In Search of Chemozoa (2020)

In Search of Chemozoa (2020): Three channel HD moving image installation.

Exploring new perspectives in response to the first study of cancer across species, boredomresearch present a poetic rendering of an in silico model organism, called Chemozoa, created in collaboration with Arizona Cancer Evolution Center, the artwork responds to mythical creatures documented in scientific literature to reveal tensions and interconnections between human and planetary health. Combining computer animation, filmed environments and scientific speculation, boredomresearch weave a poetic narrative that introduces new ideas emerging from cancer research.

In Search of Chemozoa Teaser from boredomresearch on Vimeo.

When in residence at the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center, boredomresearch witnessed the beauty of the Placozoan being studied by Dr. Angelo Fortunato who is developing novel model organisms to understand cancer across species. It was the complex web of ideas radiating from this simple organism that inspired boredomresearch’s imaginary Chemozoa; a fictional organism that experiences the same disease process that touches so many lives. With the dynamics of cancer programmed into their cells Chemozoa are designed to survive in toxic environments that act as an analogue for chemotherapy. The artwork responds to new therapeutic approaches centered on managing rather than curing cancer. The artificial physiology of Chemozoa does not differentiate between healthy and unhealthy cells and therefore no clear distinction can be made between cancer and body. As such the Chemozoan escape the existential crisis of experiencing an internal conflict between healthy and unhealthy, self and other, characteristics of cancer. The Chemozoa allow us to reflect on our own relationship with conflict, foregrounding the benefits of balance in the management of singular identities made of conflicting parts. A philosophy that extends beyond the health of the individual to encompass the health of our societies and our sustaining natural environment.

In Search of Chemozoa offers us an opportunity to consider the increasing importance of ecological perspective in areas of research relating to human health where we are encouraged to acknowledge that  to live long health lives we first need to accept a fragile balance that plays out at the level of the cell. New insights benefit from acknowledging that the conflict between cells in the body, as seen in cancer, is the same as the conflict in ecosystems made from beings whose interests are not always aligned. In doing so we move from an aggressive ‘war on cancer’ dialogue to one that prioritises values of peace and stability. Nature has shown cancer researchers how to preserve health in the body. Can cancer research offer us a vision for how we can return health to a world that is becoming increasingly hostile and inhospitable?

In Search of Chemozoa was commissioned and funded by the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center at the Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University and film production was supported by an Arts Council of England National Lottery Project Grant. The artwork production has been created with thanks to: Lara Parmiani, Narrator; Angelo Fortunato, Featured Scientist; Pamela Winfrey, Curator & Film Producer; Cristina Baciu, Finance Manager; John Crozier, Film Location Coordinator; Carlo Maley and the Cancer and Evolution Lab and Athena Aktipis and the Cooperation and Conflict Lab for their contribution to the science research.

Exhibitions:
In Search of Chemozoa, Solo Exhibition – Aspex Gallery (15 January – 11 April 2021);
Restless Balance, Solo Exhibition – ASU Art Museum, Arizona (5 December 2020 – 24 April 2021).

Links:
Arizona Cancer Evolution (ACE) Center
Computer Art Society talk on the project


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