Frieze, London 2015.

Frieze is on, Frieze is on!

I love art fairs where you can see so much in one space. But you need energy!

This year, the opening day (Tuesday 13th Oct) seemed lighter and less crowded. And the place seemed nicer somehow. And the displays seemed airy and spacious.

So much great art (and of course some loud, shouty nonsense) so how to sum up?

Well, there really was an Agnes Martin painting there. I couldn’t believe I could see one so close outside a museum. There was also, like me, part of a family in raptures in front of it (and part of the family not getting it). But more remarkably, on another stand were 17 ‘drawings’ of hers- totally fabulous. Apparently, they are ‘reserved’ for a museum. A bargain.

In the main Frieze, Anthony Reynolds Gallery is showing Paul Graham. Some exquisite and poignant moments captured. Still relevant.

Paul Graham

Ana Lupas– who knew? At P420 Gallery. A Romanian artist, these works are from the 1960s. They are remarkable, beautiful, poignant and political.  I am  new fan. She is a performance artist. Wonderful works.

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Ana Lupas

Fernanda Gomes is being shown at Alison Jaques as well as a South American gallery. Very bare; very minimal (very expensive!). Loved it. Wanted some!

Fernanda Gomes

In fact, South American art seems to be way ahead in general. Some lovely works from the 1970s onwards they are finally getting on the art world map. Of course, not all of it is great, but so much is, and so much of the great art in South America is by women. Now there’s a thing.

The Hauser and Wirth stand is superb in the main Frieze tent.

Sarah Lucas at Sadie Coles.

To coincide there have been other events including Jimmie Durham at the Serpentine. Some other openings too; some of very thin work with no truth to it and some that seem to have plagiarised other people’s work. Really bad.

But the main Frieze tent and the Master’s tent have some beautiful works and some wonderful displays.

All of this great art and human enterprise in one place.

Fabulous. Exhausting. Exhilarating. About the best year of Frieze.

If in town, do go see.

 

 

Liam Gillick at Maureen Paley

I think Mr Liam Gillick is an incredibly bright artist. But, somehow, he wears his brightness lightly.

His art is also incredibly bright, brilliantly bright stuff. it is so intelligent. But even though I don’t get all the references, I still enjoy it and that is strange, that it is pleasurable without being obvious. It is witty, without being ‘knowing’ (I don’t like knowing) and joyful.

The current show at Maureen Paley opened last night.. He said that the show has been touring around some strange and not obvious locations. Now we get to see it in London.

The show has the title LIAM GILLICK: THE THOUGHT STYLE MEETS THE THOUGHT COLLECTIVE

The work consists of three rooms with installations, texts, audios or videos. While I realised it was very intellectual, I also just enjoyed it. I think it is meant to be enjoyed. There is even ‘sparkle’ on the floor.

LIAM GILLICK When Do We Need More Tractors (Five Plans), 1999

The sort of wigwam of wood looks like a place to be in, but there is no entrance. He has his meeting places under the perspex fins, a more public space. There is a sense of interaction. I guess there is the interaction of  the maker of the art and the person ‘reading’ the art.

I read the press release before I went. It includes this quote:

“A truly isolated investigator is impossible (…). An isolated investigator without bias and tradition, without forces of mental society acting upon him, and without the effect of the evolution of that society, would be blind and thoughtless. Thinking is a collective activity (…). Its product is a certain picture, which is visible only to anybody who takes part in this social activity, or a thought which is also clear to the members of the collective only. What we do think and how we do see depends on the thought-collective to which we belong” – Ludwik Fleck, 1935

The work looks at this and the interaction between Fleck and Mary Douglas, the anthropologist.  I love Mary Douglas. I quote her in various scenarios. My favourite phrase of hers is ‘dirt is matter in the wrong place’. Brilliant. Well Liam Gillick was interested in this collaboration and in how we do not really invent alone. To quote from a book I am reading (The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey) she quotes Sir William Bragg, a famous scientist saying ‘The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.’  Perhaps that is what post-modernism is saying too. And perhaps it is partly what Gillick’s work is, looking anew and seeing how these ideas are reached. Or that is what I got from it.

That we do not invent alone.

That we are all connected.

That ideas are relationships.

There is also a new and lovely book out of his:

From Nineteen Ninety A to Nineteen Ninety D, published by JRP|Ringier.

At £25 it is worth it. Really.

If you want a meditative moment to reflect on thoughts, cultures, ideas and how we got here, a trip to Bethnal Green may help.

I’m sort of blown away by it. I might not get it all, but I loved it.

A brilliant shiny (sparkly) joyful art. Sheer delight.

 

Turner Prize – where did all the art go?

The Turner Prize, named after the wonderful artist, is an annual award given to a British Artist, or an artist who works in Britain. It is usually a very big deal to get one and just as big a deal to be nominated for one.

This year, however, it all changed. I don’t know if the committee for this year’s prize are so inexperienced they needed our help or if they think that inclusivity is the same as amateur, but they opened the nominations up to the public. This sounds like a great idea, we get to say who we think is great, but of course an expert panel decides.

I am not against expertise. In fact, I am really in favour of it.  I want any operation I need done by an expert in the field rather than a member of the general public. I don’t even mind elitism. I would not watch a 100 metre final with my neighbour running in it, but I would watch it with an elite athlete.  I don’t know why you are not allowed to be an expert or among the elite in other areas such as art or science. I have no problem with it. I am not talking about exclusivity, where you are excluded from participating. I am talking about the best winning the prize.

Now, I think if you ask the public to nominate we should see the list that we nominated and the votes, otherwise why bother asking us? I don’t mind an expert panel making the final short-list otherwise what is the point of excellence? But I do mind being asked to participate and then not knowing what happened. The Tate has no ‘long’ list. I think that some of us public may have nominated artists, rather than amateurs. I want to see.

What they do have is the usual short list of four contestants. I say the usual short list as it is not the usual short list at all. Most of the list does not comprise artists. There are community groups and gardening designers. Now we have just had the Chelsea Flower Show in London and there are many other such shows for gardeners. I do not think that designers need another forum when there are so few art forums.

There is one obscure art work which perhaps nobody saw that has been nominated, but the rest are not by artists. They are pretending to be inclusive, but that is not what I want. I want excellence, innovation, ideas, creativity, spiritual uplift, art, something. I don’t want a community project or a mural  by some school children nor do I want a designer.

At least this year it is being held in Scotland and as so many of us are furious with the Scots for bringing in this government and having 56 seats for a nationalistic group many of us, I hope, won’t bother to take any notice of it.

But please Tate, next year, get a panel of experts in art and get an artists only list. Art is something done by artists, just like science is done by scientists. If you don’t know that, get someone that does and stop wasting this moment to promote artists, a sorely needed moment for most artists in Britain given the punitive funding cuts to the arts. This should have been their moment. The designers and community workers have lots of places to go, just like the amateur actors, I’m sure their friends and family love them, but please can we bring back art to the Turner prize, an exclusively art prize?

If the committee don’t know what that is then sack the committee.

Thomas Struth- Is art objective?

Thomas Struth is a famous German art photographer. I say art photographer as his photographs look documentary, but they are not. But then I am not sure what documentary is either. Being a scientist I do not believe in a neutral observer, so I am not sure about documentary work. Perhaps Google Earth is objective.

Thomas Struth

Struth has recently completed some photographic series in Israel and some of them are on show at the Marion Goodman Gallery in London. Last night, Tuesday, the artist was also present for an artists talk, so I went along. I did not really know his work so I came to it with little idea.

At first I did not like them much. I had been told that he does not take a point of view (political) merely capturing what he sees. I did not believe this as everybody has a point of view, they like something, they don’t like something. In his talk he contradicted this assumption that is held by curators and others and said of course you make choices, you choose what to photograph, what angle to use, when to take it as the light plays a big part in telling the picture. He was a very good speaker. I still was not sure about the photographs, though. I thought they were very editorial, very opinionated. But in the night I thought about them some more.

They have a great space to them, they spill out into the room as if you are part of them. He said that he had become a photographer because he did not have the patience to paint. But his images look like they have taken ages to photograph, as if he stood there for months with the shutter open, even though it is obvious he didn’t- they are all crisp and clear and of one moment. But they have a stillness about them, an absence, maybe.

I still think they are a point of view, his and therefore and imbued with his beliefs and history. You cannot fail to bring yourself to your work. The photos of interiors and the ones of machinery or laboratories did not hold me. But, I found a great beauty in the landscape photographs. They had a classism about them. A greatness of view. Definitely not objective; very subjective, selected, edited, his view. But how could it be otherwise?

Worth a trip.

Venice Biennale 2015

Venice.  La Serenissima. A city so beautiful that adding art to it may seem superfluous. But here comes the Venice Biennale. Lots to see on such a stunning backdrop;  quite a competition for your attention. However, the Venice Biennale is now at it’s 56th show and has therefore had about 112 years of practice of attention grabbing art.

So here is my view:

1)  The Pavilions in the  Giardini

Many nations have pavilions that they pay for and then select curators or artists to fill with works, some are themed and some are Art!

But the British are coming, the British are coming.

Well the English are, as I have rather gone off the Scots since the election.

In the British pavilion Sarah Lucas turned up the volume in many senses. Her pavilion was a huge colour field in yellow and at the inauguration, instead of another bunch of long, boring speeches, she had two brilliant musicians pump up the volume and rock it. Fab.

 

Sarah Lucas  Venice 2015

The USA pavilion had the fantastic Joan Jonas, I am a big fan and it was great to see a long line of people waiting to get in to such a totally and completely conceived and realised show,

 

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Joan Jonas Venice 2015

The Belgian pavilion had some great stuff; one of my favourite pavilions. Merged art and ideas.

The Danish pavilion was spare and lovely.

There is also a Giardini group show which had some great works including the excellent Jeremy Deller being very political.

2 In the Arsanale

Then over to the Arsanale. This is a huge place with many artists being chosen from around the world by the curator of the event, which changes each time.

The theme of the show this time was based on Paul Klee’s Angel of History painting and Gershom Sholem’s poem (who they managed to call Gerhardt Sholem !). But this theme been done before in 2006 at the Arnolfini’s opening show, which is a bit naughty.

But some brilliant work:

Adel Abdessad with a fabulous performance piece and the result of the work.

Daniel Boyd aboriginal painting

Sonia Boyd with a film of a performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which was so alive, current, engaging and modern but with undercurrents of identity and politics. Great stuff.

Theaster Gates film of the destruction of a church in Chicago. You needed to know the context to see it and then you can see the layers.

Steve McQueen’s film-great stuff. Great art.

Hiwa K from Iraq

Chris Ofili, wonderful paintings, especially the Green one. I walked in and almost out at first as they were very overwhelming. But when the room emptied I went back and fell in love. Not at all my taste, but I ended up just wanting to live in the room!  Total convert. Loved them.

 

Chris Ofili Venice 2015- this image doesn’t do it justice!

Christian Bottomski film of wheat sheaves and bells on the sea shore, really simple and really everything

Jumana Emil Abboudthe drawings, beautiful

Chantal Akerman film, which was fantastic as film and as installation. It made you walk among the screens and it was all sped up with a sort of road movie feel, but with no people, just landscape.  I loved it.

Some duds and lack of credits including a work called the Botany of Desire. Now I know the book of that title and the book is much better than the art work of the same name.

3 Then into the best in showsssss!

My favourites were not in the official biennale. They were in other galleries, or Palazzos, which are pretty amazing places to show art.

‘Slip of the Tongue’  with some brilliant pieces by Nairy Baghramian, Nancy Spero, Henrik Olesons (nails) and Petrit Halilay. Curated by Dan Vo who did the Danish pavilion too.

Jimmie Durham: this was almost best in show as I was totally absorbed and could have stayed all day/week. It is in a beautiful setting which helps, but he really used that and there is a wonderful book that accompanies the work- worth reading. The show is at the Fondazione Furla which is worth going to anyway, but with his work there, spend the day. Perfect use of some Morano glass.Really wonderful work

jimmie durham

Jimmie Durham

We were about to go back to visit the Jimmie Durham as it was so wonderful, but it was closed on the Monday so we went to the Fortuny Museum instead to see a show there, Pro Portio. What a place and what a show . Some amazing works including Marina Abramovich (sound work), Sol le Witt, Agnes Martin, Carl Andre and Fred Sandback, juxtaposed with the odd Botticelli and Durher anatomy books! Wow, The Italians are not precious about their wonderful art collections. Totally wonderful show and place. Brilliant curation. I could live there too! So it ended getting my Best in Show (a bit like Crufts I guess). I loved all the juxtapositions of ancient and modern at both this and the Jimmie Durham shows.

Ellsworth Kelly Red, Yellow, Blue, 1963 Olio su tela, 231 x 231 cm Collection, Fondation Marguerite et Aimé Maeght, Sant Paul-de-Vence Cliché Claude Germain, ©Ellsworth kelly

Ellsworth Kelly “Red, Yellow, Blue”, 1963, Collection, Fondation Marguerite et Aimé Maeght, Sant Paul-de-Vence Cliché Claude Germain, ©Ellsworth kelly-  at the Pro Portio show 2015 Venice

 

Sandro Botticelli (Firenze, 1444-1510) "Ritratto di donna", 1485, Tempera su legno 61,3 x 40,5 cm Private Collection, Bruxelles

Sandro Botticelli, “Ritratto di donna”, 1485, Private Collection, Bruxelles – also at Pro Portio Show 2015 Venice!

Also, I should mention the ‘Venetian Blind’s, a series of concerts by bands led by artists in the amazing Palazzo Grassi  with free cocktails to cheer the spirits. Martin Creed played- I shall ignore the Scottish bit and claim him for good old Blighty! Fab.

 

Art in Hospitals- curing the spirit

Le-Jardin-

                                                 Le Jardin hospitalier (2015)  by Jyll Bradley

                                               Hôpital Roger Salengro, CHRU, Lille, France

                                                                                  photo credit Maryline Migot.

 

I know that the main function of a hospital is to repair the damage. Usually they are good at repairing physical damage and sometimes they can point people to the place to help repair their mental health, even if they cannot repair it then and there. Hospitals tend to deal with acute problems, patching you up and sending you out. They cannot repair your life.

Hospitals want to be holistic, but seldom are. They cannot be all things to all people. But what they are is a place that anyone, the stranger, the excluded, can come in at any time of day or night. The door is always open. The word ‘hospital’ has the same root as hospitality. It is meant to be a place of care.

UK hospitals are usually extremely ugly. As I said in another blog, we do civilised care, but not cultural care. We don’t care beautifully. We don’t care for ourselves and others with due diligence, with real care and empathy, with respect and dignity. We treat our ill as bodies. You come in and surrender your bodies to the staff. We shove you into cramped cubicles, we put you in beds with scant curtains between them, we degrade the space and your space, your body, to a non-functional body in a bare, ugly, functional space.

In the UK, particularly in Accident and Emergency (A&E) or urgent care settings, people often behave badly towards staff. This is for a number of reasons such as being frightened about their health, scared that they or a relative are going to die or, the most common reason, being high on alcohol or drugs. But people also behave badly in ugly places. Beautiful places lift the spirit and speak to a higher emotion than the instant physical fear.

So then we put ‘Art’ into hospitals. Childish, primary colours, bright and ‘cheerful’ that are so depressing and sentimental, infantilising and childish. We say we could not spend money on good art as the priority is to spend money on medicines and technology. Why is it either/or? Why not both. Beautiful places make you feel better and behave better and painting a wall in an ugly colour costs the same as in a beautiful colour.

In France they take a different view. On a corridor that is used by 3000 people walking along it each day, a depressing, soulless, windowless place to literally lose yourself and your directions, in a hospital with very depressed staff going up and down this corridor, they took a huge budget (in fact about double what it would cost to refurbish with horrible paint, lights and flooring) and commissioned art.

They got smart. They chose an art production company: artconnexion that really get art, rather than slickness or merely production. Artconnexion were very brave, they chose a British Artist, Jyll Bradley, who makes architectural structures and installations.This is not sentimental or infantilising. The hospital staff, doctors, nurses, administrators, porters, chefs and patients also got brave. They went with it.  The result is mind blowing.

This is not sentimental. This is not false cheer. This is visceral. This is the blood and guts and care and beauty that is us. This is nature and nurture.

Jyll Bradley has made other work, architectural art installations, particularly site specific work,  and interacts with the place in all its aspects discovering things that are unknown or forgotten. The corridor reflects the history of Lille, the town where the hospital is, with its large botanic and herbal medicinal history. A corridor with no windows and an artist who understands and works with light, that basic need for plants to grow and therefore for us to thrive. Back-lit images like stained glass windows, but also like windows onto a world, the world of the gardener, who tends the plants, revealing parts of the plant: the flower, the bulb, like an operating table; the water and earth that feeds the plants like a nurse tending a patient; where you enter, remove your outer clothes and put on your apron to avoid the visceral mud, blood, cells, getting onto your outer clothes. This cross-reference. This beauty. Put together with extreme care. The installation. The wall colours. The flooring. Extreme care. In a place that cares about its corridors,  where the artist has made a corridor look like a walk through a forest, that has ‘la source’,  an area where you can sit and read, which looks like you are in a tree-house, a wood, back in nature, that brings such care to place,  nurture. How much more so that you will be cared for as the patient, the family, the staff?

Care, being careful, really caring rather than careless; providing beauty, showing how much they care about you that they create a beautiful space for you, the visitor, the stranger to enter, to use your eyes, the windows onto your soul, to see such beauty. A healing place where you are nurtured back to health.

 

Bjork at MOMA

I love Bjork. I have loved her music since her Debut album. I still find it fresh and current. I don’t know about her persona as I am not that kind of a fan. Usually I hate anything that smacks of ingénue, that awful fakery of childishness and sexuality. Yuk.  But Bjork does a different thing, not ingénue, but openness. There seems to be an innocence, but she knows her craft, she knows music. She is her music.

So to be in New York when MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) were putting on a Bjork show was a great opportunity to see/know more. And we got to see it early without the crowds. I say this not to show off, but as I couldn’t imagine how to see it with many people at the same time. The tickets are timed as it takes a while to go through one of the ‘displays’, but there are other displays of videos that are running in loops. The curation seemed lacking, the exhibits were on three floors. Too much and too many and too unfocussed.

I love Bjork, but I couldn’t really get the ‘show’. The music videos are brilliant and great to see. Her latest one is raw emotion. Very brave and beautiful.

The narrative room, the main new part of this show uses her albums to make a journey. It is done by playing a track or two from each album in sequence with a story over the top of a girl creating a world and becoming part of that world. There are displays alongside of outfits, clothes worn for concurrent videos or album sleeves, which link the display to the music. There are notes from her lyric book, costumes from the video of that particular album, sets for all of this to sit in and music from the album playing alongside the narration.  I found it hard to take in, narration, notes, costumes, installations, music, everything all at once like an assault of the senses. As if the music wasn’t enough. It wasn’t an immersive space like an art work; it was documentary, but with too much evidence presented all at once, more like a nightclub than an art space. The narration made it feel like a story had been constructed and the albums fitted into it. All the wrong way round.

The David Bowie exhibition in London was at the V & A, a museum of culture and Bjork needed to be in a similar place.. Not an art gallery.

I still love Bjork. In the end I don’t really know what I saw in this show. It wasn’t art and it wasn’t fanzine. I’ll stick with the music.

On Kawara – Silence – Guggenheim NY

Guggenheim Museum, New York is a museum known as much for its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright as for the artists it displays. It was originally conceived to display Guggenheim’s collection of Kandinsky’s works. Nowadays it has many and varied exhibits to see.

guggenheim-museum

The Guggenheim Museum New York

It is a difficult and challenging space to display works in as it ascends from the central atrium in a spiral opening up as you ascend. It is a beautiful space, with many references to spiritual ideas, but due to its curvature and openness, you can see across the spiral to all the spaces, hard to hang works of art in.

Not for On Kawara. It was as if the space was designed for him, Unfortunately, like Mr Guggenheim and Mr Lloyd Wright, he died before his show opened. But he knew it was happening. I don’t know if that is comfort or irony.

on kawara 2

On Kawara

His pieces are so (deceptively) simple you would pass one by if it was by itself. They are like markers, mainly grey with white writing, like a tombstone, but in landscape rather than portrait shape. They have the date they were painted. Just that. And because they are just that they are also everything.

He painted a date like that each day, every day. If it was not completed by midnight he destroyed it. Although that is not the apparent part of the work, I love the diligence, the attention, the mindfulness. They place him, and you the viewer, in the here and now, but also in the then and there. As the viewer, you complete the picture of course as you fill in what you were doing that day in your mind. They open that conversation of remembrance at the same time as being present, realising the gift of every day.

on kawara 4

On Kawara

His other works are equally magnificent. His postcards, his collections and his messages.

on-kawara-I-got-up

On Kawara: I got up

I had to buy the t-shirt ‘I am still alive’. How perfect an expression.

Perfect art in the perfect place for it.

Wherever you are Mr On Kawara; thank you. You made my day.

 

Marlene Dumas

I have only seen one Dumas painting before. I didn’t really get it, but I could see that the technique, the application of colour to paper, was great, there was a beauty in it. The technical ability is even more apparent given that she works in watercolour and inks, notoriously difficult medium, very unforgiving. So her works are technically alluring and brilliantly made. They are beautiful as works, but it is the content that makes me uncomfortable. It is why I have delayed writing about her show at the Tate.

The exhibition of her works had a great advantage on most exhibitions in that there was not reams of text by the curator written in that curious language, art-speak (never say scientists use jargon!). Instead, there were quotes from the artist and some of them were lovely.

Again the work was brilliantly made. But I read the content , what the art said to me, in a way that I wasn’t sure was a in the mind of the artist. I found it racist. Perhaps it was meant to hold up a mirror, but some pieces really annoyed me, not because of their meaning, but because I felt Dumas’ lack of understanding of what she was doing or perhaps care of how they are read by us, the viewer. Perhaps they are only meant for people like her.

There was the array of portraits of black African people which I found looked like a line up or a museum curio.  It may have been what it was like at the time they were taken, she works from photographs and these were old ones, but she configured them in this way. Perhaps she meant to show their individuality, but it was ugly. It reduced their humanity.

One piece was called Jewess. Now come on. Where was the piece called Christian, or Muslim, or Aborigine?  Stereotyping is lazy. Racial stereotyping is nasty.

Marlene Dumas is white, Afrikaans and has moved from South Africa to live in one of the countries that was appalling to Africans, especially South Africans, The Netherlands (Holland), home of the Boers, the Afrikaans. Along with Belgium (think of the ramifications in the Congo) .and the Portuguese, none of these countries have stepped up to the mark and apologised for what they did. Britain apologised. It makes a difference.

While she may be making art, art is not content free.

What finally turned me off was her depiction of religious Jews praying at the Security Wall in Israel.  I found it deeply offensive. I don’t suppose she understands that it was idolatrous. Perhaps she was trying to say the opposite. In that case it was clumsy, a cheap jibe and insulting. It was lazy and stupid.

Coming from an Afrikaans, making work about the ‘other’ without any real engagement seemed to say that you can do anything if it is done with technical aplomb, as if art could be content free. In the end, I loathed it.

For the sake of the children- 3 parent families

3 parents

 

I have spent my laboratory working life in stem cell research. I am interested in ageing and stem cells seem a good place to start.

I have spent a lot of time around the regenerative medicine network and around people involved in Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

I have written papers in this field and in the ethics of this field. So I am not saying any of this without having thought about it.

In the UK we have been lucky to have the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority which regulates what is allowed. Because something is possible does not mean it should be done. It is possible for you to murder, but you should not do that.

We have medical interventions that can  save our lives, which is to the good, but we also have medical interventions creating lives that could not exist otherwise, and that is where a lot of contention comes in. I know that there are many opinions and feelings on this and I am not convinced who knows best.

We hear about people that cannot have babies, usually from women that cannot have babies, are infertile for some reason. They feel their lives are blighted, Now for me, I think that is a psychological problem as well as a medical one. I think they have focussed on the one thing they can’t do to the detriment of anything else. There are people with an illness that become that illness, they lose all sense of themselves, their identity becomes their illness. The Disability Lobbies have been stalwarts at altering that image. People with a disability are not the disability; that is merely a part of them and they are also able; able to be themselves. They are more than their disability. The same with disease or illness.

We also hear about people wanting babies that cannot have them for other reasons, such as being male.

And now we have people that do not accept this and so want to have babies somehow. Medical interventions and surrogacy have implemented this supply to those that demand it.

Surrogacy is basically renting a womb. There may not be a large payment, but the surrogate mother provides the uterus for the growth of the embryo. The embryo may be from the surrogate’s egg mixed with donor sperm from a man that wants a biological baby or it may be a donated egg from a woman that wants a biological baby, but cannot manage a pregnancy.

The problem of course is who really are the baby’s biological parents? I ask this as I imagine that when the child grows up it will want to know. Never mind the parents wishes. I want to know how the child feels.

We are more than our genetic material, but it plays a large part. Most of our genetic material, DNA, is held in the nucleus of the cell and codes for the genes that make the proteins that make us.

The mitochondria are little organs, organelles, inside each cell in our body. They are responsible for energy conversion. Glucose comes from our food and oxygen from the air that enters our lungs. Both glucose and oxygen cross into our blood and our blood transports the glucose and oxygen to every cell in our body. There insulin helps glucose to be taken into the cell (hence the problem for those with insulin deficits, diabetes) and both glucose and oxygen enter the cell. The glucose and oxygen combine in a similar way that petrol and oxygen combine in a car, burning up to release the energy contained in the glucose molecule, in the atomic bonds. However, in us it is done at a much lower temperature than in a car, with the help of enzymes which are protein molecules and proteins are coded for by DNA.

The glucose and oxygen combine to form ATP (the molecule on my front page) which is used as an energy store to fuel all the reactions of the body. Most of this is done inside mitochondria, so mitochondria are vital for our lives.

Mitochondria are unusual organelles. They contain their own genetic material, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Like any DNA it can have mutations and these get passed on in the maternal line as the mother makes eggs which have mitochondria in, her mitochondria. Each parent also donates nuclear genetic material to the embryo, but only the mother donates mtDNA. We can trace people back to ‘Eve’ by their maternal mitochondria. Many of us are interested in where we come from.

Mitochondria only contain about 37 genes while nuclear DNA (nDNA) contains about 30,000 genes. But the mitochondrial genes are vital and any mutations can lead to serious and very deadly diseases.

If a woman is carrying mutated mitochondrial genes she will pass them on to her offspring regardless of whether her nuclear genes and the father’s nuclear genes are fine.

To circumvent this, women with mitochondrial diseases need three biological donors:

  • one giving an egg with healthy mitochondria ( a donor female) but with the nucleus removed so there is no nuclear genetic material,
  • one giving nuclear genetic material (the ‘mother’ with the faulty mitochondria) but not donating the egg and
  • one giving sperm (the male donor) containing nuclear genetic material. Three partners/donors/parents.

The egg may then be brought through pregnancy by the ‘mother’ if it is only her mitochondrial genetic material that is at fault. In other-words, her nucleus with nuclear genes can be put into the egg with no nucleus but healthy mitochondria and fertilised by sperm. The problem is, you have just cloned a baby.

Again, how do the children feel when they grow up?

I imagine in the first case that the child of a surrogate would want to know the egg donor or the womb donor. In some cultures and religions it is the womb donor who is the mother, not the egg donor. I know of people who have used this method to have children because they wanted children. I am not sure how their children will react to finding out that their mother was rent-a-womb and that their parents have no further interest in her once she has done her bit.

For the mitochondrial child, there may only have been an egg with mitochondrial DNA genetic material donated and the pregnancy might have been in the mother. Not just the social mother, but the biological one.

I think we need to stop thinking about parents rights as there are no real inalienable rights to have children.  Who do you blame if you can’t have children? Who do you sue; yourself?  We need to start thinking about how we use women as just another commodity in our individual choices, in our buying power, in the way we treat each other and the planet as one big shop. We need to start thinking about how the children will feel and what they will want when they grow up. And most of us want to know where we came from, who our biological parents are, what their culture and customs are and how come they sold/gave us to another.