"That was then. This is now".
Crustaceans created to be sold as pets for children, chickens modified to change their plumage that ended up with an extra claw, fluorescent fish, biological weapons, the history of genetic modifications on lab’s mice from 1945 until 1990: these are only a few of the examples narrated or exhibited at the Center for Postnatural History, a project dedicated to the exploration of nature modified by human beings.
The Center developed specific projects like “PostNatural Berlin”, “Atomic Age Rodents” or “Strategies in Genetic Copy Prevention”. It also includes a collection of postnatural organisms from the European Union, that vary from domesticated pets from Svalbard Islands (Norway), alcoholic rats, rat’s ribless embryos from Portugal, the red canary (first genetically engineered especie) from Germany and transgenic mosquitoes that fight Malaria. The center is, above all, a narrative machine and each object on display explains the history of the relationship between human beings and a particular specie.
The Center for Postnatural History was started in 2011 by artist, researcher and activist Richard Pell. As member and founder of the Institute for Applied Autonomy, Pell dedicated for years to experiment with amateur robotics while attempting to foment “grassroot” activism on engineering practices. Until almost by chance he reached genetical engineering. Surprisingly Pell saw a relationship between both things: “I made robots in an attempt to start an ethical conversation in the engineering community about funding and other political issues. Then I was introduced to synthetic biology and I started to wonder why transgenic organism weren’t shown on the evolutionary tree. So I began collecting specimens of living things that had been intentionally and heritably altered by humans”.
The project has received the support of the Kindle Project and Creative Capital Foundation, and has received the prestigious Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship and the Media arts Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. Richard Pell has participated in numerous conferences and exhibits in De Waag (Nederlands), ZKM (Germany), Ars Electronica (Austria), Mass MOCA (USA), Australian Center for the Moving Image, el Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, the International Hacker Conference on Planet Earth and the International Conference On Robotics And Automation, among others.