Noxious Sector Projects
312 S. Washington St.
Seattle WA 98104

Kira O'Reilly & Jennifer Willet

Occupy Science

It's like something out of a nightmare: two bodies awkwardly hunched over inside of a glass laboratory window, caught performing an experiment of sorts -- though not like any experiment we'd normally expect to witness. There are no lab coats or gloves -- in fact no clothing at all -- it's almost like these bodies are part of the experiment, an experiment unto themselves, not simply experimenting on others.

Or perhaps it's both.

The bodies are those of Kira O'Reilly and Jennifer Willet, and the experiment they're conducting involves feeding ovary cells from Chinese hamsters. The irony is that while the cells are those of a reproductive system, the laboratory environment is meant to remain completely sterile. Placing themselves into this environment, the artists jeopardize the cells, compromising the very sterility upon which the experiment depends.

But it does make sense. These are not hamsters but cells from which a hamster grows -- not real animal bodies but virtual pets -- like all experimental bodies of science. We've seen Planet of the Apes, and we know the hamsters too will eventually fight back -- as the artists seem to anticipate. Artists however, unlike hamsters or apes, fight back by placing themselves inside the laboratory -- contaminating the sterile domain that only knows the rules of scientific logic. This equipment was never designed for play, and so there is perhaps no greater resistance than to treat science in an explicitly playful way. In fact, this refusal to abide by the rules is not just an artistic intervention but the first seeds of a movement to "occupy science", reclaiming the laboratory for an artistic performance, and contaminating it in the process.

Against the virtual bodies of information experiments, Willet and O'Reilly leverage their own bodies -- self-portraits of the artists at play, occupying science while tickling the ovaries of a virtual Chinese hamster.