Las Dos Hebras (The Two Strands)

At the moment of fertilization, the egg releases chemical signals that attract the ideal spermatozoid, the most compatible, to its center. Over the next two weeks, by some inexplicable chance, it’s possible that the fertilized egg will divide into two exactly equal zygotes, and it’s at that moment that the gestation of monozygotic twins will begin, two beings with the same DNA chain and genetic information.

Las dos hebras (The Two Strands) seeks to understand, through history and metaphor, the other who is me, returning to that miniscule moment that gives way to my origin and that of my twin. I try to understand, decipher, and imagine it. My search has centered on the study of genetic history from the time of Pythagoras and that of the mystical sperm that gathers secret instructions on its journey throughout the body; on Aristotle who sustained that hereditary information was not found in the matter but in the message, like that of the drawings of the beaks of mockingbirds and Darwin’s tree of life. I have spent a great deal of time considering these events, recreating in my mind the human process for discovering oneself. I was accompanied by the work of Mendel, who obsessively cultivated and selected almost 400,000 seeds, hoping to find those that would produce identical descendants. I investigated the wet lab of Rosalind Franklin, British chemist and crystallographer, her life dedicated to science, and her discoveries that went unrecognized. Rosalind worked on deciphering the codes of nature, of crystals, and of invisible structures. She was the first to contemplate the image of an enigmatic molecule capable of containing hereditary information, what seemed to be the secret of life.

I traced the notes in Rosalind Franklin’s diaries, which review the power of images and how those images offer us answers. I used the answers from scientists from the second half of the twentieth century in regards to the nature of DNA, the molecule with 23 angstroms, as a metaphor, a bridge or a pathway in order to imagine and reflect on the nature of monozygotic twins. “DNA is made up of two interlocking chains arranged like the steps of a spiral staircase. The two strands contain the same information, except that they are in a complimentary position: each one is a reflection of the other. The most transcendental biological objects always appear in pairs.”1

In Las dos hebras, I combined archival images from the study of genetics, diagnostic images of my genes and those of my twin, photographs of monozygotic twins, microscopic photographs that were taken in science and fertility labs, and images with poetic symbols that, as a whole, seek to establish contact with other people, whether twins or not, who may arrive at a place to question what in this alphabet, reflexive code, or mirrored code makes us human.

1. Watson, 1981

Las Dos Hebras (The Two Strands) by Juliana Gómez Quijano

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