In 2019, Gjino Šutić (as a biotechnologist and a bio artist, in the role of a consultant and project developer) collaborated on the development of the work of Italian artist Margherita Pevere (IT/DE) – Wombs project. The project was produced under the umbrella of EMAP/EMARE art residency 2019 by KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis (HR) in collaboration with Gjino’s UR Institute in Dubrovnik (for the biological research & development part).

The project involved a comparative study of reproductive hormonal release, influence, and biochemical interspecies communication of Margherita’s own female body and other animal organisms (primarily slugs) who biochemically differ but can be influenced by the same hormones. The experimental research was conducted on a theoretical and practical level (laboratory exploration of cells, tissues, hormones, and bodies).

The project resulted in BioArt installation – an ongoing living experiment in biochemical interspecies communication and influence. From a standpoint of viewing the human body as a biochemical cyborg, Wombs looks at Margherita’s own female body, whose leaky materiality is entwined with environmental relations by the gesture of taking hormonal contraceptives. Slugs are hermaphroditic allies in the exploration of inner and outer ecologies of fleshy desire. In the installation, a custom-made extra-bodily organ hosts two cell cultures in a hybrid ecosystem. The author’s own vaginal epithelial cells and slug egg cells share a growth medium, communicate chemically through it, and stage dance of the two organisms at a cellular level.

In the hybrid ecosystem of the installation, the two cell types display a radically different behavior: her own cells divide and small fragments of extra-bodily tissue become visible with the naked eye. Slug cells, instead, do not divide: they are alive but remain suspended. The growth medium is infused with human sex hormones and affects the primordial biochemical communication between cells.

Wombs investigate the body as a biochemical cyborg: hormonal contraceptives modulate human sexual organs to prevent pregnancy, thus accompanying the author’s sexuality. Moreover, they inscribe her own experience into a biopolitical sphere, for, once released into the ecosystem through urine, they may trigger the endocrine system of other organisms. The work asks how they might affect hermaphroditic slugs, and wonders how slugs’ sexual behavior might affect human bodies. By so doing, the piece prompts a critical re-thinking of the discourses on contraception and sexuality as a female-only, human-only experience enclosed in one’s own body.

How would it be different if gastropod hormones were at play?

Art piece morphology

– The artist’s vaginal epithelial cells, slug ova cell, custom incubator, silicon tube, custom borosilicate glassware

– Photographic series

– Snail trail on wooden log


Margherita Pevere 2018-2019,

realized within the framework of the European Media Art Platforms EMARE program at KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis, with the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union

Biotechnological advisor: Gjino Šutić – UR Institute

Preliminary research at Biofilia Laboratory – Base for Biological Arts, Aalto University

Production manager: Josipa Vukelić, Jurica Mlinarec – KONTEJNER

Photography: Sanjin Kaštelan, Margarita Koši, Margherita Pevere

Flameworking: Ivanka Pašalić – Association Staklenj svjiet

Video: Ivan Šardi

The project is part of Margherita’s practice-based Ph.D. research at Aalto University, Helsinki, supported by Kone Foundation.

Special thanks to Marika Hellman, dr. Božidar Perić, Ivan Skvrce (Academy), Matija Pavlic, Branko, Peter Crnčan, Branko, Marietta Radomska, Opi, Siniša, Marco Donnarumma, Daniela Silvestrin, Karolina Żyniewicz, Kim Maillet, Kira O’ Reilly, Helena Sederholm


Honorary Mention at the Share Prize 2018