Jasmine Murrell

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another

On View May 2021-June 2021

Theater and Live GalleryInteractive Installation by Jasmine Murrell

The lobby installation is an extension of the Immortal Uterus series by Jasmine Murrell. The immortal uterus concept was inspired by the true story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American farmer who suffered from ovarian cancer in 1951. The cells taken from her without her consent or knowledge during hospitalizations were exploited, commoditized and monetized, and subsequently provided the medical world with a springboard for countless medications and medical advancements. These immortal “HeLa” cells, which continue to reproduce to the present day, have enabled indefinite and invaluable biomedical breakthroughs, from gene mapping to the development of vaccines and beyond.

Murrell’s work considers how the boundaries of medicine and poison are blurred when the intention is economic gain instead of healing — and she draws a parallel to the corrupting power of mass media. The nameless, black VHS film symbolizes the indomitable capacity of media to influence every aspect of human history and to affect public opinion globally in a matter of minutes. Like the medical establishment, media has the power to seduce an audience with authoritative and false narratives of the infinite black body, and can subvert unconscious ideologies around any subject while re-creating the past.

The installation is woven by different weavers from around the world, with their prints and processes present in the work, signifying an exchange and collaboration that is significant in the work. These partners represent the invisible hands and physical sacrifice that build empires: the hands of the maker, the inventor, and the unknown.

Theater Installation
Murrell’s concurrent multimedia installation invites viewers to interact with living sculpture, video projections, poets, and performers during the Live Ideas festival. Throughout the exhibit, material is organically embedded with a layered socio-cultural significance which encourages a transformative experience through ancient memory. Soil, for instance, is used as a medium to conjure up modern and ancient interspecies communication as a method for healing and analyzing our humane purpose. Massive earthen hands are inspired by ancestral hands of the unknown, the everyday, and the black and brown genius that depended on relationships with plants and animals as a vehicle of healing. These massive black earthen hands will later continue to grow on a Campaign Against Hunger farm in Brownsville. Taken as a whole, this installation reflects Murrell’s desire to build a space where all life matters in the present, past, and future.

This installation is commissioned by New York Live Arts with additional support through the Chashama Residency Program.