Bio art

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In this section, six young visual artists who graduated from an art school in the Netherlands in 2021 write letters to each other telling how starting their lives as visual artists is going for them and what they are working on. Taking turns, one of the six artists writes to the others what is on his or her mind. The artists who participate in this column are: Lauren Raaijmakers (WdKA graduate), Leonie Fernhout (WdKA), Jelle van Kuilenburg (ArtEZ), Repelsteeltje (WdKA), Hannah Meijer (HKU) and Loes van Reijmersdal (St. Joost).

Rotterdam, June 21, 2022

Dear All, 

First, I want to thank everyone for their response, even though I didn't get to answer them all it did me good; and specifically the artists who wrote their letters so honestly. Leonie, Jelle, Repelsteeltje, Hannah and Loes. 

I graduated almost a year ago now, but the sense of time is warped. I have been in an in-between world for a year now. Like the young woman in The Bell Jar Under the fig tree. I tell myself that I still have time to choose the right fig before they shrivel, turn black and fall down at my feet. Especially during the chilly winter months, it has been quiet, my feet seemed frozen into the hard earth. 

I've been in an in-between world for a year now

I had some online meetings with BioArt Laboratories during the winter months, as I am in their talent pressure cooker program to make my project called Touching Death further elaborate. The idea of an urn encased in skin came about after my grandfather passed away from COVID19 in October 2020. I worked out this idea fleetingly during my minor, my teachers referred me to the Bio Art field. In the spring, I would start in the lab and until then, I kept myself busy with the preliminary research. In terms of materials and techniques, things were going well, but I was stuck on redefining the concept and its philosophical implications. It went in circles and I doubted everything. I exhibited depressive traits that I recognized all too well, and thought back to that balance I was talking about earlier. All or nothing still seems typical for me. No matter how much I try to resist it. I found the work of Julia Kristeva Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection a week before I was to begin in the lab. "The corpse, seen without God and outside of science, is the utmost of abjection. It is death infecting life." (Kristeva, 4). I found in this what I needed, I knew that I could let go of my personal grieving process Had to soak up the concept. 

All or nothing still seems typical for me. No matter how much I try to resist it

I now work weekly in the lab located in German bunkers from World War II disguised as a farmhouse. Here, hidden in the woods just outside the center of Eindhoven, my project is taking shape. The first test phase is already behind us. I work with kombucha on which there is a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) forms, to this I added three different forms of dna, blood, hair and isolated dna. The scoby absorbs all of these materials very well. When you dry the scoby you get a leathery texture and the yeasts look like veins. I then treat the scoby with parabens to protect it from mold and rot. I made two miniature versions of the urn, one with a base of beeswax and the other with a base of ceramic. And for the final version, I'm going to add all three types of dna to the scoby. 

Collectivity is very important but we also all need our daily bread

For the research I have applied for a grant, I am now awaiting the outcome of that. I want to publish my findings in a small publication in collaboration with two writers and a graphic designer. Perhaps I will also include a manual so that everyone can make their own urn. I hope to get the grant so that I can do the collaboration. So that they can also get paid fairly for their contribution. Collectivity is very important but we also all need our daily bread. 

I am looking forward to Dutch Design Week this year, because I can be there da nin full presence. With a project that is so much further than where it started, with a grandfather who would be proud of me. I will have BioArt Laboratories with all the inspiring people, lovely animals and beautiful surroundings. It will then be time picking the fig. 

I would like to ask further, do you think you picked the right fig?

Hope to meet you guys somewhere. 

X. Lauren. 

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