Gina Czarnecki, John Hunt
When human materials are stored, grown and used outside the body it can be hard to say exactly who is being cared for, to say where, between us and our cells, identity lies.
Heirloom grows living portraits of Gina Czarnecki’s two daughters using cells collected from inside their mouths using a buccal swab. The cells grow on delicate glass casts of their faces in a life-support system that provides the best conditions for cell growth outside of the laboratory.
Heirloom combines innovative cell-nurturing methods and cocktails in readily available equipment in which the cells grow to the thickness of tissue paper. They are then preserved, lifted and presented as a personalized and scientifically accurate three-dimensional self-portrait—an heirloom that parents might decide to leave to their children as something derived from them and given back to them.
Heirloom reveals the process behind the artwork, combining elements of citizen science, prototyping and experience design to suggest possible futures, including new medical procedures and DIY techniques. It imagines and offers a cultural laboratory for the future of the face.
Heirloom is created by Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt, with Saskia and Lola Czarnecki-Stubbs. Developed for exhibition with Medicinsk Museion, Copenhagen. A Forma Arts and Media Touring production. Supported by public funding from Arts Council England.