Becoming a sentinel species: an intderdisciplinary project at the interface of Art and Science

Artist-scientist team with artist Sissel Marie Tonn, AIMMS-researcher Heather Leslie and Immunologist Juan Garcia Vallejo win Bio Art & Design Award

07/06/2020 | 2:53 PM

A highly interdisciplinary collaboration between artist Sissel Marie Tonn (DK/NL), Environment & Health’s microplastic expert Dr. Heather Leslie and immunologist Dr. Juan Garcia Vallejo of VUmc Dept. of Molecular Cell Biology and Immunology (MCBI), has resulted in the Bio Art & Design Award (2020). This is a competition sponsored by ZonMw (The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development), MU Artspace(Eindhoven) and BioArt Laboratories (Eindhoven). The aim of the award is to stimulate interest, excitement and debate about the life sciences through high-quality original artistic practice, examine the social, cultural and ethical contexts of the life sciences through the arts, and promote high-quality interdisciplinary practice and collaborations between art/ design and science/technology.

The project entitled “Becoming a Sentinel Species” takes place at the interface of art, microplastics pollution and immune system will be carried out by the artist-scientist team from July to December 2020. This science/science fiction project explores the issue of microplastics by reframing the concept of “sentinel species”. An imaginary human subject takes on the task of becoming a sentinel species by introducing microplastics into her blood. Triggering ancient immunological alarm systems, this evokes latent, ancient memories of our shared origins in the primordial sea. The story unfolds as an immersive audiovisual installation, inviting the audience to connect with the fluid reality of their own bodies, and, possibly, to become sentinel species as well.

The resulting artwork will be exhibited at MU Artspace in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, with a public opening on 11 December 2020.

human sentinel sketch
Image: Human Sentinel Concept Sketch ©2020 Sissel Marie Tonn