Dr Maria Fernanda Cardoso - The Marriage of Art and Science

Maria Fernanda Cardoso is a leading Latin American and Australian artist who lives and works in Sydney. She graduated with an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University, USA in 1990 and in 2013 she received a PhD from Sydney University in Art and Science.  She was catapulted to worldwide fame early in her career with the Cardoso Flea Circus 1994-2000 premiered at the San Francisco Exploratorium, an art and science institution in California. It was later presented at the Sydney Opera House in 2000 in a sold out season. The Cardoso Flea Circus now belongs to the Tate Gallery collection in London.

She has exhibited in over 25 countries world in institutions as prestigious as NY MoMA, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, PS1, New York, the San Francisco Exploratorium, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Fundacion La Caixa in Barcelona, the Centro Reina So a in Madrid.

In 2012 her large scale project the Museum of Copulatory Organs was the highlight at the 18th Biennale of Sydney, attracting crowds of over a quarter million visitors and enormous media attention including a half our ABC Artscape documentary titled The Wonderful World of Professor Cardoso.

In 2004 she represented Colombia at the Venice Biennale, exhibiting a large installation of star sh titled Woven Water, which is now part of the collection of the National Art Gallery of Australia and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, where she had an extensive solo show titled Zoomorphia in 2003.

In 1999 NYMoMA commissioned her a major installation Cemetery/ Vertical Garden which consisted of a 45 mt long wall sprouting 136,000 plastic  owers. This was for their millennium show, Modern Starts: People Things Places.

Recently her work with Emu feathers has earned her two prizes: one for her Fashion and Mimesis exhibition at Rodman Hall, Canada, and another for the exhibition Dead or Alive at the Museum of Art and Design in New York.

In 2014 she received the prestigious Creative Australia Fellowship for her interdisciplinary works.

Website: http://www.mariafernandacardoso.com

This presentation is about the diversity and complexity of genitalic morphologies. It aims to answer two interrelated research questions: Why is there is so much diversity and complexity in animal genitalia? And what is the best and most innovative way to present my  findings about the aesthetics of reproductive morphologies to a large and popular audience?

I have approached this research as an artist, from a visual and sensory perspective. I have made original images and objects that stand on their own as artworks, at the same time that they communicate scientific concepts that are difficult to convey to a general audience. The thesis aims to understand the science behind the general question of morphological extravagance, and to create ‘plastic’ forms that can engage meaningfully with a general audience.

My two research topics focus on the complex forms and competing theories that are currently put forward to explain the incredible extravagance of animal genitalia. Through the work, I show

that an artistic/museological mode of communication is an effective means of generating and disseminating the inter- disciplinary knowledge that I synthesise here.

My presentation investigates the complex and various morphologies of selected animal genitalia, placing the scientific understandings of their form and function into a cultural context (that of the museum). My artwork comments on how museums of natural history have had a general and continuing influence on how the public engage with ‘artful science’. This project provides a new and original understanding of the aesthetic, pedagogic and communicative possibilities of the museum as an art form.

The research also draws upon established biological pathways (including ‘biophillia’ and ‘formaphillia’) that shape emotional and aesthetic affinity for biological form and novelty. I mobilise non-literary forms of communication, such as three-dimensional displays, audio-visual information, and limited written text to engage the general public and specialised audiences alike. Finally, I use the allure of sexual selection, what we might call ‘aesthetic selection’, to seduce large audiences and to trigger a sense of curiosity, awe and wonder.

From The Outstanding Field: Artistic Research Emerging from the Academy - A Symposium. 19th — 21st of March 2015.