Spit Crystal: artist Inés Cámara Leret explains why she's crystallising our saliva

London based artist Inés Cámara Leret collected spit from guests at our ground-breaking ceremony. She is growing a collaborative Spit Crystal, an experimental art work that we commissioned to ‘spit and seal the deal’ on the new Science Gallery London building. We will be inviting more mouth related donations in July, when our forthcoming season MOUTHY kicks off. Sign up to our newsletter to receive updates about opportunities to take part.

 

My migratory inspiration

I was born in Madrid but moved to Egypt when I was six months old. My parents were both geologists, so my childhood was subject to frequent changes of location, and a somewhat itinerant lifestyle. Fast forward nine years and we're in Brazil; another five and we’re in Spain once again where I would begin my BA in Fine Arts at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. I’m now based in London after achieving a Master in Fine Arts.

It is tempting to attribute the source of my cross-disciplinary artistic approach to my unusual and migratory upbringing. Perhaps it was this background that triggered my constant fascination with the environment, its cyclical processes and its temporality. I understood at an early age that nature always wins. In the past, I have used asphalt to capture rainfall, recorded breath on a limestone’s memory and built a machine that etches real-time tectonic movement. I like to adopt the role of an alchemist and take viewers on a journey to question the relationship between cause and effect.

About Spit Crystal

A healthy individual produces between 500 and 600 millilitres of saliva a day. Whilst 99.5% of this clear and odourless fluid is water, the remaining 0.5% provides tremendous insight into who we are. Saliva is our biological blueprint. Spit Crystal, is a sculptural artefact produced by combining one month’s worth of saliva, the water it contains, and salt. Salt, like water, is a biological necessity that has not only determined our health, but also established trading routes and enabled food storage. Salt was even used as currency by the Romans, who referred to it as “solarium argentum” (salt money).

The same process by which DNA was discovered, crystallisation, is applied to the combination of saliva, water and salt. The resulting Spit Crystal captures the donor’s genetic sequence and I am interested in discovering whether the crystal’s growth pattern is dependent on the donor’s genetic makeup? And if so, how will the patterns differ? Moreover, could the crystal even shed light on the donor’s health condition?

As part of Science Gallery London’s MOUTHY season I plan to experiment further with Spit Crystal in partnership with salivary researchers and crystallographers at King’s College London. Through this collaboration I hope to expand on the social, historical, cultural and scientific implications of this biomaterial. It’s an exceptional opportunity to explore the possibilities of saliva.