Better Dead Than Dying

(for art is like a living organism)… Better Dead Than Dying

2014
Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr

While the HeLa cells are remembered as Henrietta Lacks’ cells, it is relevant to remember that these cells originated from a biopsy of the very same cancer the killed Henrietta.  HeLa cells are hailed for the contribution to scientific research, while at the same time considered to be a laboratory weed that contaminated and made redundant many experiments.

In this work HeLa cells are gown over a polymer structure shaped after Henrietta’s silhouette from one of her best known photographs -embodying her shadow.

This Semi-Living shadow is placed in a specially designed closed artificial environment that initially acts to support the growth of the HeLa cells over the polymer structure. However, as the exhibition progress the cells will consume their nutrients and produce waste which will eventually transform their environment into a death chamber.

In an undetermined point in time, the Semi-Living shadow will be living no longer.

*The title of the piece is a quote from Samuel Butler’s 1872 science fiction book titled Erewhon in which he poetically explored the risks of technological evolution and the relationships between bodies and technologies.  

Acknowledgements:
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
The vessel have been designed and build by Robert Foster, F!NK + Co.

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