In Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt’s living artwork Heirloom, cells grow almost imperceptibly. Keeping them alive and healthy is, however, far from easy. Last month we hosted two interactive workshops entitled Cellcraft to allow curators, artists, and others interested a glimpse into the world of growing and caring for cells.
Under the guidance of Dr. Rod Dillon we were introduced to aseptic techniques and the concept of subculturing. Using pipettes the participants carefully placed tiny droplets of medium containing insect cells on glass slides and examined them under the microscope. Later in the day the participants came face to face with their own cells as they used toothpicks to extract cells from the own cheeks. The cells were stained using blue or red dyes and finally examined under the microscope. As an introduction to carrying out a laboratory experiment, the participants’ cells were split into 2 separate tubes, and one tube (the experimental) was incubated in alcohol before staining. The remaining tube (the control) was simply incubated in saline. At the end, it was concluded that neither vodka or brandy are particularly good at improving cellular staining – at least not in this setup 😉
The workshops took place in the study room of The Body Collected exhibition. This exhibition explores how the human body has been collected for medical research over time, including the storage of cells and DNA in biobanks today. Malthe Bjerregaard, who’s curator from The Body Collected was present at the workshop and discussed with the participants how cells are collected and stored in the different worlds of art, science, and museums.
The workshops were part of EU project Trust Me, I’m an Artist, which also supported the development of the Heirloom exhibition, along with Arbejdsmarkedets Feriefond and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research.