The Immortal (IL&BE)
HD Video and sound
Revital Cohen (IL) and Tuur Van Balen (BE)
A number of life-support machines are connected to each other, circulating liquids and air in attempt to mimic a biological structure. Webs of tubes and electric cords are interwoven in closed circuits through a Heart-Lung Machine, Dialysis Machine, Infant Incubator, Mechanical Ventilator, and Cell Salvage Machine. The organ replacement machines operate in orchestrated loops, keeping each other alive through the circulation of electrical impulses, oxygen, and artificial blood. As the fluid pumps around the room in a meditative pulse, the sound of mechanical breath and slow humming of motors resonates in the body through a comforting yet disquieting soundscape.
The installation is the result of an irrational, laborious, and ambitious quest; the creation of a Frankenstein-esque system built from advanced medical equipment. Making the machines work without a body required a definition of this creature as its own species – from interpreting mechanical ‘blood’ or establishing brain function replacement to prioritizing and mapping functions of cleaning, pumping, and oxygenating in order to construct a coherent circuit. The machines were reconfigured or hacked in order to operate without biological matter, and given new casings that expose their inner workings and unify them as organs of the same body.
The interpretation of anatomy with a mechanical vocabulary reflects the Western perception of the body. The Immortal is therefore occupied with the compelling and discomforting nature of these objects, the products of our attempts to conquer biology with engineering.
Supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award
Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen’s work is occupied with broad meanings of material, technology, and production. They work with objects, installation, video and photography to explore the idea of production as a cultural, ethical and political process. Their practice experiments with the use of design as an artistic medium, creating work that is physical yet occupied with ideas. Drawing on tensions between biology and technology, they often incorporate electronic, mechanical, and biological matter in their work, making artifacts that speak of larger invisible systems and logic. Cohen and Van Balen exhibit and lecture internationally and their work is part of the MoMA and Science Museum collections. They are the recipients of several awards and commissions, including two Wellcome Trust Arts Awards, Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica and First prize at the Vida 14.0 Art and Artificial Life Awards. They work and live in London.