Development of the Visual Circuit of Drosophila melanogaster in 3 Acts: Larva; Pupa I; Pupa II, 2018

In 2017 Helen Pynor was commissioned by The Francis Crick Institute, London to undertake an extended residency in the laboratory of Institute scientist Dr Iris Salecker, and to produce artworks in response. This video was recorded over a 22-minute period as Salecker described in detail the complex series of events that take place during the development of brain circuits responsible for vision in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In this highly spatial scientific story, Pynor is interested in the precision and articulate nature of Salecker’s gesture, and the way her body fills in some of the gaps – literally and metaphorically – between language and meaning.

The work falls within a broader interest of Pynor’s in the embodied, situated, performative and subjective nature of scientific practice. Scientific practice does not take place in some rarified, abstracted universe where scientists have a disinterested clinical distance from their subject. Rather, the feeling scientists have for their subject, the extended range of languages they use to articulate their work, and the centrality of their own bodies in dialogue with the bodies they study, are all layered into scientific research in spoken and unspoken ways.

Fallen (11-17),

Fallen forms part of an extended exploration into the ambiguity of life’s beginnings and endings in the context of chickens raised for human food consumption.

The embryos depicted in the series are contained within the tenuous safety of their amniotic sacs, or fall unfettered through space, entangling in the ruptured and torn remnants of these sacs. Embryos occupy a biologically liminal space, as form emerges from the abstraction of cellular biology. However, these embryos also occupy a culturally transitional space as they fall from the maternal space of the egg into spaces of human manipulation and control.

The series juxtaposes innocence and our reflexive attachment to the potentiality of the embryo, with these embryos’ thwarted potentiality. The work was developed at The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, in the laboratory of regeneration biologist Dr Jochen Rink.

Fallen extends the previous long-term engagement Pynor had in Rink’s laboratory during development of installation The End is a Distant Memory.


Helen Pynor is an artist whose practice explores philosophically and experientially ambiguous zones, such as the life-death boundary. Her work is informed by in-depth residencies in scientific institutions, most recently The Francis Crick Institute, London; The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden; and The Heart and Lung Transplant Unit, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney. Pynor also frequently collaborates with members of the broader community whose embodied experiences connect with the themes of her work.

Pynor has exhibited nationally and internationally including at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts; The National Centre for Contemporary Art, Russia; Science Gallery Dublin; Science Gallery London; FACT, Liverpool UK; Wellcome Collection, London; and the Australian Centre for Photography. She has received an Honorary Mention at Prix Ars Electronica, Austria, and national awards in Australia. Pynor holds a Bachelor of Science (1st Class Hons), a Bachelor of Visual Arts, and a PhD.

Development of the Visual Circuit of Drosophila melanogaster in 3 Acts: Larva; Pupa I; Pupa II 2018
Video, duration 22 minutes 24 seconds
Performer: Iris Salecker
Videographer: Ben Gilbert, Wellcome
Courtesy of the artist and The Francis Crick Institute, London. Commissioned by The Francis Crick Institute, London, for  the Deconstructing Patterns Exhibition, Feb-Dec 2018.

Fallen (11-17) 2017
Archival pigment prints, face mounted on glass
129 cm x 30 cm each
Artist: Helen Pynor
Camera: Jürgen Jeibmann, Dresden
Retouching & Printing: High Res Digital, Sydney
Framing: Graphic Art Mount, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney. Developed with the assistance of Dr Jochen Rink, Group Leader, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and
Genetics, Dresden. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.