The Biophilium, previously known as the Ayatana Artists' Research Program, is a Canadian residency dedicated to encouraging artists in their engagement with and appreciation of wildlife. We currently offer two-week long, thematic online study seminars centered around lectures by researchers from international laboratories, wildlife centers & museum archives that are framed by artist talks, studio visits, field trips and workshops. Each residency focuses on a specialized topic related to wildlife or death. We invite artists working with common themes into an environment where they can immerse themselves deeply into their studies.

Ayatana started in Nova Scotia, 2014 and offered programs on biology, geology and flight. In 2016 we settled in Chelsea, Quebec and began to introduce specialized Biophilia residencies allowing artists to focus on topics like birds, insects, plants, nocturnal wildlife, microbes, mushrooms and death. In the same year we hosted the fourth and final Women on the Wing program; for female artists to learn to pilot various small aircrafts, Submerge; about human relationships to water and Vestiges; which lead artists in urban and rural exploration of abandoned buildings. Today we also host programs on rewilding, ecological connections, evolution, non human sensory perception and consciousness.

In 2015 we set up and continue to run the Ayatana Moth and Butterfly Observatory. We maintain connections with local organizations including: the National Gallery of Canada, the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club, the Royal Astronomical Society, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Makerspace North and many laboratories in Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. Since we moved online during Covid we have made new affiliations with Cornell University, Kew Gardens, Genspace, the New York Mycological Society, the Museum of Morbid Anatomy, the Green Burial Council, and many University labs across Canada, the States, Europe and Australia.

Ayatana residencies are short and intensive but some groups go on to create and exhibit work together. We maintain connections with our residents by offering opportunities to participate in international projects and events after their residencies have finished. In 2014 the Ayatana Artists’ Research Program presented Art, Biology and Nature, a series of public talks at the K. C Irving Botanical Gardens at Acadia University, Nova Scotia. In 2014 and 2015 we hosted the Ayatana Artists Book Anthology which produced 30 artists’ books that showed in several galleries and conventions on 3 continents. They are now in private collections including the Museum of Old and New Art in Tazmania, the Center for Fine Print Research in the UK, Archives et Mediatheque at the Musee d’Art Contemporian de Montreal, Anchor Archive Zine Library in Halifax and Gallery Boekie Woekie in Amsterdam. In 2015 we exhibited Flocks of Secrets, Swarms of Lies, a group show of Ayatana residents’ work at the UCC Art Gallery in Oregon, USA and installed Murmuration, a living piece of art, at the UCA outdoor art festival in Nova Scotia, Canada. In 2016 we exhibited work in Arousing Biophilia in the Art Arc Gallery, San Jose, CA. In 2017 we worked with the National Museum of Nature’s Nocturn program to showcase the work of our residents. In 2018 we published the Germinating Herbarium, an anthology of art and writing by Ayatana alumni about plants and exhibited in Chaos Fungorum in Co:Lab, Toronto. Pre Covid we regularly produced site specific installations with live moss or snow. In 2021 and 2022 we hosted the Ayatana Art Card Swap that produced over 700 small works of mixed media art.

In 2021 we started the Ayatana Book Club for our residents and experts to share book reviews, and we publish an annual top 10 list of books on wildlife and death. In 2022 we changed our name to the Biophilium, started the Biophilium Blog and the Biophilium Bulletin about wildlife ecology and books, and began to offer single evening seminars on bioart and death open to the public. In 2023 we hosted our first monthly Death Cafe for artists to talk about mortality and grieving and partnered with Eco Art Space to host a lecture series on invasive species and novel ecologies. In 2024 we host a monthly Brain Cafe for neurodivergent artists to talk about cognitive function.

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