Cell Break

Jennifer Willet - Cell Break (The Banff Centre, Banff National Park, 2009) Photo: Don Lee

Cell Break
Jennifer Willet

Cell Break is a series of performances based on my experiences as an artist and non-specialist working in a variety of bioscience and biomedical laboratories.  Essentially, I am interested in intervening in the ‘laboratory ecology,’ as I perceive it.  The carefully balanced relationship between all organisms (and parts of organisms) inhabiting the lab – animal and human research subjects – cells, bacteria, enzymes, plants – the scientists themselves, and even unwanted contaminants.  What interests me about this ecology is the closed relationship it possesses with external ecologies.  Ideally within a lab – specimens and samples either originate in the laboratory vacuum, or enter from the external world (screened and sanitized) never to leave again.  Additionally, elements of external ecologies (i.e. bacteria in the researcher’s fingernails, hair, and mouth) are presumably prevented from ‘infecting’ the environment and organisms within the lab.  I wish to produce a series of works that purposefully breaks with this convention – that breaks with the penitentiary model that biological specimens must endure. I wish to enact a series of ‘cell breaks.’  We will take a variety of educational grade laboratory specimens for a walk.  A hike in the outdoors!  We will secure the specimens in modified backpacks and carrying cases, to preserve their ideal living conditions, while riding on participant’s backs through the external ecological environment.

Special thanks to Billie McLaughlin for sewing and construction of the backpacks.

This project was performed at two locations in 2010:

As part of the Interactive Screen 2010 Conference at The Banff Centre in August 2010.

Link: http://www.banffcentre.ca/programs/program.aspx?id=1028

As part of the Bioremediation Conference at Fluxmedia, Concordia University in October 2010.

Link: http://fluxmediaresearch.com/#515201

I am grateful for support from SSHRC Social Science and Humanities Research Council and The University of Windsor for support of this project.