Verena Friedrich

Cellular Performance

Based on advertising language used by the personal care products industry, the project CELLULAR PERFORMANCE examines the interplay between language and bodily material. For several years now, a trend in skin care products has been seen: Beyond the classic cosmetic product, a new type of hybrid product between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals has emerged. These so-called »cosmeceuticals« claim to have medical or drug-like benefits on the skin. To advertise these products scientific and technical terminology which draws on popular narratives of bio-technological possibilities is often used. This marketing language evokes the body’s performance, manipulation and enhancement, with a focus on its cellular and subcellular dimensions. CELLULAR PERFORMANCE focuses on the names of cosmeceutical products which aim to communicate their benefits in a brief and compelling way. While these names serve as instruments to evoke a total control over biological pro-cesses once taken out of their original context they unfold a poetic potential. cellular performance draws on this terminology and applies it directly to the physiological material it makes reference to: Skin cells have been manipulated in the laboratory to form letters and words in order to visually »reincarnate« the promises of the cosmeceutical industry. Over several months, selected skin cell lines were cultured and, in the course of numerous experiments, the cells were engineered to grow into defined micro-structures. The ephemeral outcome of this procedure was then recorded by means of live cell imaging and time-lapse microscopy. The project is presented as a series of videos documenting the attempt at controlling biological matter. From time to time, the cells form legible structures that quickly dissipate again. To a certain extent, it is possible to control this biological material, yet moments of successful stabilization are soon followed by disorder and decay.

Verena Friedrich is an artist working in various disciplines such as installation, video, sound and biological practice. Her projects have been presented internationally in the context of media art festivals and exhibitions and have been granted the International Media Award for Science and Art from ZKM Karlsruhe, the Sponsorship Award of the Saxon Ministry of Science and the Fine Arts and a special mention in the VIDA Art and Artificial Life Awards. She is currently based in Cologne.