Malignant Potential


Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 2019. Curated by Maria Tcharyeva. Part of the performance series Are We Bodies? 

A lecture-performance spreading through the space of Cabaret Voltaire, which took as a starting point the biological phenomenon of cancer. Cancers consist of cells which stimulate their own limitless growth, are unresponsive to the body’s attempts to restrict this growth, and, critically, expand locally before spreading and invading distant sites in the body until the entire organism perishes. Cell growth is strictly programmed and essential for living, but, when uncontrolled, leads to death of the entire body – suffocation through overproduction. 

Malignant Potential considered the parallels between these characteristics and certain economic and cultural models of growth and achievement. Considered as a swarm of cells, the individual and collective responsibilities of the audience are addressed through highlighting modes of behaviour, movement and language. The architecture of the building was used to illustrate forms of entrapment, spread, and control at cellular levels. Based around the structure of the 2000 paper ‘The Hallmarks of Cancer’, by Hanahan and Weinberg, the audience is moved to the basement area of the building to discuss the sixth hallmark: tissue invasion and metastasis. Subjects also included Roy Batty’s death soliloquy in Blade Runner, Percival Pott’s studies of scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps, Margaret Thatcher, JG Ballad’s short story Venus Smiles, the shape of crabs, Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa stem cell line, Halstedt’s radical mastectomy, and JP Morgan.