Laboratory Ecologies

Laboratory Ecologies Exhibition
March 25-May 13, 2017
Hamilton Artist Inc,
Hamilton Canada

My practice relies on the basic argument that the laboratory is in fact a complicated ecology directly linked to the earth’s planetary ecology. When I enter a biological lab I see a carefully balanced relationship between a variety of organisms (and parts of organisms) inhabiting a shared environment: animal and human research subjects, cells, bacteria, enzymes, plants, the scientists themselves, and even unwanted contaminants engaging in mutually beneficial and mutually detrimental relationships. The lab is not the sterile work environment we see reflected back to us in popular media but in fact teaming with life, hot and fragile and fragrant. Somehow, we conceive of these life forms as separate from the planetary ecology we live in. Somehow, we see the interspecies ethics of the lab as different from the ways we engage with other species outside of the lab including; animal husbandry, hunting and angling, gardening, cooking, pets. My practice relies on the basic argument that the laboratory is not separate from our terrestrial ecology. The lab is a complex ecology itself connected (technically, metabolically, affectively, culturally and economically) to other human and non-human organisms in the earth’s ecology.

My research/creation is focused on re-connecting our collective understanding of the organisms and procedures within the laboratory to notions of interspecies relations, sustainability, and biophilia we more often apply to mammals and outdoor ecological environments. Essentially my work is asking participants to see ourselves, and our pets, and wild animals, and bacteria, and genetically engineered organisms as all existing within the same sliding scale of life on this planet. Over the years I have worked towards this goal through a variety of strategies including: performing unruly art actions in certified laboratories, collaborating with scientists to grow artworks in the lab, creating public art/science workshops for non-specialists, trekking harmless lab specimens into wilderness environments, building labs in parks and forests, and retooling existing biotechnologies and laboratory equipment to incorporate bodies, metaphors, and narratives not normally associated with the hard sciences.

Willet Project Supporters:
SSHRC Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada
The Canada Council for the Arts
Ontario Arts Council

Image Credits:
1-5) Jennifer Willet, Laboratory Ecologies Exhibition at Hamilton Artist Inc, Hamilton, Canada, 2017.
Image Credit: Caitlin Sutherland.