The project is the exploration of choreographic methods in a biotechnological context. Karolina Bieszczad-Stie works with the Centre for Cancer Cell Reprogramming at the University of Oslo whose current aim is to identify mechanisms of epigenetic aberrations and cancer driven mutations, to identify cross-talk between cell signalling, membrane traffic and cell migration and to screen for factors involved in cancer cell migration and invasion. This will lead to possibilities for reprogramming a cancer cell into a non-malicious one. Through the laboratory work, Karolina and the cell biologists from CanCell look into artificially inducing cancer cells movement and experiment with the aesthetic notions in such micro-environment.
An engineer at CanCell, dr. Felix Margadant who specialises in cellular membrane dynamics, constructed a special machine for the project. This machine is equipped with a magnet that can be programmed to orchestrate a pulling pattern. First new cells are incubated for 30-180 minutes. That is, the cells get seeded, then fed with the iron beads, then they rest for 1/2 an hour to 3 hours, then they get put into the magnetic tweezer. The tweezer cyclically pulls in one direction for 10 minutes, then makes a mild change in direction. As such, we do not pull the cells into a certain direction, but we use magnet as a signalling method (pinch signalling) to design their path. To record the movement with a powerful microscope, we need between 6 to 48 hours in order to create a time-lapse so that the movement can be observed (the microscope has to hold a temperature of 36.6 C for that time in order for the cells to stay alive).
Karolina and the scientists work with the body on a cellular level, considering certain paradoxes that it creates: HeLa line of cancer cells used at UiO (and most other scientific centres) come from a patient Henrietta Lacks who died in 1951 hence biologically those cells are part of a human body and yet there is no ownership of agency of this body; technical equipment and scientific methods need to be used to create movement; this approach challenges basic concepts of time and space as the tiny movement of a cell needs to be observed for hours, through a powerful microscope; the challenge of choreographing “a body” whose memory can be understood as epigenetic memory (the set of modifications to DNA that do not alter the DNA sequence but can alter gene expression hence the properties and behaviour of the cell)...
* More information on the project including videos, photos and results, is coming shortly!