A Mad Scientist’s Circus

Chromosomes Separate, People Come Together

St. Petersburg, RussiaHappigenetics Extravaganza is an all-ages, interactive,
modern arts piece to be performed at the Erarta Modern Arts Gallery, the largest nongovernmental
museum of contemporary art in Russia. The event is heavily influenced
by themes in cell biology, including the cycle of cell division, and features baroque
costumes and people suspended from ‘spindle fibre’ ropes, with ‘checkpoint-guard’
scientist characters gently orchestrating the whole spectacle.
If you are curious how live microscopy projections mix up with 17th century
grotesque theatrical action backed-up by psychedelic avant-garde music, this event is
not to be missed.

This event will debut in conjunction with the close of The Federation of European
Biochemical Societies (FEBS) Congress, 13th July 2013. FEBS is one of Europe’s
largest life sciences organizations – and we hope to highlight the presence, actions,
and movements of life scientists to the public at large – integrating aspects of modern
science and modern art to unify them within the greater spectrum of culture.

It has been conceived and developed by scientists, artists, and musicians from
Edinburgh, New York, and St. Petersburg in combination with enthusiasts and theatre
freaks from all over the world, as a follow-up to their previous events, including
Chromosome Carnival in 2012. This, as they have called it “Bio-Physical” theatre,
imitates the events of the cell cycle, following a cell through the process of its
division using a combination of loose choreography, absurdity, and contact
improvisation, with a hint of burlesque – “to spice things up,” say the organisers.
What would happen if you’d put the “Father of Microbiology”, Anthony Van
Leeuwenhoek, into Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and set him on a course to meet two of
Chekov’s Three Sisters to the tune of Saint-Saëns’s “Dying Swan” theme? They
promise the appearance of the live gorilla with a chainsaw, but who takes them
seriously, so please don’t be afraid.

Dr Sasha Kagansky (Science on Stage, UK), in collaboration with Dr John LaCava
(Sounds of Science, US), and Coaxil Band (SPb) previously worked on a variety of
projects that have a unifying theme of experimentation in a very broad sense. They
are now attempting to bring the concept of spontaneous hypothesis-free aesthetic
research to a wider audience, and the attendees of the biggest independent modern-art
establishment in Russia are the perfect test subjects for this alternative biological
experiment. “The inspiration comes from what happens in every cell of our bodies
constantly,” says Sasha passionately, “It could be the most natural way to dance. If we
present how chromosomes behave in a familiar way – through emotions and
improvised movements – we may get new insights into what is happening on the
hidden molecular level. But people have one very important advantage over their
chromosomes, as Chromosomes Separate, People Come Together”.

– Liv Nathan

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