Marta de Menezes: “Tetrahymena”


Cellular Interventions in Art with Marta de Menezes and Dr. Kim Sawchuk, Department of Communication Studies, Concordia University

March 3, 2010
Location: Lecture Hall, 1.114, CJ building
7141 Sherbrooke Street West
Loyola Campus
Concordia University

Bioartist Marta de Menezes presents on her recent project “Tetrahymena” co-created with Maria Manuela Lopes.
Joined by Dr.Kim Sawchuk, both researchers discuss the implication of working with living cellular organisms for art and researcher, particularly within the framework of gender studies.

“In a way, “Tetrahymena” is a challenge for the two artists, other artists, and the public to discover their feelings concerning the various social and biological preconceptions surrounding gender issues. We believe that to address conceptual issues it can be fruitful to have an “object” as a “facilitator” of the process. In this case, we found an organism – Tetrahymena thermophilia – that by having seven distinct genders we believe is the best possible “facilitator” to think about gender issues. The “Tetrahymena” project can be seen as a thought experiment, where the mediation of a live organism– as well as research process into the development of the artwork itself – facilitates the challenge of the viewer belief system concerning gender. Both researchers and the public experiencing the artwork are taking part in their own thought experiments about the raised subject of gender.”
(From artists statement.)

Marta de Menezes


Artist, researcher. Graduated in Fine Arts from the University in Lisbon, and in 2001 with an MSt in the History of Art and Visual Culture from the University of Oxford (UK). She has been exploring the intersection between art and biology, demonstrating that biological technologies can be used as a new artistic medium. In 1999, de Menezes created her first biological artwork Nature? by modifying the wing patterns of live butterflies (P. Blakefield Laboratory, University of Leiden, Leiden, the Netherlands); it was exhibited at Ars Electronica Festival (Linz, 2000) and widely covered by North and South America, Europe, Japan and Australia media. Her works have been shown at various international media art exhibitions, including The art in science / the science in art (Oxford, 2002), BioFeel (Perth, 2002), L’Art Biotech (Nantes, 2003), ARCO (Madrid, 2004, 2006), E=mc2 (Coimbra, 2005), META.morfosis (Badajoz, 2006) and Genesis (Utrecht, 2007). De Menezes is the author of numerous bio art articles published in magazines and catalogues such as Leonardo (MIT Press), BioFeel (PICA), Ars Electronica (Springer), BioMediale (KB NCCA), Art et Biotechnologies (UQAM) and Art, Biotechnology and Culture (MIT Press). She has given lectures at international educational institutions, among them: the Max Plank Institute for Neurobiology (Munich), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Boston), the University of Oxford (Oxford) and Universite Paris 6 (Paris). From 2000-2004, she worked on research programs at the Imperial College for Science, Technology and Medicine (London) and the University of Oxford. Since 2006, de Menezes has been the Art Director of Ectopia, an experimental art laboratory at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (Lisbon, Portugal).

Dr. Kim Sawchuk

Dr. Kim Sawchuk, professor in the department of Communication Studies is the editor of the Canadian Journal of Communication ( and co-editor of wi: journal of mobile media ( A feminist media studies scholar, her research and writing has long addressed the relationship between embodiment, discourses and experiences of technology. Her current work on this subject traverses two major areas: wireless, mobile communications and biomedical imaging.

[Tetrahymena img from]