Installation, 2013

Tobias Revell (UK)

Deep in the Texan swamps, a new species of parasitic wasp is discovered by the T-SEE expedition, and buried in its extensive collection of insect specimens. Years later, Global Petroleum, the nation’s largest petroleum company working in the Gulf of Mexico, suffers from blockages in its pipeline network. To their horror, Global Petroleum scientists discover that a new species of parasitic wasp is incubating its eggs in the petrochemicals the company manufactures and distributes. It becomes clear that the wasp discovered by T-SEE has evolved rapidly to develop a parasitic relationship with synthetic chemicals, wreaking havoc on the scientific, industrial and political status quo.

Into Your Hands Are They Delivered is a fable presented as a series of images and documents reframing the short story that forms the core of the project. It takes its name from chapter 9 of the Book of Genesis, where God resigns himself from interfering in the affairs of humanity and grants dominion over all life on Earth. This assumed relationship with nature has permeated society in everything from natural philosophy through to advertising. The idea that man is somehow separate, above or outside nature and the idea that nature can be used as some sort of moralistic compass where ‘natural’ is synonymous with ‘good’ and ‘unnatural’ with ‘evil’ is deeply ingrained in contemporary culture and forms the centre of the debate around synthetic biology.

Into Your Hands Are They Delivered aims to challenge this narrative consensus, to demonstrate how the ideas of nature and unnature, good and evil, faith and science are constructs of cultural heritage. Using the parasitic wasp — an already contentious creature in natural sciences — as a wildcard in an all-too-familiar allegorical world, the project invites the audience to play with the fable presented and reconstruct their own rules and interpretations of humanity’s position in relation to the ‘nature’ they believe themselves to be alternately caretakers and abusers of.

Artist's Statement

I wanted to create a piece that treated the advent of synthetic biology at a time when we need to readdress the constructs and boundaries that shape science and the human understanding of the world. These constructs form the basis of debate around synthetic biology — whether it is inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But even these frameworks are inherited from ideas that pre-date the technology to such an extent that they are irrelevant. Dabbling with nature multiplies the complexity levels and crossing points of the discussions because we have such a complex inherited moral code based around our relationship with it. I want to highlight the flaws of the accepted narrative of science and nature through proposing a creature that breaks this narrative.