IT is fitting that in the 200th anniversary year of the publication of Frankenstein artworks grown from living pig tissue are to be exhibited in Edinburgh.

They are part of Edinburgh International Science Festival which begins on Saturday and will also include the unveiling of a giant balloon sculpture at the National Museum of Scotland.

Created from around 30,000 balloons, it will be one of the biggest sculptures ever made by US artist Jason Hackenwerth, and will hang from the gallery and rotate to form a giant vortex.

The unveiling will help emphasis the role the arts now play in the science festival which will also see new commissions from Scottish-based artists Dennis and Debbie Club. Fergus Dunnet and Roy Shearer will also be part of the Existence: Life and Beyond exhibition at the museum.

Their installation will feature robotic creatures which mimic animal behaviour in response to the actions of the viewer while the Clubs’ artwork will allow audiences to step into the mind of an AI bot.

In addition, the festival has commissioned a new work for two to five-year-olds from award-winning Scottish theatre company Frozen Charlotte. It is described as a fascinating, funny and moving experience inspired by the adventures of real women in space.


FOR creative director Amanda Tyndall, there is no doubt that art provides new ways of looking at science.

“There is a bit of a stigma around the word ‘science’ – people are often put off by their early experience of it at school,” she said. “We are trying to demonstrate that science is part of nearly everything and trying to find ways to remove barriers to access.

“There is a large arts and culture absorbing public so we are using the arts to attract these audiences and talk about science in that context.”

Tyndall told The National: “We want to engage people with science so they can understand its relevance and how it can help them make decisions about their everyday life, whether it is to do with the environment or health.

“Art can provide new ways of looking at science-based issues and their moral and ethical implications.

“There is increasing recognition of the fact that we need really creative problem-solving approaches to the challenges that face us.

“And there is a growing body of evidence that arts-based learning in science is a very valuable way of building skills in young people and gives them the power to help them address these problems.

“We are trying to encourage them to consider STEM careers and by bringing in the arts it makes career options much more accessible and approachable to a wider range of young people.”


THESE can be viewed in a special contemporary art exhibition co-curated by the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Summerhall and ASCUS Art & Science and funded through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.

Synthetica will showcase the work of established international artists working in the field of bioart, including the renowned Marta de Menezes, Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, Tarsh Bates and Ting-Tong Chang.

Through works derived using the tools, techniques and often living tissues of scientific research, Synthetica will explore how notions of the natural and the artificial may need to change in an era in which hybrid and synthetic life forms have come into existence.

Zurr and Catts will present their Pig Wings, created in 2000 and the first-ever wing-shaped objects grown using living pig tissue. Pig Wings was developed at the Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and SymbioticA Laboratory at the University of Western Australia.

Following a residency at the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology at the University of Edinburgh, Zurr and Catts, joined by Bates, will also present work-in-progress exhibition Crossing Kingdoms, exploring the products of cell fusion in synthetic biology.

It raises questions such as in what ways do cell fusions challenge our categories and understandings of life, and what are the impacts on the environment and society.


BASED in Lisbon, De Menezes is celebrated for her work at the intersection of art and biology, demonstrating the use of cutting-edge biological technologies as a new art medium.

Speaking following the launch of Synthetica, which presents a retrospective of her acclaimed works including Immortality for Two and The Origin of Species, she will discuss the idea of what we consider “natural” today and how the questions of our own identity can be explored in this work.

Another highlight of this year’s festival is ECOVILLE, an interactive exhibition on The Mound Precinct, powered by EDF. Free to drop into and open daily from 10am until 5pm between Saturday and April 15, it will invite audiences to explore a low-carbon future through a variety of hands-on activities and exhibits.

The exhibition will feature the innovations and ideas that could help the world move from the carbon age into a new future that embraces technological solutions and a mindful use of resources.

This 30th edition of the Edinburgh International Science Festival is themed around Life, the Universe and Everything. There will be almost 270 events for people of all ages, including discussions with world-renowned experts, hands-on activities and family days out.

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