Archive for June, 2009

First series of cryobooks

June 28, 2009



The first two cryobooks are finally done after two months of intensive development.

These books feature a custom designed stamp print by myself. (see above).The image imprinted within the skin of the books is a new sign for HIV.  (The red ribbon is in need of an update!). The rendering is not merely a representation, but a bringing into being  living signs.  Each stamped image is made visible by Lentivirus and HaCat cells that have been stained.

The next series will feature new designs for HIV  by Canadian performance artist Vincent Chevalier and Canadian Filmmaker and HIV/AIDS activist John Greyson.


June 27, 2009


Updated protocol

June 25, 2009


I am now finalizing the latest version of the “Viral Tattoos recipe” originally used for the Living Viral Tattoos project (developed in collab with Dr. Stuart Hodgetts). I realize that not everyone cares about the technical application or development of this project– so if youre one of those people just skip this post. Conceptual and philosophical meanderings can be found in my upcoming phD dissertation, exhibitions and future publications.

This version of the protocol has more detail and some corrections! I am also finalizing a co-authored (hybrid) technical paper outlining the first process used for the Livign Viral tattoos project with Dr. Hodgetts, Dr. Jill Muhling and Maria Grade Godinho that will be submitted for publication at some point soon.  It’s written in such a way that it falls inbetween the cracks of a science paper and a technical/methodological art production paper.  The intention is to promote open source sharing of the wet protocols in a similar way that artists working in open source software might share programming code.

New Viral Tattoos Recipe (modified for Cryobooks Archives) June 2009
For visible expression of transfected cells on epidermis

Determine Multiplicity of infection (MOI) based on amount of viral vector to cell culture ratio. We used 1.0x 10 4 Transducing particles (TU) per ml and then divided accordingly to test for best MOI rate.

1. Suspend cells grown in flasks with 5 ml Trypsin.
2. Add DMEM medium with 10% FBS
3. Count cells
4. Add 1x 10 (power of 4) cells to 1 ml cell culture in each 24 well dish. (Optional – add Poly-L-Lysine for stronger adhesion of cells on plates).
5. Put dish in incubator overnight (12 hours)
6. Check that cells are semi-confluent (60 % is best).
7. Put fresh medium (1 ml) in the dishes. Put 2ml of medium in first dish (Nat)
8. Take 10 microliters of lentivirus and put in first dish.
9. Pipette 1ml into second dish—1ml into the third to the sixth well (to dilute the viral nate. (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/33)
10. Put 1.1 ml in the second dish. Take another 10 microliters of lentivirus. Take 100 microliters into each of the other six dishes. ( 1/10, 1/100, 1/000, etc)
11. Add polybrane ( 8 ug/ml)
12. Seal dish with parafilm and put in incubator for 4 to 12 hours.
13. Replace medium (without FBS)
14. Place in incubator for 12 hours.

Option: Skip the cell count and hope for the best. Add as much or as little quantity of virus as you feel like to the cell culture.

Prepare skin- Wash in PBS. Cut sections with sterilized scissors prior to suspending viral cells. Place skin samples into dishes and place in -20 freezer for 15 minutes (varies depending on thickness of skin and skin type). Take out and stamp.

15. Remove medium from dishes
16. Suspend virus and cells with trypsin (fill bottom of dish) for approx 2 mins or until you see cells lifting.
17. Add medium

Pipette cells onto the surface. (Separately each skin sample with one cell dish to determine MOI with microscopy, if desired).Try to keep the concentration of cells in one area for dense expression of immunostains. (Ie. Bluer colour concentration).

Immunostaining pig and human skin (Stuart Hodgetts)

1. “Seed” skin with cells and virus in about 1ml of medium – leave for 30 minutes to two hrs. Check to insure the stamp design is still visible.
2. Fix tissue with 1:1 acetone:methanol (volume:volume or v/v) for 5-10 mins 2:1 PBS Then block in 10% FBS (V/V) and 1% BSA (V/V or in 2:3 1AB diluted in Block). (The block was added into the primary antibodies).
3. Incubate with primary antibodies for 30 mins at 37°C
4. Rinse 3x with phosphate buffered saline (PBS) or medium (serum free)
5. Incubate with secondary antibodies for 30 mins at 37°C
6. Rinse 3x with L-15 (or medium without FBS)
7. Rinse 3x with PBS or medium (serum free)
8. Develop with 4-chloro-1-naphthol (4CN) chromagen solution until desired staining is achieved
9. If required, rinse and leave submerged in tap water to intensify 4CN staining

Primary antibodies:
Thy1.1 (Mouse) diluted 1/400 (10 microliters: 4 milliliters)
Fibronectin (Rabbit)
Laminin (Rat)
=together mixed with PBS to 22 milliters.

Secondary Antibodies:
Goat anti-Rabbit Ig – horse radish peroxidase conjugated at 1/2000 in PBS
Donkey anti-mouse Ig – horse radish peroxidase conjugated at 1/2000 in PBS

4CN Chromagen:
20mg 4CN dissolved in 20ml methanol = Solution A
50mM NaCl/Tris-HCl solution = Solution B
Mix 1:5 solutions A:B then add 0.1ml hydrogen peroxide (few drops)mix again
(.2m NaCl/50 mM Tris)
Use 50ml

Additional notes on skin:
Pig skin is tough and the cells need to be pipetted in one area in order to render colour. The cells expresses more easily in the fibreblasts found in the dermal tissue of both human and pig skin.
It is recommended to submerge both types of skin in tap water for at least two days for more intensity of staining

cryobook pages in the making

June 25, 2009


Swine flu fear grows in Ireland and UK.

June 23, 2009


Swine flu hype continues to grow out of proportion. Expect to see the thermal scanners at airports. Last time I saw one it was during the SARS epidemic while traveling from Havana, Cuba to Montreal.

Here is the public information leaflet distributed by the UK:
advice for
people entering
tHe UK WitH
inflUenZa tYpe
HS73292 Swine Flu Leaflets.indd   1 29/04/2009   14:30
SWine inflUenZa – advice to travellerS
to tHe UK
Human cases of swine influenza have been
reported worldwide. This is an evolving
situation and it is likely that more countries
will be affected.
What is swine influenza?
Swine influenza is a respiratory disease
normally found in pigs but human cases can
and do happen. Symptoms of swine influenza
are similar to those of seasonal flu, usually a
feverish illness accompanied by cough, sore
throat, headache or muscle aches. For most
people, this illness appears to be mild. Infection
with this flu is treatable with the antiviral drugs
oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®).
What should i do if i have returned from a country
affected by swine influenza?
If you have visited an area where human cases
of swine influenza have been identified, it is
important that you are vigilant for any signs of
illness in the seven days after you travel. There
is no need for you to isolate yourself from other
people as long as you remain well.
If you are returning from one of the areas that
have been affected and you start to develop
flu-like symptoms, you should stay at home
to limit contact with others and should seek
medical advice from a GP or contact the
Northern Ireland swine flu helpline on
0800 0514 142.
HS73292 Swine Flu Leaflets.indd   2 29/04/2009   14:30
What happens if it is thought i might have
swine influenza?
All suspected cases will be investigated and
offered antiviral treatment. For most cases, you
will be well enough to remain at home but some
people may need to be admitted to hospital.
It will be important for you to avoid contact
with other people as much as possible until the
results of your tests are back. The people you
live with should also monitor their health and
follow the same advice if they get symptoms.
The most important thing you can do to avoid
spreading the illness to other people is to follow
basic hygiene advice.
You should:
•    avoid contact with other people as much as
•    cover your nose and mouth when coughing
or sneezing, using a tissue when possible
and disposing of dirty tissues promptly and
•    maintain good hygiene by washing hands
frequently with soap and water to reduce
the spread of the virus from your hands to
other people;
•    clean hard surfaces (e.g. door handles)
frequently with a normal cleaning product;
•    make sure that your children follow
this advice.
HS73292 Swine Flu Leaflets.indd   3 29/04/2009   14:30
Issued by UK Border Agency
© Crown copyright 2009
HS73292 Swine Flu Leaflets.indd   4 29/04/2009   14:30

check out the public health campaign from the Uk:

public invite & media release

June 22, 2009


For immediate release

Tagny Duff: The Cryobook Archives
Open Studio

Canadian artist in residence Tagny Duff invites onlookers to her studio from 2-4pm on Sunday 28 June, where she will present an artist’s talk at 2pm.

In a dual residency between Fremantle Arts Centre and SymbioticA: The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at UWA, Duff explores sculpture through bookmaking techniques and biotechnological protocols.

The Cryobook Archives is an interdisciplinary art project exploring how viral transfection and contamination might be reimagined to produce living experiences and forms of documentation with bookmaking and biotechnological processes. The “cryobooks” she creates are generated from human and pig skin, medical sutures, custom designed leather bookbinding stamps, immunohistochemical stains and biological Lentivirus (a derivative of HIV Strain 1).

Duff’s practice uses scientific tools to ‘critique new biotechnologies that both (re) generate and denature molecular, cellular, digital and cultural bodies.’ The books will be integrated into a future performance installation that will offer public visitors an encounter with the fleshy viral books.

Tagny Duff is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, educator and independent curator based in Canada. Duff’s intervention performances, performance lectures, video, net art and mobile works have been exhibited in galleries, festivals and university lecture series across North America, UK, Australia, Finland, Germany and Cuba.

More information about her Cryobooks can be found at

Sunday 28 June
A presentation by the artist, introduced by Jo Pickup
Moores Workshop
Rear 46 Henry St, Fremantle

Fremantle Arts Centre
1 Finnerty St, Fremantle WA
Free admission, open 7 days: 10am-5pm
For more information, images or to arrange an interview contact Robyn Fergusson, Communications Coordinator: (08) 9432 9564;

Circuit bending insectbooks

June 22, 2009

tagnyrobotsThe final day of the electrobook workshop that I conducted at the Fremantle Arts Centre finished yesterday. The books are fantastic. Some of them will be on display during my open studio next Sunday (June 28th) betweeen 2-4pm at the Moores Building (42 Henry Street, Fremantle). Also see the blog. (

tweeking the recipe and hours of cooking

June 17, 2009


Here is a shot of the new recipe/protocol in process. (Above). The solutions used for the immunohistochemical staining process after the mess has been cleaned up. (Below).


Today was a full day and night in the ‘kitchen’ cooking up the pig skin with virus.
This time I finally figured out how to mix the antibody solutions properly thanks to Stuart (my collaborator for Living Viral Tattoos and  a research scientist based in the Anatomy and Human Biology department). Besides getting the skin stamped, transplanting the viral host cells and incubating them (aka cooking them in the oven), I was measuring and mixing solutions for hours. The non-stop pipetting action and washing the skin with PBS is mindnumbing work.

The kitchen metaphor is fitting for this process. Last week the human skin  puffed out after it had been in the incubator for four hours, losing its stamp shape. Megan, a  SymbioticA regular, saw the  bloated skin pages and commented that they were overflowing souffles.  I’m trying to created more of a ‘pancake’ so that the stamp designs hold in the viral host cells as long as possible.

Here is a short video clip of ‘cooking’ the pig skin with HaCat cells, Lentivirus and primary antobodies in an incubator.

transfectedThis photo is not in focus but here you can see how the skin looks after incubation. The stamp imprint is visible apart from the rest of the skin due to a reaction between the viral Hacat cells and the pig skin’s epidermal cells.  If the immohistochemical staining process works, this area will turn blue in the shape of the stamp design.

Preparing more skin pages

June 16, 2009

stackofpigpagesAfter the book making workshop I am inspired to try to cut pages from pig skin again. This time I went to a butcher shop near the university and bought pig skin at four times the price charged by the locals in Chinatown.  Everything was clean and pretty in the butcher shop. The lighting was low and the meat highlighted. I always feel like I’m participating in a gigantic lie when I buy animal meat and skin in shops that smell like spice and herbs.

scoringThis pig skin is much more leathery than the last patch, and I think it will work well with the stamp.  I was able to score the skin to make different shapes this time. With the human skin it was impossible to try to define any shape or form whatsoever. I  used the surgery blade like an exacto blade ( or a Stanley knife as its called here). Also, I was able to use bookmaking techniques with the pig skin (like the kettle stitch) but I end up using surgery techniques (like the surgeon stitch) with the human skin.

Goodnight little viral cells

June 16, 2009

-80freezerI thawed the Lentivirus and transduced it into HaCat cells today.

viralhacatcellsThen the petri well was put into the incubator for the night.

viral incubatorviralincubatoropen

Goodnight sweet HaCat cells. Sleep well.