Ready-to-use Models, a work-in-progress project developed for Alter Nature: The Unnatural Animal, is an installation seeking to question the current definitions used to indicate living creatures. Does one denominate a manipulated organism as an object, product, animal or pet? What consequences does this choice of definition entail for our perceptions, feelings and behaviour regarding living creatures?
Laboratories deploy animals in the development of medicines. Much in the same way as products, rodents for various experiments can be ordered from online catalogues. This research experiment examines the nature of the SERT Knock-out rats. These rats are manipulated to not be able to absorb serotonin, the hormone responsible for feelings of contentment and happiness, and therefore consistently display increased levels of anxiety- and depression-like behaviour.
For a species regarded as disposable product, a large play cage was built in which the environment is designed to boost serotonin levels, in attempt to make the rat happy. With this futile and absurd intervention, Ready-to-use Models questions the exchange of roles between animal and object.
The bespoke rat cage has been especially designed to accommodate a SERT Knock-out rat; a laboratory tool genetically designed to continuously show higher levels of depression. Inverting the tests used to measure stress and anxiety in lab rats, the design of the cage attempts to instill happiness in the depressed rat, treating this scientific research product as an animal.
Since the rat cannot physically absorb the Seratonine proteins, this project is in essence a surreal endeavor to achieve the biologically impossible. More so, by attempting to measure or quantify the generated happiness levels, the rat becomes a vital component of the designed environment, thus returning to be perceived as a mechanical part.
The commodification of the rat is mirrored by a sequence of collected footage depicting products being defined as pets; from Tamagotchi to Fur Real Friends robots.
Commissioned by Z33 House for Contemporary Art
Photographs by Kristof Vrancken