Clones From The Mixer

By Jutta Czeguhn
December 8th 2017, Exhibition

In the pictures by the Israeli artist Daphna Margolin the boundary between biology and technology is no longer perceivable. Now her exhibition ‘Gene Touch’ is being shown in the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, of all places.

Anwar el-Sadat, wearing socks, sitting cross-legged, praying. The Egyptian president liked this oil portrait so much that in March 1980 he invited Daphna Margolin to his country. The artist was the first Israeli civilian to have been awarded this honour. She used her visit to connect Egyptian and Israeli children as pen pals. Back then it was the time when something like peace between Arabs and Jews seemed possible for the first time. But already one year later Sadat, who looked for rapprochement with
the detested neighbour, was dead; riddled by 37 bullets. Why this excursion into the close past? Because these days the news from the Middle East are more unsettling than they have been in a while and because the Sadat incident tells us something about Daphna Margolin, a very particular woman.

After organizing and opening her exhibition ‘Gene Touch’ in the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried, the Israeli artist traveled back to her home country only this week. Margolin is over seventy now and full of energy. “It was she who approached our central administration in the Hofgarten with the idea for this
exhibition,” recounts Brigitte Schwörer, who is responsible for art shows at the institute in Martinsried. Because there are no suitable rooms for exhibitions in the Hofgarten, she was offered the Institute of Biochemistry, where they regularly show ambitious art in the spacious foyer. Only problem: The Max Planck Institute could not allocate any funds for the transport of Margolin’s works from Israel to Germany.
“Man made it to the moon, so we will also manage this,” said Daphna Margolin.

So the pictures arrived. They will be on show in Martinsried until January 12th, then they will continue in January to the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Schwabing, in April they will go to Berlin. A tour of the show quickly makes it clear why Margolin chose this center of science as a frame for her works. In the MPI’s laboratories groups of scientists figure out molecular mechanisms of DNA repair, DNA replication, cell communication, chromosome sets…all of which is inscrutable for the layman, who only knows that it concerns the human and what holds him together inside.

What is a human? This is also the question that centrally moves Daphna Margolin. Already back in the seventies she founded a school of environmental and sensorial art, she is also one or the most important voices in the Israeli Forum for Ecological Art. A dedicated Artist who gets involved.

Her collages, assemblages, and installations, which are now being shown on
photographs in Martinsied, are disturbing assemblies of experiments. The boundary between biology and technology is no longer discernible. Margolin shows acts of conception and processes of births of hybrids - half human, half machine - in which integrated circuits and veins keep the organisms running. At a ‘Solar Genomat’ at the push of a button one can draw a human baby, custom built after ones desired genes, a sideswipe by the artist against the Genome Project, which intends the mapping of
the human genome. Her ‘Genetic Cloning Mixer’ could emanate from an ambitious experimental science fiction movie from the sixties. ‘Reincarnation’ too, another work, is no longer a question of faith in this dystopian cosmos. Nothing is sacred anymore, everything intertwines dizzyingly, the inside and the outside touch, and yet everything is a fragment, chaos, Babel.

Around noon you can see young scientists stroll past the art in the spacious foyer of the institute in Martinsried to the cafeteria, where they sit with their cappuccinos and play around with their smartphones. Daphna Margolin’s unsettling imagery - only a bad dream?

‘Gene Touch’, Daphna Margolin, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Am
Klopferspitz 18, Martinsried, until January 12th open daily from 8am to 8pm.

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