On our collaboration
FORMA QUESTION 1
How has this collaboration changed your attitude's on the other's discipline?
Before my collaboration with John the authorship of the resulting artworks was clearly mine and the scientific collaboration not part of the creative decision making, Working with john this has very much been an equal co-authored collaboration with the focus being on progressing not only the artistic concerns which helped scientists with public engagement and educational agendas, but also the scientific possibilities which, working in the context of art, could facilitate new hybrid discoveries at a different pace.
It hasn’t changed my attitude’s for other disciplines; I don’t categorise or define disciplines,these create real or virtual boundaries that become barriers. The collaboration supports the idea of accelerating our level of knowledge by being more open and open minded.
FORMA QUESTION 2
After artist Marc Quinn collaborated with geneticist Sir John Sulston, he said the distinction between the disciplines was that "science is looking for answers and art is looking for
questions". How far do you agree?
I agree to some extent but this very much depends on the persons involved. I generally say that artists can work with the unknows or grey areas whereas science has to work with knowns to explore the yet to be known. Art is about the space between what it is and what it does and this is not always directly obvious, or clear in the short term, and may be only clear with hindsight.
As a social communal beast we do seem to like and need to some extent our labels and categories; this kind of work hopefully helps to maintain the identification of specific areas of
knowledge, but by example demonstrates how freely we can move between spaces and use each other’s knowledge and expertise and create the new.
FORMA QUESTION 3
Is there something specific about the body, the cellular and the genetic that is asking for a simultaneously artist/scientific approach?
Only in that we all have first-hand knowledge of it
It’s amazing, it’s asking to be looked at in every which way we can, it’s fair to say the more we
know, they more we realize how little we know.
FORMA QUESTION 4
In what ways are you developing the piece after Ars Electronica? And will the live/living piece evolve of its own accord?
The evolution of Heirloom is Key. It is a living experiment. Of course there are general facelifts to the kit and exhibition form but the biggest challenge now is to develop the solution to a full lift of the 3d formed skin. We have succeeded in lifting about 2 inch square sections, but not the entire face. This is the challenge. When this is possible then we can foresee a possibility of applying this directly to facial reconstruction. So patients with scans of their own face shape and
with their own cells can be repaired in a way not yet possible. Skin stretches and breaks and ripples and folds. If it is formed in the correct shape in the first instance this will not happen. The other development is to take what we have learnt through this project into creating aN accessible wet-lab in Liverpool and linking this to the work in ethics I explored in The wasted Works. In the Ars Electroncia and Jijki Golden Seed shows further casts were made of Saskia and lola. The originals were made when they were 11 and 13 years old. The new ones made two years later and the girls are now 13 and 15. Perhaps by 2018 we will be able to print direct onto bioglass (that dissolves over time) with 3d printing using cells, Same outcome, different
methods. It is also hoped that the maxillofacial reconstruction possibilities being developed in heirloom will be widely used.
I’m with Gina, that’s the plan.
forma question FOR GINA (5)
GINA, How has working with Forma Arts helped you develop the project further?
I have worked with FORMA since 2002. Forma helped me to produce and continue large scale productions and exhibitions when I moved to Australia and had two young children. Without
forma this would not have been possible. With Heirloom, I had exhibitions simultaneously in Korea and Austria. Having forma on board meant that this became possible, working in a team
rather than alone is really fantastic and discussing the potential and way forward rather than just the logistics is critical to conceptual development and sustainability as an artist working with this kind of work.
forma question FOR GINA (6)
GINA, How has your background in painting and animation informed the radical medium used in Heirloom, itself a kind of living portraiture?
Painting is a media and animation a process or technique dealing with time. Its realizing the media of time into my paintings that led them away from traditional notion of painting and drawing into film animation, video and computer generated imagery - paintings in time almost. Im interested in developmental research in science/technology and culture and try to express this interest in a visual way, or increasingly by process led outcomes.When we think of time and portraiture then Heirloom not only looks at the time frame of our lives but to the future. Still time-based art?
Watching John mixing the serum and making the media and nurturing the cells also reminds me of being made to make oil paint in ancient ways at Wimbledon School of Art. Just knowing the source of the pigment, the process of extracting it, the media to suspend it in and the fineness of the powder ground down in the media over hours to produce a desired result has similarities. The potency of human living cells as media is both its strength and its problem.
forma question FOR GINA (7)
Your work acknowledges the fine line between the normal and the pathological, identity and biology, a beginning and an end. How does such a fluid approach to dualisms work in
collaboration with a scientist?
That depends on the scientist.
forma question FOR GINA (8)
gina You have previously acknowledged your fears about the scientific drive toward genetic perfectibility. What drove you to make a piece that is technically at the forefront of this
Firstly I don’t believe that genetically perfect exists – its all dependent on context and this isforever changing. If we are to go by the least susceptible genetically to extinction, then Africahas the biggest gene pool. The scientific drive is, I believe, to enhance quality of life. This mayhave got confused with longevity, and I question if it is ethical to keep people alive at all costs. If heirloom result scientifically in the ability to help kids with burns, people with disfigurements
from Leishmaniosis or similar then this is something. If it speeds up the culture of cosmetic enhancement or augmentation or even replacement, then hopefully the public discussion
around this can have happened in advance. We all too often faced with technical possibilities advancing before the ethical implications have been addressed publicly.
forma question FOR GINA (9)
The piece itself is called Heirloom. In what ways was this piece also a commentary on the intangible connection of family and what we hand down? And was the creative process different
being so personally (and genetically) involved?
This piece is very much a commentary on the intangiable connection of family and what we hand down. Initially the work was developed under another title with another persons face used as the model. It was being diagnosed with womb cancer that altered the work so very much. Saskia and Lola were in Johns Lab giving their cells again when I was having my womb removed.Of course its got so many more layers when the subjects and participants are your children and how their attitude to participation and continuation with the project may change with age. But fundamentally it was all wrapped up with my fear of the worst, of what I leave for them that may be of value. This is tied into how society values and affords art outside of the commercial art market. We have yet to see what that value may be, hopefully it wont be two adults who blame their fuckeduppness on their mum.
0forma question FOR GINA (10)
What draws you to overlap art and science, or treat them as more relational rather than separate, in your work? What is positive about collaboration between these two spheres?
I have no idea what draws me to this- It has always been the case. From being about 7 I knew I could really draw and escape through this ‘one talent’. At about 14 I realised that I was deeply interested in biology and the social sciences. The two have gone together ever since but its taken longer to feel; confident in this hybrid land.
forma question FOR GINA (11)
You mention a biologists aphorism in your blog: "without mutation, there would be no evolution". How does this inform your work as an artist, as well as your understanding of identity that is at work in Heirloom?
This is really an expression of how particular words become negative and their more complex meaning lost. Evolution is generally understood to signify progress, mutation suggests cancer. My work I hope suggests the complex codependencies.
FORMA Questions for John (12)
What are the consequences of your experimentation in Heirloom for your own research?
Let us see where we can go with this in terms of pulling down funding, each commission is a living experiment as well as art. It provides for multiple outcomes some of them scientific, some
of them social and ethical and then it’s a beautiful piece of work to view and watch develop.
FORMA Questions for John (2)
What are the implications of 3D printing, and innovative cellular technologies, on human bodies? For instance, with something as inevitable as ageing? Does you work with Gina function as a sort of commentary on these scientific advancements?
The work offers a place in real terms and virtually for exactly that debate or commentary to be started. Actually we already started it with heirloom in Copenhagen, but as we expose more of the world to the work then hopefully the commentary and debate increase and evolve.Heirloom can raise many interesting points for debate about the future of mankind and our
wishes for ourselves as we age and hopefully life longer….. But we can’t live too long ......and that’s another big question.