Sabine Kacunko – University of Copenhagen

Sabine Kacunko

Looping Life: Corpuscles

The performance, including two performers and a mobile sound sculpture, is a continuation of the artist´s bacteria art in recent years, for which Sabine Kacunko applied different methods of representation also used for medical diagnostics and the study of biofilms.

Brief description & context
When viewing Sabine Kacunko’s bacteria art, apparent contradictions seem to dissolve, all the more naturally and without theoretical coercion, through an understanding of bio-logia – the life sciences – as the cross-border discipline par excellence. Art, as cross-border discipline and medium of “interface aesthetics,” points unabashedly to the creative and interpretive foundations of the natural sciences, calling attention to macro-connections between art and science, which, however, especially at the micro-level, are in a constant state of transformation, taking on ever new forms. Looking back, it is easy to see the two border disciplines of art and science came to find their medium in the bacteria art of Sabine Kacunko, after our early interpenetration of biology and religion departed from an historical background to discover new contexts of understanding. The largely secretive operations of this fruitful yet highly explosive mixture, this alchemy, will be presented on 15 May 2015 at the conference Bacteria, Art and Other Incommodities with the performance of Looping Life.

Blood as Medium
Blood is the origin of life, a life force. Yet, environmental toxins create pathogens, such as bacteria, that enter the blood and make us sick, endangering human and animal biodiversity. The course of development taken by these microorganisms in the blood depends on its specific milieu, which is determined by its variety and pH values. Substances foreign to the body can be measured in blood levels (blood plasma) and, thus, reflect the exterior milieu. The performance Looping Life makes this process visually, audibly and kinaesthetically perceptible. Looping Life is the extension of Sabine Kacunko’s bacteria art in the recent years to include new forms of representation going beyond the methods of medical diagnostics and biofilms research she has used to date. Looping Life opens up another field of interdisciplinary research to the artist’s investigations, focusing on the work of pathbreaking physician Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865): Semmelweis not only discovered early on that bacteria were the cause of disease but that their spread could be prevented through simple hygenic measures. His findings saved and continue to save lives to this day. Yet, despite his success, the work of Semmelweis went long unrecognized. His own students had little regard for the necessity of hygiene, and many physicians simply did not want to accept the idea that they themselves were responsible for the infection and spread of diseases they were attempting to heal. Some, like the German physician and obstetrician Gustav Adolf Michaelis (1798-1848), were so troubled by this discovery as to take their own lives. Michaelis was the first to confirm Semmelweis’ findings and defended the latter’s work against all opposition right up to his suicide. Not until his students submitted a request to the Danish king was Michaelis named director of the birth house and head instructor of the midwife school on 28 August 1841. He was not, however, afforded the title and remuneration of a professorship.

The Experiment
The media installation HIT AND RUN formed the centerpiece of Looping Life in an earlier event in Berlin 2013, where the artist placed a drop of blood taken from her finger tip under a dark field microscope fitted with a video camera and connected to a PC. The microscopic images were enlarged to 1000x their size and made visible to visitors on a monitor and other projection surfaces. During the performance, the artist added various substances to the drop of blood. Reactions in the blood and the movement of the tiniest particles, or “endosymbionts,” were analyzed with the help of specially developed software, which translated the transformations both visually and acoustically, live and in real time. In English, the epithet “hit and run” is used to refer to one of the two main mechanisms of the infection process.

Sabine Kacunko uses the sounds generated by these particle movements as the basis for the performance piece Corpuscles, to take place at the conference organized by Medical Museion Copenhagen.

Technology
Audio data, generated in collaboration with Dr. Paul Modler (Karlsruhe) serves as the basis for the current performance piece Corpuscles (a corpuscle is a tiny, free floating biological cell, especially a blood cell). The piece might best be defined as a mobile sound scultpure: a 3D model of the artist’s haemogram, or blood test, fitted with a speaker and a thermometer and resembling an acupuncture ball in design, emits atmospheric sound elements. The audio data is generated with the help of specially developed software that transforms into sound the reactions of endosymbionts to elements introduced to the cell environment by the artist.

Dancers toss the “ball” to one another and members of the audience, or move the object through bodily contact with (volunteer) participants.