Interdisciplinary Conference


in Art & Science

26-28 November 2020, University of Applied Arts Vienna/Online

159. Ever it takes; interspecies embryonic care through semi-permeability.
Session: Session "NSP1 / Creature"
Speakers: Jacco Borggreve

The project uses the physical property of semi-permeability of the outer shell of reptilian eggs as a base for interspecies parenthood between a human male and a developing lizard embryo. 

The egg seems a universal and self-explanatory symbol for the containment of developing life, in a phenomenological approach, life is an emergent property of the egg. In this understanding, an egg is primarily an isolated unit containing all the resources for the production of a new living being. This understanding seems to be challenged by embryonic development of birthing creatures where nutrients are very directly sourced from the mother and as such, this development is way more clearly connected to an understanding of life as primarily an emergent property of interconnectivity to other living things. This dichotomy of closed-off development and a constant need for interconnectivity is bridged by the reptilian egg. 

A reptilian eggshell only consists of 40% calcium. causing it to be 'leather-like' in structure and texture. Its shell is semi-permeable; water, oxygen and other small molecules are able to pass through and are needed for the development of the embryo. This is demonstrated by the growth of the egg itself through the process of development. This characteristic both necessitates the presence of water, soil and air for the entirety of the embryonic development. Thus, in a captive setting, a need arises for a relation of care, in order to successfully provide the conditions for the healthy development of the animal. Deliberate and proactive facilitation of these conditions leads to a hatch-rate and birth weight that far exceed a “wild” setting.* The facilitation of such an environment leads to a hatch-rate that far exceeds hatch-rate in a "wild" setting. 

In collaboration with V2 Lab for the Unstable Media and Summer Sessions, Borggreve will spend a period of four months working on a performance where Borggreve facilitates care and nurtures a reptilian egg with the goal of hatching it, providing all the components necessary for its development by passing them through his own body and several instruments, and filters. Soil will be provided by composting bodily material, moisture and humidity will be provided using several layers of filtration, lastly, a proper temperature will be maintained using body heat and a battery charged by physical movement. By having the nutrients in the egg pass through the body of the artist, the egg engages in a developmental process with direct interconnectivity with another organism. By using my own biological matter as nutrients for the development of the lizard. The entire process of incubating can thus be regarded as a birthing ritual resulting in a unique kind of interspecies fatherhood. 

*It should also be noted that Borggreve has twelve years of experience with and is licensed (CITES) to take care of reptilians.

Jacco Borggreve

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