Elevator Music 42: Laura Splan—Rhapsody for an Expanded Biotechnological Apparatus presents the artist’s sound and sculptural work, reenvisioning the Tang’s elevator as an organism’s cell and its visitors as proteins. The installation presents the sound work Chaperone and the interactive sculpture Lumen, offering a sonic and tactile journey through Integral Molecular, a Philadelphia-based biotech lab where Splan spent several months in spring 2018 as artist-in-residence. In Chaperone, the buzzing of specialized laboratory equipment, chatter of scientists, and countless other unidentifiable, fragmented sounds coalesce and disperse, their arrangement following the structure of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Methodical instructions guide visitors to remove shoes and sit cross-legged on Lumen, a rug made from the wool of laboratory llamas and alpacas. These instructions choreograph visitors’ movements to embody the folding of proteins inside a cell’s lumen. Through this multisensory experience, visitors are encouraged to contemplate the unseen labor of animals—whose unique antibodies, a type of protein, are commonly used in biological research and medicines, including vaccines—and the day-to-day procedures of scientists creating life-saving treatments.
Laura Splan is a transdisciplinary artist working at the intersections of science, technology, and culture. Her research-driven, conceptually based art practice connects hidden artifacts of biotechnology to everyday lives through embodied interactions and sensory engagement using a wide range of media, including experimental materials, digital media, and craft processes. Her work has been exhibited around the world, including at the 2021 Bruges Triennial, BioBAT Art Space (Brooklyn), the New York Hall of Science, the David J. Spencer CDC Museum (Atlanta), the Museum of Contemporary Craft (Portland), the Museum of Arts and Design (New York), and the Beall Center for Art + Technology (Irvine). She has been supported by the Jerome Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred University, Harvestworks, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Splan lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, in a building that has been both a pharmaceutical factory and a knitting factory.