Drawing to Discern Parasites.
As described by Bronwyn Hayward in Sea Change: Climate Politics and New Zealand, climate change (operating as variable "atmospheric and oceanic processes across time and space") sits far outside the comforts of daily human experience. (4) Without familiar human affinities as entry points, a kindred struggle for attention can be identified between the issue of climate change and the world's parasites. It is disappointing, but not surprising therefore, that consideration of interactions between the two are deficient. Michel Serres, exploring metaphorical, biological and philosophical manifestations of parasitism in his book The Parasite, emphasises the compartmentalised nature of parasitology and its difficult "conceptual syntheses." (5) This evaluation (first published in 1980) remains applicable, with parasitology rarely integrated into current marine ecology research--even less so within the field of ocean acidification (OA).
While wider visibility of the two interacting fields is limited, channels of visualisation within OA-parasitology research are numerous and variable. Tools used in research (including artificial C[O.sub.2] tanks, microscopy, cameras and fluorescence) enable collective visualisation, whereby gradual changes--otherwise inaccessible from the perspective of a single human researcher--can be recorded, revealed and observed. Each of these channels offer representations of not only trematode parasites, but also their interactions with acidifying environments and intermediate hosts. Utilising analogous approaches within the studio environment, the video Drawing to Discern Parasites proposes a system of drawing whereby the visualisation of parasitic forms, the agency of water and time-based change can be investigated.
It is generally specific to an animal, an organism or even an organ. During its cycle it can be carried from one vector to another, but the path taken, which is rather improbable and well-selected, remains constant. (6)
The parasitic life cycle (as constant) forms the core rule of the drawing, upon which changing conditions subsequently impact. Drawings of life-cycle stages associated with the parasite's intermediate hosts (sporocysts and rediae, cercariae and metacercariae) are made on the surface of a water-filled tank. Assuming the role of first intermediate host, the marine snail also temporarily assumes the role of parasitic home. Acidified living conditions for host species, in tandem with related OA effects on host/parasite relationships, can cause "alterations in community biodiversity and ecosystem structure." (7) Rates of snail shell growth under such stress are visualised in the lab via fluorescent staining. In comparing studio tank and intermediate host as habitable, temporary spaces for parasites, fluorescent green pigment is also used as a drawing medium.
Over the course of an hour, the drawing is produced in darkness, made visible to the drawer by surrounding UV blacklights. Wires draw up pigment. Careful contact with the water's surface allows a controlled leaching of colour and the eventual formation of parasitic morphs. Though initially still, cumulative mark-making on the water's surface introduces new forces to the tank. Serving the continuity of a represented life cycle, the placement of pigment must become increasingly predictive, responsive to the changing environment. Writing of turbulence, Serres describes "a stable and unstable phenomenon where liquid moves and stays ... the organism-my-body-is now an exchanger of time. At this point ... several chronies intertwine." (8) Earlier marks sink. "Parasites" dissolve as they move laterally, then shift to vertical depths within the drawing space. Past marks entangle with new, and a green glow accumulates.
According to Colin MacLeod, "one of the main challenges in parasitological research is maintaining a complete parasite life cycle under controlled lab conditions." (9) In Drawing to Discern Parasites, the same struggles are experienced. The "miniscule evaluations" followed by "immense catastrophic effects" (10) that Serres ascribes to parasitic theory are fulfilled, as pigment fills the drawing and all decipherable forms are lost. The drawing, as personal, durational action in the studio, reaches conclusion and must find continued, altered life as filmed documentation.
Two angles of the drawing, a top view and side view, are assembled. Edited in tandem, both viewpoints undergo synchronous time shifts, with the drawing of selected parasitic forms shown in real time, and interluding drawing sped up by 450 percent. Long-form change is condensed; cause and effect are presented as rapid phenomena. Played simultaneously on two screens, installed in the corner of the exhibition space, the drawing's dual spaces are given equal opportunity for consideration. Viewers are encouraged to witness direct relationships between initial action and cumulative outcome. As looping digital document, time and pigment continue to shift, and the noisy green glow repeatedly builds. The trematode representations assume the role of Akira Lippit's "spectral animals" of the electric age, always receding into the shadows of "consumption and environmental destruction." (11) Across simultaneous screens, perspectives and time, comfortable observation from either drawer or spectator is insufficient--the drawing proposes a more discerning look towards the parasite and its changing host/home environment.
It lives sheltered in the body of its host (or on his surface) that is its environment. The outside for it is the inside of another. Thus the parasites has few enemies, for the simple reason that is rarely meets any.
It minimizes its risks by lightly transforming its own body, changing hostility into hospitality, exchanging outside for inside.
Outside it meets challengers; it can be destroyed by the climate that is variable, by history that is improbable. (12)
Madison Kelly (1994) graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Hons) from the Dunedin School of Art in 2017. Her work seeks to question contemporary human-animal relations through drawing, focusing on the representational and spatial contexts that mediate our interactions with the non-human.
(1.) C MacLeod, "Parasitic Infection: A Missing Piece of the Ocean Acidification Puzzle," ICES Journal of Marine Science, 74:4 (2016), 929-33, at 929.
(2.) G Aloi, "Animal Studies and Art: Elephants in the Room," Special Editorial, Antennae (March 2015), 3-31, at 23.
(4.) B Hayward, Sea Change: Climate Politics and New Zealand, BWB Texts (Wellington: BWB Books, 2017), 17.
(5.) M Serres, The Parasite (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 190.
(6.) Ibid., 195.
(7.) C MacLeod and R Poulin, "Host-Parasite Interactions: A Litmus Test for Ocean Acidification?," Trends in Parasitology, 28:9 (2012), 365-9, at 366.
(8.) Serres, The Parasite, 71.
(9.) MacLeod, "Parasitic Infection," 931.
(10.) Serres, The Parasite, 194.
(11.) A Lippit, Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 1.
(12.) Serres, The Parasite, 195.
Caption: Figure 1. Madison Kelly, Drawing to Discern Parasites, 2018, 17 mins 31 seconds (still). Looped video documentation of acrylic pigment drawing in water.
Caption: Figure 2. Madison Kelly, Drawing to Discern Parasites, 2018, 17 mins 31 seconds (still). Looped video documentation of acrylic pigment drawing in water.
Caption: Figure 3. Madison Kelly, Drawing to Discern Parasites, 2018, 17 mins 31 seconds (still). Looped video documentation of acrylic pigment drawing in water.
Caption: Figure 4. Madison Kelly, Drawing to Discern Parasites, 2018, 17 mins 31 seconds (installation view). Looped video documentation of acrylic pigment drawing in water.
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|Publication:||Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2018|
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