Friday 9th December 2011 – Sunday 19th February 2012
ARE WE CLINICALLY HUMAN? SCREENS, SCULPTURE AND PRESENCE.
As the Bluecoat leaflet said, Gina Czarnecki, through sampling, generating
and reprocessing images and sound, transforms gallery spaces to create
unique, immersive experiences. Influenced by the arena of biomedical science,
she’s been Artist in Residence at the Liverpool School of Tropical
Medicine and also worked in collaboration with Imperial College London
to research and create the new work in this exhibition.
Life as a visceral aesthetic alongside the athletics of experimental
progress poses big questions and Czarnecki’s kinetic work provokes
a living dialectic, a critical view. Will Science find the combinations
to our safekeeping or are we to be biologically colonised? Is our DNA
personally precious or to be mined? Are we personalities or marks to further
profiteering? Can our hearts go the distance?
In her latest show, Czarnecki emphasises and contrasts our co-existence
with a clinical exploratory arc. From the mean-minded memes of a mythological
powder magically manufacturing body parts for capitalist competition in
Pixie Dust, to juxtaposing markers of human
medical ingenuity with datelines of morbid politics and historical conflict
in Precious, this exhibition is Brechtian
in its scope.
The discourse of the human condition in a coercive system of tension
has dancer Iona Kewney personifying the frantic physicality of being bareback
on the bronc of life. In Quarantine she’s
a body caught in an inhuman race, experiencing the agony of chasing that
elusive orgasm of enlightenment, to only experience a fleeting joy before
looking lost and disappearing into darkness. The eerie ice-like structure
of Palaces – crystal resin embedded with thousands of milk teeth
donated by the public – evokes mythical creatures holding hands
and hides the stem-cell keys to mend ourselves.
Two orange leather art deco chairs are like comfy smiles in the corner,
but step closer and you’re on a roller coaster ride. The seat cushions
are filled with yellow fat from body liposuction and suddenly you feel
repugnance and disgust, but when you start prodding there’s a playful
bounce and a natural acceptance that we all sit on the stuff, literally
followed by experiencing a sinking feeling when you sit on these. The
chairs are buckets of debate about the preternatural relationship we can
have with our bodies, the pitfalls of airbrushed perfection and cosmetic
Czarnecki is interested in what’s left over and the life-giving
potential of discarded body parts. Although Wasted
– a series of filmic sculptures projected onto window screens, exploring
the use of human tissue in art and medicine – only comes alive at
night, it was not wasted in the daytime. Again, it had something to say.
The blank white screens were vertical stretchers, carriers of human potential
– for ill or good. Below them, rows and rows of dental plaster casts
of gums and teeth were more quantum mechanics than 3-D machine maps. Wherever
the missing people were, they were here too, in the portals of a living
language shared by us all.
The cyclic geography of Spintex is atmospheric.
It begins with the red jewel of a dawn sun and moves through daylight’s
wide-open eyes to the soft focused faces of dusk, then we see gleaming
glances and the joys of open-air dance in a Ghanaian night. Around the
corner, I sat beside Infected, a filmic birthing
pool where atom soup hosts a double helix and hones a human dancer. She’s
flexing, ready for a jump in evolution. Or will that be a jump out of
evolution into the petri dish of scientific designs?
Cellmass is stunning, I was transfixed, had
to sit in the dark room on the bench and watch it four times. Multiple
bodies fall and dance in three dimensions, a soundscape setting puts you
inside the Universe’s bell as a sizzle-fire surfeit of humans shape
kaleidoscopic structures – like a momentary Michelangelo frieze,
some Francis Bacon morphed meat, or a feather-boa spine. The whole thing
meets me as a summation of our homo sapiens collective, a connected home
of humanity continually making shapes with breathtaking being. But with
a hint of locust behaviour.
Upstairs, away from the stark clinical medical settings, life is war
but is also full of colour. A highly infectious agent lies deep in the
shadows of Contagion while engaging the gallery
goer in an interactive display – you’re making puffs of purple,
green and white smoke on a target screen as you move about the room. You,
the people in the films and installations, the artist and fellow viewers,
are thrown into perspective as a creative presence. Or is that a smokescreen
for biological bloodshed and weaponised combat?
A friend of mine visited the exhibition on the last day and was surprised
by a spectacular finale. A woman in a body suit with a mask over her mouth
stood in a glass box as attendants climbed up to the open top and showered,
bag by bag, one and a half tonnes of salt over her. Powder drifted about
the room, momentarily setting off the fire alarm as spectators, alchemised
by sodium chloride, tasted salt in their mouths. On the way to being cured
under glaring spotlights, the woman was chest deep in it, until, after
a Pinteresque pause, shuffling her arms, she began to dig her way out.
Czarnecki published a book called Humancraft –
Contaminating Science With Art. Whilst raising the frightening
ethical context of medical scientific progress, this exhibition shows
that without the art of being human, science wouldn’t exist. The
sweet and sour spirals of this unforgettable airing are inspiringly powerful
If you missed the show, Czarnecki is at .
Palaces will tour to the Science Museum, Imperial College London and the
Centre of the Cell, London in 2012, and the Herbert Art Gallery &
Museum, Coventry in 2013.
Comment left by Sandra Gibson on 29th February, 2012 at 19:40
I enjoyed reading this eloquent piece and regret having missed the exhibition at Liverpool.