The Hobart

A Moment to Reflect

by Stephanie Willams
A Moment to Reflect

Hobart Contemporary jewellery artist Emma Bugg is showing new work with ties to old as part of an exhibition now open in Melbourne.

You’ve accessed a tiny fragment of thylacine DNA and incorporated it into a new jewellery work. Tell us about what this means to you and how it came about?

In 2023, I applied to an international call-out to exhibit work in Not Natural, an exhibition at Science Gallery, Melbourne. Referencing the principles of a traditional locket containing hair and a photograph, I proposed to incorporate thylacine DNA into a locket, signifying a merger of art, science, and conservation, advocating for the preservation of endangered species and sparking conversation around de-extinction. The thylacine’s advocate. Collaborating with Professor Andrew Pask, lead biologist behind thylacine de-extinction, I have integrated thylacine pelt and DNA into a locket to evoke a sense of contemplation and responsibility towards biodiversity. During the development process, Science Gallery facilitated a visit to the TIGRR (Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research) lab, where I engaged with Professor Pask and gained insights to inform the work.

Emma at the launch

What else is being exhibited as part of this?

Not Natural is an exhibition exploring the growing friction between natural and artificial systems. With increasing control over nature, humans have opened a plethora of possibility and a pandoras box of ethical dilemma. Experience speculative local and international projects dissolving the line between what is considered natural and not natural. Are we redesigning evolution or is evolution re-designing us? And just because we can, should we? Not Natural has 14 works, featuring 18 artists and 30 researchers and collaborators. An art hero of mine, renowned artist Patricia Piccinini has some beautiful realistic human orangutan hybrid sculptures in the exhibition. The exhibition comes with the content warning: Contains sensory experiences, live jellyfish and a machete-wielding houseplant!

A gold baby

How is Professor Andrew Pask’s push to ‘de-extinct’ the thylacine going?

Professor Pask’s involvement in ‘de-extinction’ of the thylacine represents ground-breaking genetic research aiming to revive an extinct marsupial species. He had been working on this for 20 years at the University of Melbourne, and in 2022, received a large sum of private funding to progress this work. Utilising CRISPR and other advanced gene editing techniques, TIGRR Lab aims to reconstruct the thylacine genome and potentially reintroduce the species into its native habitat. The estimated timeframe for producing viable young is 8-10 years. If readers are interested, this is a link to TIGRR lab www.tigrrlab.science.unimelb.edu.au.

The locket

What is the contemporary jewellery scene like in Tasmania?

In a word, Tasmania’s contemporary jewellery scene is vibrant! Many jewellers pride themselves on storytelling, sustainability and local craftsmanship, contributing to the evolution of contemporary jewellery as a form of artistic expression. State of Flux Workshop is a gallery and dynamic work space I co-founded in 2020 with fellow jewellers Anna Weber, Gabbee Stolp and Jane Hodgetts. We love connecting with visitors and showing the process behind what goes into making a piece.

How can readers see your piece? My locket is a component of a larger collaborative installation with Professor Pask and TIGRR lab, which includes video interviews, thylacine artefacts and an interactive survey in which visitors have the opportunity to share their thoughts on de extinction. It can be viewed at Science Gallery, Melbourne between now and 29 June. Additionally, my jewellery is showcased at MONA, Handmark, Design Tasmania and State of Flux Workshop.

Head to www.melbourne.sciencegallery.com/not-natural for more, or follow Emma on Instagram @emmabuggjeweller.

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April 2024

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