Jen Bervin

Silk Poems

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Silk, as a material, is compatible with body tissues; our immune system accepts it on surfaces as sensitive as the human brain. In conjunction with Tufts University’s Silk Lab’s cutting edge research on liquified silk, Jen Bervin wrote a poem fabricated nanoscale in the form of a silk biosensor.

The form of the poem is composed in a six-character chain that corresponds to the DNA structure of silk; the shape of the chain is modeled on the way silkworm applies filament to its cocoon. It is written from the perspective of the silkworm, addressed to the imagined person with the silk biosensor implanted under his/her/their skin.

The poem stems from the belief that reading such a sensor inside the body is not a neutral context, rather one pre-inscribed with concern, written in a material with a 5,000 year old international history. Bervin’s Silk Poems takes this ancient textile material silk as subject and form, exploring the cultural, scientific, and linguistic complexities of silk imagined inside the body.

In her research, Bervin consulted over thirty international nanotechnology and biomedical labs, textile archives, medical libraries, and sericulture sites in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  

Silk Poems is on view at MASS MoCA from May 28, 2016 - March 19, 2017. Silk film fabrication courtesy of Fiorenzo Omenetto and Tufts University Silk Lab, video and photography by Charlotte Lagarde. Silk Poems is supported by a Creative Capital Grant, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a Montalvo Art Center LAP Fellowship.