Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Contagious Matters: The social constructs of cancer culture
Tristan Matheson
2nd Author
3rd Author
M.A. in Media Studies
Number of Pages
Concordia University
Thesis Supervisor
Tagny Duff
Supervisor e-mail
tagny.duff AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Kim Sawchuk, Andrew Pelling
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Communication/Media Studies
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
Contagion, microethnography, microculture, macroculture, vital materialism, cancer
Abstract: 200-500 words
Contagious Matters attempts to associate biological matter, specifically cancer cells, with the concept of contagion, by using my working methodology, Microethnography. This method-in-development, in its relational co-existence with ethnography, navigates or explores the micro world by examining micro matters' social activities. This social proliferation of cancer amongst itself, other cells (i.e. fibroblasts) and its ecology, promotes an often-unobserved form of social amalgamation that can be described as a contagious event or events. The re-suspension of the concept of contagion through the use of both the sciences and ethnography via this hybrid methodology will hopefully bring to light new forms of evaluating things beyond the scope of purely human existence and experience. As part of the research creation project, Contagious Matters, this multimedia installation brings together the micro and macro worlds of cancer culture. The two installations merge technology, science, art and culture through the use of traditional artistic media/practice and scientific media/practice. My paintings represent a micro culture fixed in time and space through scientific/digital practice, and captures the essence of what cancer culture looks like on a cellular level, rendered in large scale. The animation, projected onto the painted substrates, act as a live feed in order to witness the often-unseen live culture. The time lapse videos of live HeLa cells, which I cultured in a lab and recorded, exemplify the cell's communicative properties within its ecology over space and time. This visual use of my developing methodology attempts to re-suspend the concept of contagion via cancer's movement and rapid growth within its ecology and allows viewers to think about the concept of contagion as a social event and not merely as a physiological one. The installations include an audio recording of my mother, who battled cancer over the past four years, and focuses on how the disease socially and physiologically impacted her existence. This fusion of the seen and unseen, between the micro and the macro worlds, reverses itself in this creative exploration, where the voice is a mere aural presence versus that of the seen micro matter.