In 2013, as part of a Fringe Catalyst project at The Edge in QLD, Svenja sent a saliva sample to an online company for genetic analysis. Self Portrait #2 reflects on the uncertainty and fear experienced by the artist while waiting for her results. For example, the analysis reviews the participant’s DNA for the presence of mutations that may indicate an increased risk of developing certain cancers. The analysis also identifies increased risk of metal illnesses such as bi-polar disorder and potential responses to antidepressant medication. Breast and ovarian cancer, as well as mental illness are major diseases are present within the female line of the artist’s family, and therefore of particular concern.
The resulting work consists of a life cast of the artist’s bust with a spider crawling out the mouth cavity. The spider represents the artist’s fear of being identified with an increased risk of developing a particular medical condition. The spider crawling out from the mouth reflects on the horror of having an initially dormant or undiagnosed condition being expressed in the future. The choice of tarantula, which can be seen as both a frightening creature and potential pet, reflects on the terror of being identified with the condition and the ability to learn to live with it on a daily basis.