“… When cells don’t receive signals from one another they can die. The lack of communication can cause cells to simply shut down.”
-Rebecca Hortensius (Brenda Ogle’s System Regeneration Lab Team)
Even the basic building blocks of living organisms can die from loneliness. The scientific term “anoikis” stands for the process that occurs when cells detach from their surrounding matrix. Communication with surrounding cells provides essential signals for growth and/or survival, and therefore, cells usually stay close to the tissue of which they belong. Cells that detach from their tissue lose interactions and die. However, metastatic tumor cells may escape anoikis and invade other organs. In other words, a solitary cell is more likely to cause disease.
Living organisms, from the simple to the complex, need to interact to survive. Internally through biology and externally through day to day existence, these interactions create life from chaos. It occurred to me that by looking at simple biological processes, we can learn how to structure our paths of discovery.
Where am I now in my search for signals? I’m still at the beginning, and maybe that is where I will stay for a while, searching and interacting with people and knowledge. Ideas germinate and thoughts scratch just behind the surface, waiting patiently for room to grow.
One nugget I am cultivating is translating signals into visceral connections with an audience. Like cells in the lab, humans adapt to surrounding signals, creating space where signal interactions alter our experience with an environment and alter the environment itself.
Signals create life from chaos. Life implies connection.
Connection is vital. When cells detach from their environment they lose connections and die. This concept seems universal, so I will continue to follow that lead.
I want to speak to this in a museum where space is abstracted and things are not to be touched. By focusing on the sense of touch that is found throughout our body, this work will speak to the life affirming undeniably of touch.
These are my thoughts for now, but who knows what the future holds because the journey isn’t over yet. Maybe it never is, as we meet new people and experience new things everyday. We are always waiting for and collecting signals.
– Alison Hiltner