Wasted is a body of inter-related artworks by artist Gina Czarnecki exploring the life-giving potential of ‘discarded’ body parts and their relationship to myth, history, cutting-edge stem cell research, economies, ownership, taboo and notions of what constitutes informed consent. Milk teeth have a particular multi-cultural significance as a symbol of transition and of progress. Stem cells can, allegedly, be extracted from these teeth and may in the future be used to repair or remake damaged organs.
Palaces is a glittering sculpture made from glass resin and decorated with donated milk teeth. The effect is of a coral castle under water, the teeth not lined in rows but clustered, akin to barnacles or how crystals form and grow. Together with stem cell biologist Professor Sara Rankin from Imperial College London, artist Gina Czarnecki hopes that ultimately thousands of children will contribute to their participatory art project – one aim of which is to raise awareness of different sources of stem cells in the body, as well as questioning contemporary belief systems that dismiss age-old myth and folklore.
Along with a form to send in with one’s tooth, the project website – www.palaces.org.uk – provides a token which children can leave under their pillow to inform the Tooth Fairy of their donation to her palace. Although it will take many more years to realise the proposed full extent of the structure, almost 1,000 teeth have been donated to date from across the UK and further afield. The sculpture’s debut exhibition took place at the Bluecoat, Liverpool in 2011-12, followed by The Science Museum, London.
Further exhibition locations and dates are outlined at the project website. The project has been featured in worldwide press, most notably by New Scientist, BBC News, The Guardian, Wired, CBBC Newsround, Art Feast and The Daily Mail.
Palaces is fundamentally about systems of belief and began with the artist’s daughter, then seven years old, coming home from school and demanding: ‘Just tell me – is the tooth fairy real?’ Meanwhile she had been learning simultaneously about evolution alongside Adam and Eve, and a teacher had – without parental consent or warning – informed the class that we all die eventually.
For this project I came aboard as Producer, liaising with Gina Czarnecki from concept through to delivery, with specific responsibility for the launch of a soft viral publicity campaign, press, website development, delivery of a multi-platform animation and marketing support. Website design was provided by Jean O’Brien, animation/additional design from Design By Day, voiceover by Louise Marie Cookson and composition by Michael Doherty. Commissioned by the Bluecoat, Liverpool and Imperial College London. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Science Museum London and all the donors of milk teeth.
Palaces follows an earlier commission with the artist, Pixie Dust, developed whilst I was managing and curating the BBC Big Screen Liverpool for a partnership with DaDaFest under the DaDaVisions series.