Sunday, 27 May 2007
A&G Centre: Micro-surgery 101
May 11 2007: Adam Zaretsky Embryology Session, Leiden University.
Eden St James was kind enough to photograph the experience.
I was assigned a phesant egg, with a three day old embryo inside. This egg had a name. It was called material.
Rationale: Perform micro-surgery on the embryo, using
a)Microsurgical tools to modify the form
b)acid to modify the growth
c) growth mutating plasmid
I chose micro-surgical tools only.
The idea of performing Micro-surgery on an embryo really made me feel physically ill. I was struggling with the idea of going through with it, and very nearly didn't. So I felt as someone who inadvertently uses animal products in a Lab, even when I am growing tissue, I should address the fact of this head on and actively engage with and take responsibility for it, instead of just ignoring it,or putting it down to necessity as I suppose I have been doing. Its very easy to sideline it if its a generic coloured liquid in a generic coloured bottle - not so when its actally an animal form. Bio-tech is really scary. Exciting and horrible at the same time. As I began the process of locating and positioning the embryo, opening the 'window' in the egg shell and creating my micro-surgical glass tools I felt all my emotions - adrenelan/intrigue/excitement/power/fantasy all conflicting inside me, and overall the excitiment overcame the hesitation. The experience was very powerful and the act of being there in that moment really overtook from my conceptualising about what I was actually doing, and why. It was such a rush, like wow, creating a new life form - I can really understand how ethics goes out the window. I think its like that often with wet science, you lose track of yourself amongst the labcoat and coloured bottles and material and this idea of engaging with 'life' or creation takes over.
I think also because the embryo was only three days old when you view it inside the egg, even under the microscope, its very hard to tell what you are looking at, which makes the disassociation stronger.
In the end though i really did feel i'll, and topped the whole experience off by going outside and eating a boiled chicken egg I had brought with me. Sophie also took a video of me doing this. It was really unplesant.
I'm glad I did it though. It reminds me to keep engaged with what i'm doing and working with, to keep a check on my self and to be aware of the lures of the Lab-lust; to keep questioning and reminding myself what my goal is in working in this realm anyhow.
On the flip side, it turned out to be a little SymbioticA reunion, as Shawn and Jen from Bioteknica turned up, and Cynthia Verspaget and her Adam dropped in on their way from the Portugal Bioart show, all of whom were at Symbi when I was there. Random goodness!
Sex postitve performance artists Zootengenant (http://www.zootengenant.com) also came along to film the class. They had requested we all bring a sperm sample to class, and were going to do a performance in which Jeanette would do a handstand naked while Zoot levitated eggs with insense, but needless to say there was no levitation, so instead Jeanette gave Adam a sperm-horoscope reading. So the class also had some other happenings happening, beginning with one of the students taking magic mushrooms as an 'assignment', and a bunch of the students leaving to masturbate as ve=arious points, to produce the sperm sample, while Jeanette videotaped them.