On labs and camping aesthetics

Bringing a perspective radically different from the one brought to life the day before with the screening, but still framing her work in a way that sheds a new -innovative-light over scientific experimentation, the use of the lab and its instruments,
Jennifer Willet presented her Windsor-based lab “Incubator” and the most recent project: theBioArtCamp

what is truly innovative in this project is Willet’s ecological perspective that demystify and reverse the concept of lab and its sterile atmosphere:  to the traditional and a bit stereotypical idea of the lab as a super-clean, CSI-esque, white environment, Willet opposes a lab where bodies, bacteria and other elements are entangled.


A scene from CSI Las Vegas

In fact, while it is important that a lab is maintained sterile and great precautions are taken to work with any creature/entity utilized for research purposes, one must remember that bacteria, instruments and human beings form an ecology. all the elements that constitute  the structure of the lab are contributing and are essential to its liveliness.

Taking off the clothes or just walking bare feet inside the lab (an unacceptable activity in a sterile environment);  imagining a lab populated by flowers and plants (Laboratory Aesthetics);  organizing camps that take the entities living in the labs outdoor and that let these microbes and small organisms to interact with the outdoor environment (cell break, or busting the cells outside the lab; ) are all experiments promoted by Incubator that undermine the assumed conceptions of the traditional lab.






above: an image of how the lab could be; Keyra O’Reilly challenges the purity of the lab

while I find this project brilliant, as it makes us reflect on the grand narratives, the rules and the assumptions that regulate  the work in a lab, thus humanizing and re-positioning this environment, I had some problems with the rhetoric informing the incubator camp.  in fact, one of the strategies used to bring to our attention the assumed isolation and extraordinary nature of the lab is the idea to “give the cells a break”. by building a portable lab and displacing the cells from the lab to relocate them into a diverse natural environment, Willet seems to fall in the trap of anthropomorphizing these entities. however, is it really necessary to enact such kind of rhetoric/ is this this only way to draw attention to the constructed and intimidating role of the lab?

all things considered, Incubator succeeds in presenting an alternative approach to the laboratory work that highlights and educates about the traditional scientific practices enacted in such sterile environment and at the same time challenges such practices, by juxtaposing to this clean space the “impure” and “diverse” space of the outside world, a perspective that the artist/researcher herself had already explored a few years ago with BiOTEKNICA, when working with the monstrous and anomalous semblances of teratomas.