Peta Clancy: Porous Boundaries

This paper will discuss shifting perceptions of biological boundaries. In order to solve the problem of development molecular genetics has focused on the genetic material thereby disregarding the rest of the cellular material such as the cytoplasm and nucleus. Bodily boundaries, at all different levels, are perceived as static borders between inside and outside. Whereas according to ideas in relation to Developmental Systems Theory (DST) this understanding of boundaries is problematic because bodily boundaries are active and never sealed. It is necessary for bodily boundaries, on a multitude of levels, to permit different degrees of communication, as Evelyn Fox Keller argues, “cells need to communicate with each other through intercellularsignalling.

DST offers ways for understanding development without relying on notions of gene dominance by proposing that in order to understand the organism it is necessary to investigate beyond its boundaries. This paper will draw on these conceptions of biological boundaries to discuss both my body of work Visible Human Bodies (2005) (created as artist in residence in the Cell and Gene Therapy Laboratory at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute) and Helen Chadwick’s photographic works Viral Landscapes (1988-89) (from my original research held at the Helen Chadwick archive at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK). Through this discussion of these works I intend to explore the notion of biological boundaries as active and permeable as well as evoke notions of the boundary between the interior of the body and the exterior environment as ambiguous and constantly shifting.

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