Pan Duna Gives Birth To Acarus Crossii

2010

Dimension : 170 x 210 x 210 cm

Media : fiction book, wood, volcanic rock, laboratory apparatus, chemical, custom-made electronics

The organism Andrew Crosse reported to have spontaneously generate

The laboratory apparatus used by Andrew Crosse

Artist Statement :

This work replicates one notorious experiment of little-known scientist Andrew Crosse in 1837. That experiment was once believed to have spontaneously generated insects (called Acarus crossii later) from inorganic matters. If it did, it proved the concept of abiogenesis. In my version, Crosse's setting will be triggered only when audiences are flipping a fiction book, written in 1968. It is an early work of Taiwan respected writer, Zhang Xiao-Feng (張曉風). The sad story was about a living woman, Pan Duna (潘渡娜). She was actually an artificial life created in laboratory, even without genetic parents. She was pretty, arranged to get married and pregnant, but eventually failed to deliver, and “died”.

In human knowledge, reproduction is the only possible biological process by which living organisms to produce offspring. Logically, if a life is going to be produced, there must be at least another life, its parent, exists on the earth. Abiogenesis (scientific study of origin of the first life) and our future of genetic technology both break this rationale. Both create life without replication, without parent. They sit on either side of the long-time history of life reproduction chain. Abiogenesis must happen before reproduction. Man-made living babies are born after reproduction ceased.

It is time to query the necessity of reproduction in life definition. Zhang's story had raised some interesting questions: can man-made life deliver children? Should man-made life's offspring be called life? If it wasn't, Crosse's experiment reminded that all of us are the offspring of the first life, which is also a product of non-living matters. It might be more comfortable to choose to accept both abiogenesis and artificial life are impossible. Both have not yet been proved to be possible technically. It might be even metaphysical or spiritually impossible. However, I am fancy in the poetics of this impossibility. I setup a microscope in my installation. Audiences will witness the birth of impossible life. (In the new version, I am considering to project the microscope image on the wall )

At last but not least, this work pays tribute to Mr. Andrew Crosse as well as Professor Zhang Xiao-Feng. I admire Mr. Crosse's passion in scientific research. Professor Zhang's story does touch me, especially the “no-love” story between the human man and artificial living lady, Pan Duna.