Winners BAD Award 2018

Bio artists make a connection between art and science in highly promising projects.

On Friday 25 May, bio artists Amanda Baum and Rose Leahy (duo), Yiyun Chen and Ani Liu were the selected winners of the Bio Art & Design Award 2018 (BAD Award). The jury chose these artists and designers from twelve teams of collaborating international artists, designers and scientists. With the prize money of 25,000 euros, the winners will spend the next year realising their bio art project. Each BAD Award project will be realised in close collaboration with a Dutch research institution.

The participants could count on a big crowd for pitching their projects in art centre Stroom Den Haag. The international jury, chaired by William Myers (writer and curator, United States), was impressed by the differences in content and approach of the teams. Myers: ‘The approaches to realise these projects were impressively diverse and ranged from sculpture and theatre to 3D printing and an entirely new visual language of icons. This points to highly meticulous and creative work from the participants and an effort to achieve originality.’ The golden thread running through the presentations was formed by subjects such as defining humans, life in the sea, how artificial intelligence, humans and ecosystems will relate to each other in the future, and the relationship between technology and disease.

The English duo Amanda Baum and Rose Leahy investigate the past, present and future of life on earth from a microbial perspective. In response to the stories of the Anthropocene, Baum and Leahy will use the prize to elaborate the ‘microbiocene’ to show how alternative futures are constructed by weaving worlds with microbes. They will realise the project in collaboration with researchers from NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research). The Chinese Yiyun Chen will use the prize to design and construct a horizontal living studio where she will subsequently live and work for a month. With this ‘life in bed’, she will simulate our modern lifestyle at home and the 24-hour culture. She will do this in collaboration with the Department of Nutrition and Movement Sciences NUTRIM at Maastricht University. With her work, Ani Liu from the United States will investigate how technological innovations enable people to redesign themselves. In collaboration with researchers from the Department of Radiology at the AMC Amsterdam, she will use the prize to make a series of artworks that show how technology influences us, with a focus on recognising the relationship between our body as matter and as data. The winning works of art will be exhibited from late November 2018 at MU, centre for visual culture in Eindhoven.

The jury about the winners See the attachment for the jury's laudations about the three winners of the BAD Award 2018 (English).

About the BAD Award The BAD Award is an annual international competition. Its aim is to allow artists and designers who graduated no more than five years ago to experiment with bio art and design and to push back the boundaries of art and science. The BAD Award 2018 is an initiative of NWO, ZonMw, MU and BioArt Laboratories. The prize forms a stimulus for the rapidly growing group of young creatives who focus in their work on exploring the new possibilities offered by the life sciences. The members of the BAD Award 2018 jury were:

  • William Myers, curator and writer (United States/the Netherlands) jury chairperson.
  • Manon Parry, assistant professor of Public History, University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands)
  • Karen Verschooren, curator and head of Exhibitions at STUK Arts Centre Leuven (Belgium)
  • Isaac Monté, artist and former BAD Award winner (Belgium/the Netherlands)
  • Han Wösten, Professor of Microbiology, Educational Director Biology and Biosciences Utrecht University (the Netherlands)
  • Koert van Mensvoort, artist, philosopher, scientist and founder of Next Nature Network (the Netherlands)


Amanda Baum and Rose Leahy (UK): ‘Microbiocene: Ancient ooze to future myths’
In collaboration with: Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) (Stefan Schouten, Julie Lattaud, Laura Schreuder, Gabriella Weiss)

This proposal recasts our understanding of the geological or biological epochs, moving it to the perspective of the microbial. This seemingly simple thought experiment unlocks vast potential for imagining the far future as well as the distant past. By distancing ourselves away from an anthropocentric viewpoint, however briefly, we are invited to consider a new visual language, even a new type of monumentality. The jury also witnessed clear enthusiasm among the artist and scientific teams about working together and it is commendable that Amanda and Rose have returned to this process after an unsuccessful bid in the past. Finally, we point out the very poetic notion they begin their application with: ‘Welcome to the Microbiocene. Although, you’ve always been here.’

Yiyun Chen (China): ‘Horizontal Living - Long live in bed’
In collaboration with: Department of Nutrition and Movement Sciences,
NUTRIM, Maastricht University (Patrick Schrauwen, Vera Schrauwen-Hinderling)

This project takes as its starting point the observation that trying to live well in bed is a struggle for a vast and growing number of people worldwide. These are literally millions of souls in this situation who are pitied but ignored, forgotten about, or even judged negatively for it. But the worst malady would be a lack of imagination for what to do to help. Ms. Chen’s project dedicates her time, creativity, and physical and emotional health to finding ways to make such an existence more palatable, even sustainable. The jury was most impressed by how thoughtfully this is approached in the proposal and for its achieving something quite unusual: rather than making the microscopic or otherwise literally invisible realm visible, as much bioart does, this project brings illumination onto the figuratively invisible: the chronically ill, the recovering, and the shut-in.

Ani Liu (USA): ‘Data Veins & Flesh Voxels: a search for what is Human’
In collaboration with: Academic Medical Center (AMC) Amsterdam, Department of Radiology & Nuclear Medicine, division of Musculoskeletal Radiology (Matthias Cabri, Onno Baur, Mario Maas)

This project works to translate social, physical, and even emotional data into new kinds of artistic representation. It proposes doing so in a legible way that still preserves the complexity and immensity of an identity. In this case, the jury also detected a strong cooperative spirit and mutual respect between the designer and the scientific team. In fact, they were even able to acknowledge an early shift in perspective on the part of the researchers, who, through the process of the application development, have arrived at a slightly more empathy-informed approach to patients. Another factor that impressed the jury was the thoughtful contextualization that Ani Liu offered in the first part of the application presentation, illuminating how the way we understand ourselves through the ages is based on the dominant technologies of the time.