Elaine Whittaker Shiver

A petri dish installation with grown salt crystals, wool, vinyl image & pipette tips; digital photography; salt encrusted wire wall grids; live cultured halobacteria in petri dishes; & an animation.



Are we our diseases? Is the world just one big petri dish incubating the source of its ultimate destruction? Shiver is an installation of mixed media artworks that turns fear, fear of the viral, of the microbial, and of impending pandemics, into beauty.

An ‘organism’, hanging from the ceiling, glimmers with salt crystals and red ‘mutations’. Erupting but tentacled to an oversized floor-bound photo representation of a petri dish, it is composed of over 2300 petri dishes and pipette tips, capturing prisms of light through grown crystals of salt, shimmering like a chandelier.

Other works include wall mounted abstract salt encrusted grids based on Ebola statistics from Western Africa, United States and Canada. These data visualizations are a glittering matrix, leeched with rust and copper, announcing the barrage of cases and the shocking death toll experienced over this past year.

Shiver also contains a series of digital photos. Larger than life portraits, I don protective mouth and nose masks painted with an array of microbial infectious diseases. With eyes closed or peering out tentatively, the viewer is confronted with the question: are the very devices we employ to protect ourselves providing the safety we need when faced with the rampant spread of infections and disease?
Ultimately Shiver asks viewers to consider that fear and beauty reside in an uncomfortable dialectic, in this precarious time of contagions, epidemics and bioterrors.

Response to Shiver by Kelly Aitken
Response to Shiver by Mary Spayne
Shiver, A poem by Elaine Whittaker & Ruth Roach Pierson