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

Exhibitions

Electricity at Wellcome Collection, London, 2017

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. 

X. laevis at Simon Preston Gallery, NY, 2017

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

Selected Press
X. laevis in the media

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

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

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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 · X. LAEVIS / SIMON PRESTON GALLERY, NY
2017 · X. LAEVIS / SIMON PRESTON GALLERY, NY
2017 · X. LAEVIS / 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

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