The Gatekeeper

The GateKeeper: presenting oneself to oneself is an art science project built out of encounters between British ArtSci Nexus artist Andrew Carnie and Dr. Luís Grade of the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal (iMM Lisboa,, a leading European research institute with cutting edge facilities and a stimulating multinational environment. The work commencing includes video work and works on papers using spores responding to the cellular immunology labs studies on mechanisms able to induce and maintain immune tolerance through T cell expansion and to the mechanism by which the body stops the immune system attacking itself.

Andrew Carnie, supported by artist Marta De Menezes, travelled to the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, (iMM Lisboa) in June 2016, to begin collaboration with Dr. Luís Graça in and around his laboratory.  In addition to this research phase, Carnie informally worked on the second project in the south of Portugal at Cultuivamos Cultura for a further two weeks. Early drawings were shown in Odermira in Portugal in December 2016.  Once back in his UK studio Carnie further developed drawings, paintings, and a large scale projected work, which he predicts will be completed by the spring 2017.

Through Dr. Luís Graça, the Gatekeeper has thus far been moderately funded via the European Union, with potential outcomes to be exhibited in Amsterdam in 2018, and we anticipate also in Stockholm 2018. The network, called ENLIGHT-TEN, is a funding body dedicated to the training of a new generation of immunologists in research institutes across Europe with an outreach programme as well, The mission of ENLIGHT-TEN is to provide cross-disciplinary training in T cell immunology and big data analysis in order to train a new generation of researchers to exploit the power of emerging technological platforms.  Three artists from across Europe are currently involved in this platform, and a cooperation with ArtSci Nexus is being explored.

To develop the whole work further, Carnie is in touch with the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, specifically with Dr. Michelle Linterman, as well as Dr. Lucy Walker from the University College London.  Carnie will return to the labs at iMM, this summer, to continue his one-on-one with Dr. Luís Graça and to pick up connections there with Dr. Marc Veldhoen on Lymphocyte Signalling and Development.

Dr. Luís Graça’s laboratory consists of 12 individual researchers and PhD students. He has been the Group Leader at iMM Lisboa since 2005.  Graça became an MD in 1995 at Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa (FMUL). He then completed his PhD in 2002 in Immunology at the University of Oxford, UK, doing his post-doctoral research at University of Oxford, UK, and at University of Western Australia, Perth, becoming Associate Professor at Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa.

Scientific background – Dr. Luís Graça’s laboratory – Lymphocyte Regulation

The Cellular Immunology Lab studies mechanisms able to induce and maintain immune tolerance. They study diseases, or animal models of human pathologies, where the immune system has an inappropriate action, such as in autoimmunity, transplantation or allergy.  Their aim is to reprogramme the immune system, inducing the expansion of regulatory T cells capable of reinstating the tolerance state. They strive to validate their experimental results in collaboration with clinical scientists.  Understanding and manipulating T cell responses is critical to therapeutic intervention in a wide-range of immune-mediated pathologies. The use of immunotherapy to increase anti-tumor responses has recently gained considerable attention, and suppressing the immune response to ameliorate autoimmunity is an equally important goal.  Research Areas include: Tolerance, Regulatory T cells, Autoimmunity, Allergy, Transplantation, Monoclonal antibodies, Animal models.

Working closely with Dr. Luís Graça and his collaborators across Europe in the Enlight-Ten project, Carnie has found that there is an importance in the lymphatic system in defining the ‘self’ at a molecular level as part of the immune system. Previously in working on the Hybrid Bodies project in Canada, Carnie explored the sense of ‘self’ in regards to the limits of the body’s skin, and the definition of us as ‘singular beings’ being eroded by the sense of hybridity in transplantation.

However, in the immune system there is another fundamental, hugely complex way of understanding ourselves at a molecular level. Here the boundaries are really defined, what is you and not you. This is done by presenting parts, molecules, cells of your body to oneself, to the T-cells and B-cells in the lymphoid tissue to make sure that no antibodies are produced that would attack ones-self. Ones immune system has an amazing ability to distinguish between your body’s own cells, “self” cells and foreign cells “nonself” cells. Each cell carries protein markers called antigens that identify it as self or non-self. Your body’s immune system coexists peacefully with all cells that carry the self marker. Of course, in Auto-immune diseases this system goes awry. So in a sense we are ‘gatekeepers’ to our selves. For Carnie the legs of the figures in the video work, rotate through the picture frame, resembling the chemical key and lock system that allows the identification of the ‘self’, the antibodies, that sit on the T-cells, and the B-cells. The whole body becomes a cell, or a series of different cells in the video work making this presentation to the viewer.

The drawings, pictured here, are sketches for works that will be made by growing the images from spores. How to technically achieve this, is the next stage that Carnie is currently working out with Dr. Simon Park, on cultivating them in the next months.  Other future works will be made by growing bacteria, Simon’s speciality at the University of Surrey. Canie will also explore creating paintings from viruses and parasites, protozoa or worms too, by doing this, covering all the ways the environment can attack the body and immune system defend it in this series of works. The ‘idea’ in the work is that Carnie will apply a lymph system stencil  as resistance barrier, in order to keep the white are of the picture, to define the body in the process of painting. Carnie hopes that this new series will in part raise the profile of the lymph as a very important bodily system, a system that defines the self. We know lots about and appreciate the arterial system, and venal system but currently have scant regard for the lymph system.

Andrew Carnie is an artist and academic. He is currently part of the teaching team in Fine Arts at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, England. He was born in 1957. He studied chemistry and painting at Warren Wilson College, North Carolina, then zoology and psychology at Durham University, before starting and finishing a degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, London. Andrew then completed his Masters degree in the Painting School, at the Royal College of Art. He has continued as a practicing artist ever since. In 2003 he was the Picker Fellow at Kingston University.

His artistic practice often involves a meaningful interaction with scientists in different fields as an early stage in the development of his work. There are also other works that are self-generated and develop from pertinent ideas out side science. The work is often time-based in nature, involving 35mm slide projection using dissolve systems or video projection onto complex screen configurations. In a darkened space layered images appear and disappear on suspended screens, the developing display absorbing the viewer into an expanded sense of space and time through the slowly unfolding narratives that evolve before and around them. He also works in other medium working with video, sculptural materials like soap and in print and painting.

His work has been exhibited at the Science Museum, London, the Natural History Museum, Rotterdam, the Design Museum, Zurich, at Amnesty International Headquarters London, at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London and Exit Art, in New York, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Great North Museum, Newcastle, and the Pera Museum, Istanbul, Dresden Hygiene Museum, the Morevska Gallery in Brno, Babel Gallery, Norway. The last large exhibition he was in was at PHI, part of the DHC gallery in Montreal, Canada. He regularly exhibits with GV Art in London. A new static version of Magic Forest has been installed at the Wellcome Trust headquarters, London. His work is represented in collections in England, Germany, and America. Generous support provided by: