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Pluripotent Selves and the Performance of Stem Cells

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Guy Ben-Ary’s installation cellf, utilizes induced pluripotent stem cell technologies to reverse-engineer his own skin cells into embryonic stem which are then re-differentiating down a neural pathway. In cellF Ben-Ary is regenerated as a hybrid living/non-living entity capable of interacting with other musicians in real time and space.Yet recent research into the embryonic stem cell state of pluripotency challenges us to rethink Ben-Ary’s self as not so very different from his living/non-living pluralized cellF.Pluripotency in hES cells is induced and maintained by viral DNA, inserted over time into our genome by retroviruses classified as not-quite-living. This means that the identifying marker for our ability to regenerate many times and selves is inextricably tied to the work of non-living entities. Therefore we may consider the entanglement of pluripotent stem cell and non-living catalyst as necessary for both the endless renewal of life and the distribution of life beyond itself.
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Keywords: Stem cells; bio-art; performance art; regenerative medicine

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • PUBLIC is a beautifully designed peer-reviewed journal founded in Toronto as an intellectual and creative forum that focuses on how theoretical, and critical issues intersect with art and visual culture. Each issue's editors explore a contemporary theme by bringing together a unique assemblage of Canadian and international art projects with writing by scholars, curators, critics, and artists. This, along with book and exhibit reviews, creates an assemblage of artists projects and original writing on prescient contemporary themes in art and culture.
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