New exhibition grows faces – University of Copenhagen

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31 May 2016

New exhibition grows faces


A British artist-researcher duo use live human cells in their art installation at Medicinsk Museion. The new exhibition, “Heirloom” focuses on future plastic surgery, while simultaneously questioning the use of human tissue in art as well as research.

Imagine that you are able to store cell samples and a facial cast in a bio-bank. 20 years later, you can grow a younger version of yourself and have it grafted onto your face. The exhibition Heirloom, which opened on 25 May 2016, uses an art installation to focus on the future potential and risks involved in using human tissue.

The artist grows copies of her daughters’ faces

The British artist-researcher duo, Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt, use live human cells from Gina Czarnecki’s daughters, Saskia and Lola, to grow tissue on 3D printed glass casts of their faces. In the centre of the exhibition hall at Medicinsk Museion, there are two basins with the girls’ faces, while a funny looking machine keeps the cell production in their facial tissue alive. Once the layer of cells reaches the thickness of tissue paper, it will be removed, preserved and displayed in a frame.

Watch a short video on the artwork

Debate about art and biology

The exhibition focuses on the new development in reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery and it plays with the idea that in the future, we will be able to grow a new and young body with the aid of stored cell samples and 3D scans of our body.

“Our latest exhibition is a mixture of art and research and it raises a number of both ethical and philosophical questions. Who is allowed the use of human materials? How should biological artworks be assessed and controlled? Will we, one day, be able to grow cells that will allow us to regain our youthful looks? Questions upon which the audiences will hopefully reflect and based on which we also arrange debates,” says Project Manager, Louise Whiteley.

Ethical panel to discuss the use of stem cells in research and art

The public debate “Your Cells in Their Hands” is part of the EU Creative Europe programme, “Trust Me, I’m an Artist”.

The expert panel consists of:

  • Christina Wilson, art historian, art advisor and member of the Ethical Council;
  • Morten Hillgaard Bülow, medical historian and philosopher at Medicinsk Museion;
  • Ida Donkin, epigenetics researcher at NNF Center for Basic Metabolic Research;
  • Jens Hauser, media researcher and art curator affiliated with Copenhagen and Paris

The debate was held at Medicinsk Museion on 25 May at 7 PM.

The project is developed by the EU-funded “Trust Me, I’m an Artist” and supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, the Section for Sciences Communication and the Danish Labour Market Holiday Fund. Gina Czarnecki has also received funding from the Arts Council, England for her artwork, “Heirlooms”.

Trust Me, I’m an Artist: Developing Ethical Frameworks for Artists, Cultural Institutions and Audiences Engaged in the Challenges of Creating and Experiencing New Art Forms in Biotechnology and Biomedicine in Europe is supported by funding from Creative Europe and is a collaboration between Waag Society, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, The Arts Catalyst, Ciant, Kapelica Gallery, Medical Museion, Capsula and Leonardo/Olats. The lead artist on the project is Anna Dumitriu and the lead ethicist is Professor Bobbie Farsides

Read more about the exhibition here

Project Manager Louise Whiteley
Phone: +45 2112 6712

Medicinsk Museion is a museum that exhibits medical culture and history. It operates as a research unit under the Faculty of Medical Health and Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

Medicinsk Museion, the University of Copenhagen, Bredgade 62, 1260 Copenhagen K

Opening hours:
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday: 12.00 Noon – 4 PM.