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Semina Aeternitatis

with Margherita Pevere

 

exhibited at Experiment Zukunft, Kunsthalle Rostock, 2019

Semina Aeternitatis takes a hybrid approach on immortality, by entwining human memories with bacterial inheritance.

Can a non-human organism carry and pass on the nostalgic memory of a human being? What does it mean to inscribe a memory story, by means of biotechnological processes, in the DNA of a non-human being? Could the resulting hybrid creatures improve our understanding of the complex relationship between humans and other organisms?

The project Semina Aeternitatis approaches the answers to these questions in an interdisciplinary research process. Mirela Alistar developed an algorithm to translate the childhood memory of a Rostock woman into a DNA sequence. The latter was manufactured as a plasmid, a circular DNA molecule. In the IEGT Rostock laboratory, Margherita Pevere and Mirela Alistar executed over 20 bio-protocols to eventually introduce the plasmid by electroporation into the cells of the Komagataeibacter rhaeticus bacteria. The bacteria is now carrying the memory story in their body.
After weeks of culturing, the resulting cellulose biofilm is reminiscent visually, and when touched, with the human skin. Prior to the exhibition, the biofilm underwent sterilisation to prevent the contamination of the environment with the genetically modified bacteria.
The childhood memory, which survives in Semina Aeternitatis, goes back to a formative experience: As a five-year-old, the Rostock woman was sent home from the field for the first time unaccompanied and on a workhorse. After the first shock, the horse's reliability, stamina and equanimity became a life lesson that made her the strong person today. At the age of 80, she shared the memory with the artist for the first time ever.

The Latin title Semina Aeternitatis means "Seed of Eternity”; however, are we humans destined for eternity?

Semina Aeternitatis is neither a criticism nor an affirmation of biotechnology. The project faces a critical examination of the complexity of today's phenomena and increasing ecological tensions.

More information:

Margherita Pevere's webpage

press report by NDR

interview by We Make Money not Art Magazine

Experiment Zukunft webpage

Credits:
Margherita Pevere – concept, research, artistic direction, laboratory procedures, installation
Mirela Alistar – Algorithmic development, research, laboratory procedures
IEGT Institute of Experimental Gene Therapy and Cancer Research – Scientific partner
Produced by the Rostock University for Experiment: Zukunft with the financial support of Centogene

I thank deeply to everyone that has helped us throughout the journey:
Lotte, Marika Hellmann, Marzia Paladin, Marco Donnarumma, Andreas Stürmer, Ido Pevere, Kira O’Reilly, Prof. Helena Sederholm, Günther Seyfried, Nora Vaage, Hege Tapio, Fara Peluso, Robertina Šebjanič
Prof. Brigitte Pützer, Dr. Ottmar Herchenröder, Dr. Alf Spitschak, Dr. Styliani Logotheti, Dr. Toni Schumacher, Anja Stoll, Ingrid Winkler, Christin Richter, Stefan Marquardt, Prabir Dhar, José Dinis da Silva Faustino

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