It has been a while since I last posted. Another year and I continue to grow the bioassemblages and find ways in which to transport, display and nurture them that attempts to move beyond the usual scientific framing. I haven't sequenced them (to 'read' whether they have kept my thought-as-DNA safe within their bodies) in a very long time, as I hope to find a way to sequence the organisms that does not involve needlessly killing some of them. When working with life, is it possible to satisfy my curiosity without sacrifice? I would prefer that they die naturally. My aim is to sequence only those already dead, which involves taking a sample out of their bio-reactor and placing them in a smaller container until they use up all of their nutrients, but if I'm anthropomorphising (which with Jane Bennett's blessing, I like to do) this still feels a little too much like the controlling forces of late capitalism. So for now, I will simply continue to allow them to grow, whilst I work on other projects and periodically return to this question.
The bioassemblages have travelled to Gallery North Project Space at Northumbria University and to Summerhall in Edinburgh, where they have been shown as Pithos ConsTrained: contained and constrained by a vessel form which allows them to come out of the laboratory for a period of up to two weeks at a time, longer if they can be maintained easily on site. The vessel, made in collaboration with Robyn Hare at Newcastle University, is hand blown from a found object - an old scientific glass vessel - and resembles the first pithos form I made, Pithos (2016). It has three ports, as does the original pithos. Although the form of my first pithos was intuitive, it clearly resembles a functioning object and in this case, the ports all have a specific function. When the vessel is not on public display it houses the organisms in their new location: the microbiology lab at Northumbria University, where it forms part of a bio-reactor* that passes air and liquid nutrients to the organisms, the third port allows waste to be drained away.
The leaky vessel has become a significant form in my work as I explore the boundaries of the body. I am drawn to it through Ursula Le Guin's Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction and more generally, as an object with boundaries but which is also porous (and pours). The three ports in this glass vessel are my constrained attempts at creating a leaky or porous vessel for GM organisms. I continue to find ways in which to add to the porosity of the vessel in ways that the UK gallery system will allow.
Pithos ConsTrained (2018-19)
In situ at Microbiology Lab at Northumbria University
Image courtesy of artist
*The bio-reactor is an adapted early model BioExplorer generously donated by Amino Labs.