Wednesday, 12 October 2016

landmark and legacy

Though probably more out of oversight (which can be just as cruel) rather than any sense of institutionalised prejudice—unlike that town in Alabama that choice to honour a pest rather than the individual whose advice against monoculture stopped it—there’s been no monument created for the inestimable contribution to medical science and genetics called Henrietta Lacks, not at least as a tangible destination, until now with this pop-up tribute from artist Elisabeth Smolarz.
Without Mrs Lacks’ knowledge or consent, her cells—deemed uniquely immortal (see previous link)—became the subject countless trials and propagated directly played the main role in almost every study and therapy from the polio vaccine onward. This appreciation comes to us as part of the annual Art in Odd Places “intervention” in Manhattan that confronts different themes each year. Emphasising that art and message can be anywhere, the focus of AiOP this time was on race, and also included a poignant installation of an interactive bubble-blowing frame, that recalled the rather ironic kaon “how many bubbles in a bar of soap” that appeared among the list of questions on the Jim Crow-era voter literacy tests in the US.