TETRAHYMENA – July and August 2011

A research and production residency by Marta de Menezes(PT) and Maria Manuela Lopes(PT).

Marta de Menezes and Maria Manuela Lopes, developed TETRAHYMENA at Ectopia – art research laboratory. In collaboration with Doutora Isabel Gordo at the Gulbenkian Science Institute.

Tetrahymena is an art project with no predetermined conclusion. It is an art project that lives of the experimentation, and as such it is an ongoing research process that dispenses a final statement. The work starts with an idea or concept that has been of critical importance to our society – the concept of gender. Our relation to the concept of gender is explored through a live organism that has seven distinct genders. Frequently, the words gender, sex, and mating preference are used with blurred boundaries. The common aquatic organism Tetrahymena exists in Nature in seven different “mating types” (as they are known to scientists), or sexes, or genders. Individuals from each “mating type” display characteristic morphologic and behavioral traits and are able to mate with individuals from any other of the six types different from their own.
We believe it is possible to use the live organisms as art media to generate an artwork addressing how each one of us relates to gender, sex, and mating preferences. In other words, we have chosen to develop a thought experiment, using objects and contraptions to challenge our preconceptions, belief systems, and rationality. Therefore, the artists’ aim is to not only to develop and experiment with biological material and techniques to develop and produce the artwork, but more importantly to experiment with concepts and preconceptions about gender issues that concern us all.
Tetrahymena is publically presented as an installation with a number of pieces that include the live organisms, video, and reflections of the observers. These installation pieces sequentially question the diversity of the different genders, or mating types; our own position within such diversity; and the supra-individual relationships that form the basis of communities and societies.

Marta de Menezes (PT)

Marta de Menezes is a Portuguese artist (b. Lisbon, 1975) with a degree in Fine Arts by the University in Lisbon, a MSt in History of Art and Visual Culture by the University of Oxford, and a PhD candidate at the University of Leiden.
She has been exploring the intersection between Art and Biology, working in research laboratories demonstrating that new biological technologies can be used as new art medium.
In 1999 de Menezes created her first biological artwork (Nature?) by modifying the wing patterns of live butterflies. Since then, she has used diverse biological techniques including functional MRI of the brain to create portraits where the mind can be visualised (Functional Portraits, 2002); fluorescent DNA probes to create micro-sculptures in human cell nuclei (nucleArt, 2002); sculptures made of proteins (Proteic Portrait, 2002-2007), DNA (Innercloud, 2003; The Family, 2004) or incorporating live neurons (Tree of Knowledge, 2005) or bacteria (Decon, 2007). Her work has been presented internationally in exhibitions, articles and lectures. She is currently the artistic director of Ectopia, an experimental art laboratory within a biological research institute – the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência – in Lisbon, and Director of Cultivamos Cultura in the South of Portugal.
http://martademenezes.com

Maria Manuela Lopes (PT)

Maria Manuela Lopes is a visual artist and researcher based in Portugal and the UK. Her current practice is transdisciplinar and based on issues of memory and self-identity informed by life sciences and medical research and presented in the form of time-based installations, occasionally including biological materials.
She has been working and showing nationally and internationally and also teaching fine arts in Portugal since 1998. She has studied fine arts – sculpture at the FBAUP-Porto, Portugal and did an MA at Goldsmiths College in London. She is presently doing a practice based research degree at UCA Farnham, UK, working with representational strategies of Alzheimer’s disease in a neuroscience laboratory at Hospital Santa Maria and Molecular Medicine Institute in Lisbon.
Maria is also assistant-Director of two residency programs: 1) ‘artists in Labs’ Ectopia – Lisbon, and 2) Cultivamos Cultura, an ecological oriented residency program in a farm in Alentejo. She has concurrently been presenting her work internationally at conferences and also publishing.
http://manuelalopes.com/maria/

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