Strange Encounters

Strange Ecounters (2017). Bringing together algae and cancer cells

I was a collaborator on Špela Petrič’s Strange Encounters, a work in her series Confronting Vegetal Otherness. We created material encounters between plants and humans, represented by Chlorella algae and human bladder cancer cells. Through various experiments, we brought them together in a single chamber, trapped them in alginate balls and a put them in a bioreactor where they were separated by a agar wall, supplied with two different mediums.

We spent a two-week period in January 2017 working and discussing at Bio Tehna, the biolab of Galerija Kapelica in Lubljana.

You can see us moving around in the laboratory in this timelapse video:

We observed the algae and human cell cultures under the microscope. To our surprise we encountered shape-shifting amoeba cells in their midst, as can be seen in his video, First Encounters:

“The mission became obvious – to arrange the extraordinary meeting of a human and a plant in vitro”

Špela Petrič

During the making of Strange Encounters, Špela Petrič wrote a series of reflections on her blog. She shares thoughts about: Our definition of “plants”, and how our use of “the plant” is an unjust generalization; Biotechnological parallels between human cell cultures and algae bioreactors; A sudden bacterial infection of our algae, and how she personally responded to this event, juxtaposing scientific control with being welcoming changes as part of the process. You can read her whole blog here: link.

On Tuesday 10 February 2017 the Strange Encounters Freaktion Bar took place, moderated by Mojca Kumerdej.

Full project credits

2017 / Author: Špela Petrič / Collaborators: Roland van Dierendonck, Dejan Koban, Federico Muffatto, Miha Turšič / Engineering and realisation: Scenart, d.o.o. /Support: Univerza v Ljubljani, Medicinska fakulteta, Inštitut za biologijo celice Infrastrukturni center za mikroskopijo, Center za elektronsko mikroskopijo, Laboratorij za celične in tkivne kulture; Univerza v Novi Gorici, Center za biomedicinske znanosti in inženiring; Akademija umetnosti Univerze v Novi Gorici / Thanks to: Dr. Mateja Erdani Kreft, Dr. Martina Bergant Marušič, Dr. Peter Purg, Dr. Peter Veranič

Produced by Kapelica Gallery/Kersnikova