Rendering Life Molecular: Models, Modelers, and Excitable Matter
This chapter examines forms of animation that rely on practitioners’ moving bodies. It foregrounds the affectively charged gestural choreographies that shape communication about molecular movements in research, teaching, and wider cultural contexts, including a large-scale 1972 choreography on a football field at Stanford, and the recent Dance Your PhD contests. In these contexts, practitioners become kinesthetic proxies for the molecular phenomena they model. They run “body experiments,” rather than just thought experiments, using the physicality of their bodies to test and assess possible molecular configurations. This chapter examines the mimetic relationship between modeler and model, exploring ways that modelers give their bodies over to the process of articulating the movements of their molecules, and transducing and propagating the phenomena through their tissues. This chapter pays close attention to the fraught dynamics of gender and power that impose constraints on the ways that modelers use their bodies in teaching and research contexts.