Duration: 17 May 2010 – 4 June 2010
The Family Project, 2010
Reception: May 20th, 2010 6 - 8 pm
[I]t is…simply facile to assume that there are universal experiences of family on which to draw… Even the apparent constancy of the procreative family, father-mother-child, is a cultural convention in only certain parts of the world… As humankind stands on the threshold of artificial cloning, we can only imagine how the definition of “nuclear” family will take on profoundly new meanings.
John R Grimes, being in a circle of family, family ties: a contemporary perspective, Trevor Fairbrother, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, Marquand Books, 2003
The Family Project consists of 24 large scale photographs accompanied by a vitrine that holds a taxidermied mouse with text describing Kaguya. The May 2010 exhibition at Buschlen Mowatt Gallery offers a partial look at the project, with 12 photographs and the vitrine on display.
The taxidermy is a stand-in for the mouse, Kaguya, who was created by Japanese scientists in 2004. Led by Tomohiro Kono at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, a team of researchers produced the first mammal without the use of sperm. Born from the combined eggs of two female mice, Kaguya has since survived to adulthood and bore pups of her own by conventional means. Her very existence is a beacon for the possibility of lesbian reproduction.
The photographs in the project depict portraits of my family and my former partner Rina Larsson’s family, with additional images that merge my family, her family and us together. The quadratic compositions are reminiscent of the two sets of chromosomes used to determine sex*. The faces are doubled on top and the backs of heads are doubled on the bottom, visually suggesting movement - in a bowing and then cycling fashion. This suggested movement also acts as metaphor for the cycles present in the human body, for the appearance of traits throughout generations of family, and for the life and death process.
The second set of portraits (not included in this exhibition, but available to view upon request of the gallery) depicts each person looking at themselves, exhibiting the inconsistencies of each side of the face. These images speak to the idea of self reflexive mirroring - of looking at oneself as both a unique individual and a culmination of many.
The merged images are a way of seeing our common and individual physical traits. In both the Latour and Larsson families, one eye uncannily matches up. In the case of Rina and I, the merged images offer a unique opportunity to see what our potential child might have looked like as an adult.
Tomohiro Kono’s work is not yet applicable to humans, but given Dolly, the 1996 cloned sheep, and Eduardo Kac’s 2000 GFP Bunny who glows green as a result of an added jellyfish gene, it is evident that we are moving in the direction of infinite genetic possibilities.
As definitions of family continue to grow and modify to fit actual experience, The Family Project offers a glimpse of hope, albeit controversial, into our future.
*As a point of interest, the work of Kono and his fellow researchers can only result in female organisms, as the Y chromosome is absent in both parents.