Alicia Frankovich | Microchimerism
08.02.19 - 06.03.19
8 February – 6 March 2019
Starkwhite presents new work by Berlin / Australian based artist Alicia Frankovich. In her fourth solo exhibition with the gallery Frankovich continues her exploration into the possibilities and interactions of the body. A multi-dimensional practice at the intersection of sculpture, video, performance and installation, Frankovich’s work pits the design and impulses of our primal bodies against radical changes in technology, thought, society and the ecosystem. From an early practice that investigated how the physicality and behaviour of a body operates within social settings and constructs – including plays of dominance and re-negotiating the audience/performer relationship – in this exhibition Frankovich has directed her work within a microscopic focus, in order to reveal outer worlds.
Alicia Frankovich’s practice has long explored the equivalency between physical forms and the potential for new modes of imagining both human and non-human form and behaviour. Performances are matched by a parallel practice that asks us to reconsider the body as a critical landscape through which various discourses of encounter, technology, and self can be reconsidered. This new body of work reflects a recent interest in microchimerism (the existence of the DNA of others within our own bodies) and microscopic imaging. Intrigued by the unknown worlds inside the body, Microchimerism (2018) explores this phenomenon through a composition of gold and pink metallic shapes across the gallery wall. The wall work takes a female karyotype, or number and appearance of chromosomes in the nucleus of a cell, as its form. This karyotype is the artist’s own, identified from blood taken and visualised by scientists in Australia. Accompanying the wall work are three works on paper which offer different views of raw data, images of how Frankovich’s karyotype presented on the glass plates in the laboratory. Isolated, stained, and examined under a microscope, the arrangement of Frankovich’s own chromosomes offers up her DNA, but is it really all hers? If microchimerism is defined as the presence of more than one genetically distinct cell population in the same individual, what does this mean for common understandings of the body and where does it leave individual identity?
The Western idea of self is an autonomous entity, defined by a presumed distinction from the other. But research into microchimerism suggests that we humans are not oppositional but constituent beings, made of many. Technology has offered exceptional developments, but increasingly it is at the crossroads of technology where nature and sex meet, and also where some of the most interesting theories on the body are being produced. Chromosomes supposedly tell us who we are, and at a time when restrictive definitions of identity, gender, and role, are dissolving and undergoing dramatic change, does this discovery offer meaning and plural understandings? Frankovich’s practice has previously speculated on what post-human may mean or look like, but this new body of work feels like she is questioning and calling for a new paradigm of the biological self, perhaps one that reflects poet Walt Whitman’s celebrated line “I am large, I contain multitudes.”
The all-encompassing phenomenon of the body — its insides, outsides, material and immaterial ways— could be considered the underlying fascination of Frankovich’s work. Accompanying the exhibition is a video titled Exoplanets: Probiotics Probiotics! (2018), which displays microscopic footage of probiotic agents in the trendy fermented milk drink Kefir. The work collapses together macro and micro perspectives, depicting pale wriggling forms swimming through a deep indigo-coloured environment. Possibly heavenly bodies in a vast galactic system, or sperm anxiously seeking ova, the work points out that our bodies are a symbiotic composite of multiple parts, a galactic-scale ecosystem for microscopic life.
Alicia Frankovich has exhibited widely in New Zealand and Internationally. Recent exhibitions include: Exoplanets, curated by Hannah Mathews, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia, 2018 (solo); Can Tame Anything, curated by Melanie Oliver, the Dowse Museum , Lower Hutt, New Zealand; After Blue Marble, curated by Thomas D. Trummer, KUB BIllboards, Kunsthaus Bregnez, Austria, 2018 (solo); Image is a Virus, Le Case d’Arte, Milan, Italy; Counternarratives: Performance and Acrtions in Public Space, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, USA 2018; Atlas of the Living World, curated by Karen Archey, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (performance commission), 2017; Klontal Triennial Performance programme, curated by Alexandra Blattler and Sabine Rusterholz Petko, Kunsthaus, Glarus, Switzerland, 2017; Shout Whisper Wail! The 2017 Chartwell Show, curated by Natasha Conland, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, New Zealand, 2017; OUTSIDE BEFORE BEYOND, curated by Eva Birkenstock, Kunstverein fur die Rheinland und Westfalen, Dusseldorf, Germany, 2017 (solo); Frutta e Gambe, Le Case d’Arte, Milan, 2018 (solo); TarraWarra Biennale: Endless Circulation, curated by Helen Hughes/Discipline and Victoria Lynn, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria, Australia; Trans-corporeal Metabolisms/Liste Performance Programme, curated by Eva Birkenstock, Basel, Switzerland, 2016; Les Limbes, curated by Caterina Riva, La Galerie centre d’art contemporain, Noisy-le-Sec, France, 2016; Bots Bodies, Beasts – The art of being Humble, Stadium Generale, curated by If I can’t Dance I Don;t Want to be Part Of Your Revolution, Gerrit Reitveld Academie, Amsterdam, 2016; The BILL: For Collective Unconscious, curated by Misal Adnan Yildiz, Artspace, Auckland New Zealand, 2016.
Alicia Frankovich is the Australian Government Research Training Programme Scholar at the Australian National (2010-2020. The artist also wishes to thank the The Centre for Advanced Microscopy (CAM) at the Australian National University and the Australian Microscopy & Microanalysis Research Facility (AMMRF), and Dr Alison Archibald and Victorian Genetic Clinical Services.
 Microchimerism is not unusual, the most common natural source is pregnancy, due to the reciprocal cell exchange between mother and child.