Multimedia artist Pamela Rosenkranz works with materials developed in the high-tech scientific and pharmaceutical industries to demonstrate her concepts through performance, installation, sculpture and painting. Her work explores what it means to be human in the context of globalisation and consumerism and how our understanding of these two phenomena is affected by achievements in modern science and medicine.
Originally commissioned for the courtyard of Sharjah Art Foundation’s Bait Al Serkal during Sharjah Biennial 14, Healer (Sands) (2019) is an algorithmic snake that combines recent advancements in biorobotics with the far-reaching symbolic power of the snake. The work is informed by the artist’s research into snakebots, used to perform complex tasks that augment human capabilities—from surgical procedures to search and rescue missions, scientific research in contaminated areas, and deep-water missions such as the maintenance of oil-drilling platforms. Healer (Sands) embodies the ‘supernatural’ qualities of the snakebot while also resembling a ‘natural’ snake in appearance and behaviour, thereby connecting to the far-reaching symbolism about the creature that runs throughout human civilisation. For example, the snake’s bite, once understood as an ominous sign, can be interpreted as tenacity to survive in the face of catastrophic events. The world’s first writings from the Fertile Crescent also tell of deep-rooted connections between humanity and the snake, which symbolised the origin of the world in Babylon and the beginning and the end of time in ancient Egypt. Spanning the history of human existence and connecting the present world with the past, the snake is a harbinger, divine representative and technical tool from which to learn in these times of rapid technological advancement.