Gina Czarnecki

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Gina Czarnecki - Palaces

  • 2011
  • Clear crystal resin and human milk teeth
  • On display from 29 March until 28 June, 2012
  • Location: Who am I?, first floor Wellcome Wing. FREE

Palaces is a participatory artwork which relies on public donations of fallen milk teeth in order to grow.

Palaces is a unique art and science project created by artist Gina Czarnecki in collaboration with scientist Prof Sara Rankin, Imperial College London. Commissioned by Bluecoat, Liverpool with funding from the Wellcome Trust and Imperial College London. The 2-metre-high crystal resin structure is encrusted with donated human milk teeth, which form coral-like outcrops on the stalagmite-like sculpture.

Gina was inspired to develop a project around human milk teeth by her discovery, through conversations with Sara, that milk teeth are a source of human stem cells. She then linked this discovery with questions surrounding the legacy of milk teeth after the 'tooth fairy' might have visited, which were raised with her by her then 7-year-old daughter.

Read more about the artwork

About the artist

Gina Czarnecki's career to date encompasses film and installation, with an emphasis on human relationships to image, disease, evolution and genetic research, and specialising in advanced technologies of image production.

Created in collaboration with biotechnologists, computer programmers, dancers and sound artists, Czarnecki's projects confront issues surrounding the convergence of biology and technology, and the possible corruption of the human genetic mix.

Her works raise real and relevant questions about developments in the 'life' sciences and changes in culture, society and language. Through sampling, generating and reprocessing image and sound she creates contemplative spaces with strong visual aesthetics.

Gina Czarnecki was born on 6 November 1965 and lives and works in Liverpool, UK.

More about the artwork

Although a direct use for the stem cells found in milk teeth has not yet been identified, their possible future uses inspired Gina to think further. Through the work she asks us to consider the potential of the parts of our body which are lost naturally during life.

She says: 'Teeth are very significant because they're the only thing that falls off your body when you're alive that's a sign of progress not decay.'

Explaining her decision to build them into a 'palace' she writes: 'I think we wanted to try and capture the beauty, magic and power of a structure – like a palace or a castle - but also work with ideas of myths that we all follow. A palace or a castle represents ancient power systems. They represent protection, a refuge, a place of dreams and magic. They are also the official residence of rulers. They are architectural constructs and constructs of the imagined. Palaces represents too our belief in these constructs and in established systems of authority. It alludes to belief systems and what we hold to be true or fantasy.' She adds, 'The aim was to create a conduit that radiates enigmatic beauty sufficiently to capture the relationship between matter and impermanence, recycling and taboos in relation to our bodies.'

Palaces is one of a body of works called Wasted, which began after the artist's move to Liverpool in 2007 in the wake of the Alder Hey 'organ scandal', which led to a revision of the framework for tissue harvesting from patients, living or dead. The artist writes: ‘We do not legally own parts of our body once medically removed, but we have to consent to these being used for medical research. We are not made aware of how our bodies are used in medical research. Just what "medical research" means is vast.'

The Wasted project has spanned the past three years and has become a journey into what Gina describes as 'the grey areas of what constitutes consent and research spanning the scientific and creative realms’. It raises questions about UK ethics and the process of obtaining informed consent for the use of human tissue. Gina argues that people 'should have the right to decide if we think it's valuable, ethical, moral or not. Likewise, we should have the power to control what can happen to parts of us when medically removed, and this can include giving it to an art project. At the moment', she adds, ‘we don’t really have that choice.'

To find out how you can donate one of your milk teeth to Palaces visit the website:

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