Superposition Commission 2016

Deadline: 24/10/2016  |  City: Leeds and Sheffield  |  Country: United Kingdom  |  Andrew Wilson

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The Leeds-based arts, science and maker network Superposition are collaborating with scientists at Leeds and Sheffield universities to launch a new £2000 commission for an artist, craftsperson or cross-disciplinary group to explore scientific research.

The commission is to create a new work in response to Paul Beales' and Barbara Ciani's research on compartmentalisation in biology.

Barbara and Paul have put together an introduction to their work for non-scientists, and they and their post-doctoral students are happy to answer questions by email, phone or if you’d like to call in for a quick chat. There are contact details on the introduction page.

“One of the most important structural properties of living organisms that permits the intricacy and complexity of their behaviour is their division into a hierarchy of compartments.” says Barbara. “This complexity occurs across multiple length scales. For example, a human can be divided into functional organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys. Smaller still, these organs consist of different tissues composed of communicating colonies of cells.

Cells, the smallest biological unit are themselves composed by dynamically changing internal architectures where complex chemistries occur. How a cell’s compartments form and function is what we are trying to re-create in the laboratory.”

Artists applying for the commission will need to show that they are interested in engaging with the science, and collaborating with scientists, but this engagement will be on their own terms as artists and makers. “We are not looking for illustrations or teaching materials” said Paul.

You are welcome to propose a work in any form, but please bear in mind the requirements outlined below. The successful application will demonstrate that you have understood the science on your own terms, but you should think of it only as the starting point for your own process of making something. We are not looking for illustrations or teaching materials. You don’t need to have experience of collaborating with scientists before, and your previous work does not need any connection with science.

If you think this is an interesting challenge, apply with whatever you think is right.


We are open to any approach to this commission, but the following requirements will taken into account by the commissioning group.

  1. The work will need to be shown or happen more than once, without any extra budget. It will need to be shown in non-arts contexts, for example at a science festival. 
  2. The budget needs to cover all the costs of production, including materials and artist time.
  3. An interest in developing your idea through discussions with scientists.
Contact the curator
When is the deadline?
5pm, 24 October 2016
What time frame do we have in mind for delivering the commission?
We had a vague time frame in mind that the finished work would be presented/delivered to us sometime around March 2017, but, if that seems quite tight (which it is beginning to do to us), then we are open to your suggestions. Map out the time frame you think is right and relate it to the thing you are proposing.

This commissioning process is an experiment for us as well, so we might appreciate the reassurance of quite a focused process, but in the end, propose what's right for you and say why.

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