gaining an ecological awareness of the source of materials one works with, fostering a working relationship with the environment and its agents. The video plays with notions of temporality and labour, but also with ideas of material agency, in terms of Jane Bennett’s, Vibrant Matter, where “efficacy or agency depends on the collaboration, cooperation, or interactive interference of many bodies and forces.” (p20)

A deliberate romanticization of landscape is disrupted by the practical necessities of Icelandic life, such as the sheep slaughter and the use of horse blood harvested for the pharmaceutical industry. Likewise, engagement with the messiness of the body is embraced as necessary on the path towards aesthetic outcome. The hegemonic notion of studio space, as isolated and hidden rooms where masterpieces are hatched, is subverted as the creative process is literally exposed. 

blóm + blóð has been screened as part of Subtle Technologies Festival v.20's banner exhibition, Cultivars (Zach Pearl, curator) at InterAcess Gallery, Toronto; Fermenting Feminism (Lauren Fournier, curator) at Büro BDP, Berlin; Front/Space Gallery, Kansas City; McGill University Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, Montreal as part of the Leavening the Conversation: Food, Fermentation and Feminism conference; The Body Electric (Dr Allison Crawford, Dr Lisa Richardson and Bryn Ludlow, curators) as part of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada International Conference on Resident Education (ICRE), Quebec City and Associated Medical Services (AMS) Phoenix Invitational Conference, Toronto. Additionally, video stills and a transcript of subtitles are published in Fermenting Feminism (Lauren Fournier, curator) in collaboration with the Laboratory for Aesthetics and Ecology (LAE)Berlin/Copenhagen and Broken Dimanche Press, Berlin. A downloadable PDF of the complete publication is available online through e-ARTEXTE, here

Funding for the project was generously provided by Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec and by the Textiles and Materiality Research Cluster at the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University.

Aseptic Requiem/ Requiem Aseptisé (2014/ 2016)

Aseptic Requiem/ Requiem Aseptisé (2014/2016)- 24-hour time lapse digital micrographic video (with English text) - [2:57]

Aseptic Requiem presents a new scientific protocol for the compassionate disposal of in vitro semi-living organisms. The 24-hour time lapse digital micrography shows repetitive looping of 11 compressed seconds of live NIH3T3 connective tissue cells successfully engaging with and performing vital functions on silk filaments in cell culture media. Silk was chosen for this experiment, as a biotextile scaffold material for cells, due to its natural indicators for cell differentiation. 

The time lapse sequence was produced in August 2014, in collaboration with Guy Ben-Ary at CELLCentral, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia, during an artist residency at SymbioticA International Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts. The French translation was co-produced by Anne-Marie Belley and Jasmine Colizza for Maison des arts de Laval, Quebec. Funding for the project was generously provided by the New Brunswick Arts Board (artsnb), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Concordia University, and numerous private donors.

Aseptic Requiem/ Requiem Aseptisé has been screened as part of Material/Immaterial, ARTLAAB, University of Western Australia; Biomateria + Contagious Matters, FOFA Gallery, Montreal; Function Keys (3) Conference of New Technology and Digital Culture, Hamilton, ON; Subtle Technologies Festival v.20's banner exhibition, Cultivars (Zach Pearl, curator) at InterAcess Gallery, Toronto; and L'art est vivant! (Anne-Marie Belley, curator) at Maison des arts de Laval and Centre d'exposition de Val-d'Or, Quebec.

Biotextile Craft (2016)

“Future craft” is an emerging genre of research-creation that encompasses a number of traditional maker methodologies, merged with the tools and methods of scientific, technological advance. This video forms a didactic visual narrative about processes of mammalian tissue engineering on hand-woven protein fibre scaffolds. This process, newly developed as part of an artistic project and named "Biotextile Craft", sits at the intersection of art and science in the transdisciplinary application of traditional craft processes to biotechnological laboratory protocols. Specifically shown is the "wet weaving" process followed by seeding cells onto the woven horsehair scaffolds. The invention and performance of new tools, new protocols, the subsequent long-term growth of new hybrid "life" forms, as well as the presentation and display of these processes and experimental results are unconventional, yet significant outputs for both science and craft.

Biotextile Craft - Materials used include stereolithographic micro-looms printed with polylactic acid (PLA), handwoven horsehair, live mammalian (NIH3T3) cells and nutrient media.

About the Author

WhiteFeather is an artist-researcher and educator, as well as an independent writer, curator, and arts consultant currently based in Montreal, Canada.  

WhiteFeather is a multiple-award winning scholar and arts grant recipient, holding an MFA in Fibres and Material Practices from Concordia University. She has presented her work internationally in exhibitions, artist talks, conferences and residencies, most recently in Toronto, New York, London, Reykjavík and Berlin.  

WhiteFeather currently works as Research Affiliate, Technician and Interim Principal Investigator for the Speculative Life Lab, and as Coordinator for the Textiles and Materiality Research Cluster, both situated within the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University. 

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