Wombs looks at my own female body, whose leaky materiality is entwined with environmental relations by the gesture of taking hormonal contraceptives. Slugs are hermaphroditic allies in the exploration of inner and outer ecologies of fleshy desire. In the installation, a custom-made extra-bodily organ hosts two cell cultures in a hybrid ecosystem. My own vaginal epithelial cells and slug egg cell share growth medium, communicate chemically through it, and stage a dance of the two organisms at a cellular level.
In the hybrid ecosystem of the installation, the two cell types display a radically different behaviour: my own cells divide and small fragments of extra-bodily tissue become visible with naked eye. Slug cells, instead, do not divide: they are alive, but remain suspended. The growth medium is infused with human sex hormones and affects the primordial biochemical communication between cells. How would it be different if gastropod hormones were at play?
Wombs investigates the body as a biochemical cyborg: hormonal contraceptives modulate human sexual organs to prevent pregnancy, thus accompanying my own sexuality. Moreover, they inscribe my own experience into a biopolitical sphere, for, once released into the ecosystem through urine, they may trigger the endocrine system of other organisms. The work asks how they might affect hermaphroditic slugs, and wonders how slugs sexual behaviour might affect human bodies. By so doing, the piece prompts a critical re-thinking of the discourses on contraception and sexuality as a female-only, human-only experience enclosed in one’s own body.
Realized within the framework of the European Media Art Platforms EMARE program at KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis, with the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
The artwork is part of Margherita Pevere practice-based PhD in Artistic Research at Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture.
Biotechnological advisor: Gjino Šutić - UR Institute
Preliminary research at Biofilia Laboratory – Base for Biological Arts, Aalto University
Production manager: Josipa Vukelić, Jurica Mlinarec (KONTEJNER)
Photography: Sanjin Kaštelan, Margarita Koši, Margherita Pevere
Flameworking: Ivanka Pašalić - Association Stakleni svijet
Video: Ivan Šardi
Special thanks to dr. Božidar Perić, Ivan Skvrce (Academy of Fine Arts, Zagreb), Branko