CLONEOLOGY

2003

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The Nobel prize in medicine for 2002 was awarded to three scientists, Sydney Brenner, John Sulston and Robert Horvitz, for their discovery of the genes that determine how living cells divide and die. The discovery led to a better understanding of how genes shape human health and disease, especially cancer. The three scientists carried out their experiments on a tiny nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, commonly known as C.elegans. It shares many of the biological characteristics that are essential to human biology – embryogenesis, morphogenesis, development, nerve function, behaviour and aging. C.elegans is a 1mm long microorganism that lives in the soil, especially rotting vegetation, where it survives by feeding on microbes such as bacteria.

In the installation Cloneology, a series of small wax paintings contain photographic images of C.elegans (shot through a camera mounted on a high powered laboratory microscope). They are juxtaposed with wax-filled petri dishes depicting the natural stages of cell division, known as mitosis. Above a metal shelf is located a larger wax painting containing a photographic image of a set of C. elegans eggs (shot through the same microscope). This set of eggs has been ‘cloned’, not through human intervention in a biological context, but through artistic manipulation using computer technology. On the shelf rest petri dishes, containing scanned images of the CEO’s of Canada’s top forty biotechnology companies. These images, also encapsulated in wax, are undergoing their own transformation, as colonies of cells form over the surface via artistic experimentation.

 

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