Saliva is very easily accessible and familiar requiring no special training to collect samples, we see and feel it every day and it has vital functions in aiding swallowing and digestion and in immunological defence mechanisms. It is gaining track as an important fluid for biomarker research, however to date most analysis for diagnosis focusses on blood. Saliva as a media for art is a culturally loaded in modern western society, yet as a clinical diagnostic material it has no less taboo than any other bodily tissue, excretion or fluid.
Humanity in data: A tactile approach to salivary biomarkers seeks to explore the potential for making physical, three dimensional prints, CNC milled surfaces and cast glass objects from scientific data usually presented as 3D plots and 2d graphs on screen or paper. The data used will be generated from the saliva samples of volunteer subjects that have been put through gas chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques. The resultant data line in a larger data surface will be remapped into a three-dimensional surface and made using a variety of materials and processes. Glass transparency and fluidity can be used as an analogue for saliva in the creation of works of art however the project may use a range of tactile materials in addition to glass. This exploratory preliminary study also seeks to examine the position of an individual within a test, to challenge the anonymity of data and the depersonalisation of illness through the examination and clinical study. The Artist Colin Rennie will be putting himself forward as named subject. Saliva, donated and taken through the process of analysis becomes a metaphor for depersonalisation through clinical diagnosis. Perhaps there is a need to re-personalise sample sets, or for research scientists to remind themselves that the samples they deal with represent an individual’s hopes and fears, life and death.