X. laevis (Spacelab) 2017

X. laevis (Spacelab) 2017 is a newly commissioned simulation by Irish artist John Gerrard, which responds to Luigi Galvani’s 18th-century experiments in which he studied the effects of electricity on the amputated legs of dead frogs.

Wellcome’s collection contains all of Galvani’s laboratory equipment from those pioneering tests, alongside a first edition of De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari commentaries (Commentary on the effects of electricity on the motion of muscles) in which the scientist published his findings.

In response to this Gerrard has developed a work in which the absent frog takes centre stage. The experiment represented, however, is one that occurred over 200 years after Galvani’s work, during the second mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. This later experiment established that vertebrates in the form of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) could reproduce in zero gravity – perhaps in anticipation of a future in which sustaining life beyond Earth becomes critical to human survival.

Producer: Werner Poetzelberger
Programmer: Helmut Bressler
3D Modeler: Max Loegler
Rigging and posing: Michael Buettner 
Installation development and technical design: Jakob Illera / Inseq Design 
Game Engine: Unigine

2017 · Electricity

Wellcome Collection, London

Installed at Wellcome Collection 2017 as a frameless rear projection. 

Electricity: Curated by Lucy Shanahan and Ruth Garde, Wellcome Collection, with Consultant Curator and Exhibition Originator Paul Bonaventura. 

2017 · John Gerrard: X. laevis (Spacelab)

Simon Preston Gallery, NY

30 April – 25 June 2017

Evoking many historical precedents in painting, photography and video, Gerrard’s virtual worlds do not belong to familiar lens or time-based media. The medium of simulation has enabled the artist’s visual exploration of the monumentalism of land art in the age of Google Earth, the harnessing of dance choreography and athletic performance through motion-capture, and, in this instance, the conflation of 18th century scientific experimentation with modern-day technological advancements through the NASA space exploration program.

www.simonprestongallery.com

Research

Response

art-agenda.com
McLean-Ferris, Laura: 'John Gerrard’s 'X. laevis (Spacelab)'', 21 June 2017

news.artnet.com
Boucher, Brian: 'Why a Simulation of a Frog Floating in Outer Space Points to a New Future for Contemporary Art’, 14 July 2017

News

23/05/2017
John Gerrard in Conversation

Wellcome Collection
Tuesday 23 May
13:00-14:00

Artist John Gerrard speaks with curator Brian Dillon about his new work, 'X. Laevis (Spacelab) 2017', which takes inspiration from Luigi Galvani’s famous experiments investigating bioelectricity. 

wellcomecollection.org

30/04/2017–25/06/2017
John Gerrard – X. laevis (Spacelab) at Simon Preston Gallery, NY

Simon Preston Gallery
301 Broome Street
​New York, NY 10002

Dates: 30/04/2017–25/06/2017
Times: Wednesday–Sunday, 11am–6pm 

simonprestongallery.com

The work is presented as a frameless rear projection.

23/02/2017–25/06/2017
'Electricity'

Curated by Lucy Shanahan and Ruth Garde, Wellcome Collection, with Consultant Curator and Exhibition Originator Paul Bonaventura. 

X. laevis (Spacelab) 2017 at Wellcome Collection, London 2017
Wellcome Collection today unveils three new commissions inspired by the theme of electricity. The artists John Gerrard, Camille Henrot and Bill Morrison have each created the works as part of a major exhibition in London, Electricity: The spark of life, which traces the story of mankind’s quest to understand, unlock and master the power of electricity. The exhibition brings together over 100 objects from ancient spark-inducing amber and early electrostatic generators to radiographs, photographs, models and films. 
John Gerrard has created a new live simulation inspired by 18th-century experiments on amputated legs of dead frogs. Camille Henrot’s installation takes the form of a zoetrope featuring creatures hand-crafted from electricity bills. Bill Morrison has created a work using mid-20th-century graphic films with an original score by composer Bill Frisell. 
X. laevis (Spacelab) 2017 by Irish artist John Gerrard (b. 1974, Ireland) is a live simulation using new technology which responds to Luigi Galvani’s pioneering 18th-century experiments on the amputated legs of dead frogs. Inspired by Henry Wellcome’s collection of Galvani’s laboratory equipment and the book in which Galvani published his findings, Gerrard lets the absent frog take centre stage. The work represents an experiment that occurred more than 200 years after Galvani, during the second mission of the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992. The experiment established that vertebrates, in the form of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), could reproduce in zero gravity. 

https://wellcomecollection.org
 

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2017 · ELECTRICITY / WELLCOME COLLECTION, LONDON
© Photographer: Thomas S.G. Farnetti, Wellcome photographer
2017 · ELECTRICITY / WELLCOME COLLECTION, LONDON
© Photographer: Thomas S.G. Farnetti, Wellcome photographer
2017 · ELECTRICITY / WELLCOME COLLECTION, LONDON
© Photographer: Thomas S.G. Farnetti, Wellcome photographer
2017 · ELECTRICITY / WELLCOME COLLECTION, LONDON
© Photographer: Thomas S.G. Farnetti, Wellcome photographer
2017 · ELECTRICITY / WELLCOME COLLECTION, LONDON
© Photographer: Thomas S.G. Farnetti, Wellcome photographer
2017 · JOHN GERRARD: X. LAEVIS (SPACELAB) / SIMON PRESTON GALLERY, NY
2017 · JOHN GERRARD: X. LAEVIS (SPACELAB) / SIMON PRESTON GALLERY, NY
2017 · JOHN GERRARD: X. LAEVIS (SPACELAB) / SIMON PRESTON GALLERY, NY
Luigi Galvani: 'De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari commentarius' in original edition as part of the Wellcome Trust Library, London.   In the late 1780's Italian physician, physicist and philosopher Luigi Galvani famously reanimated a pair of amputated frogs legs using static electricity. Holding a charged element to carefully exposed nerves the lifeless forms abruptly and shockingly contracted, drawing back the limbs or extended them as through leaping. This experiment is documented in a series of beautiful etchings published within his treatise 'De viribus electricitatis' in 1791.
Sketch of 'Readymade' installation of Galvani equipment 'sculptures'
Astronaut Jan Davis, now vice president and deputy general manager of Jacobs Engineering, Science, and Technical Services (ESTS) group supporting Marshall, worked inside the Spacelab-J module in space shuttle Endeavour during STS-47 in 1992. Spacelab-J was a combined National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and NASA mission. The objectives included life sciences, microgravity and technology research. (NASA)
Astronaut Mark Lee working on the Frog Embryology Experiment in the General Purpose Work Station during the STS-47 (1992) mission.
Motion capturing for the production of X.Laevis, showing dancer Esther Balfe
Making of X. laevis (Spacelab) 2017 – Behind the scenes