The Vision Splendid (II)
Portable bioreactor housing living human tissue (the artist's own skin tissue, taken via shave biopsy), MDF, felt.
The glass bioreactor system is an artificial techno-scientific body operating at 37 degrees Celsius (human body temperature). It acts as an accessible alternative to a laboratory incubator in its ability to support living mammal tissue, and additionally allows for the viewing of biotech processes of living cells and tissue in public spaces such as museums and galleries.
The Vision Splendid explores biotech processes and the physical, ethical and ritual body, through the augmentation of human tissue in sculptural form. The living tissue growing in the glass bioreactor in this work originates from an anonymous female patient. Her cells (isolated from the skin sample of a 13 year old African-American female on January 31, 1969) were purchased through the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) online catalogue, which itemises over 4,000 human, animal and plant cell lines available for order. Trawling through the thousands of entries in the ATCC catalogue for these cells drew to mind searching through online obituary notices. Estranged from the donor’s body, the cells and tissue presented here are re-embodied in the form of a contemporary living reliquary. The significance of the living relic—a true vision splendid—and product of contemporary biological technologies acts as the ultimate ‘miracle’, such as a relic of the dead which is claimed to bleed or weep, as a sign of the direct power of the ‘creator’, or in this case, Institution. Just as the egg displayed at Sparta was regarded as a true relic of Leda’s union with the swan—so too living relics may appear as validation of the fruits of biotechnology.