Rose Leahy

Cellular Sanctum

Baum & Leahy

Developed throughout a year-long residency at the Florence Trust (St. Saviour's, London), and exhibited at the Winter Open and Summer Exhibition

Life is in this place
Glory to kin in the smallest
and on earth peace toward all
Come eat of the bodies
and drink of the sea,
forever intermingled
Wholly wholly wholly life unlimited
which was and is and is to be
This is the house of slime

Taking influence from the sacred space of St Saviours Church, Cellular Sanctum is an ode to the microbes, a shrine to our tiny ancestors. From primordial genesis to futures-yet-to-be-made, they see it all. Omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, the source of evolutionary descent. The microscopic overseers, overlooked or underappreciated, were always here, moulding terra, shaping the atmosphere, through chemical compositions and transmutations.

Opposite the altar in St. Saviours Church, Cellular Sanctum offers an alternative sacred space where life itself is worshipped. Giant, hairy microbes and sinful ooze fills the church with an atmosphere of an ancient scifi beach party. Through collective chanting and drinking a microbial offering, Cellular Sanctum reinterprets rituals of ancestral worship, inviting us to connect with our microbial 3.45 billion year old kin.

Words by Tyler Woolcott, curator at Florence Trust

Baum & Leahy's otherworldly installation, Cellular Sanctum, for The Florence Trust summer show seems to exert a gravitational force pulling visitors inside. Looming over the installation, a large disk evokes the face of a giant clock, or perhaps sundial, seemingly marking out time for the sculptural forms above and on the floor beneath it in eras rather than minutes.
At select times, visitors can drink shots of edible red algae from a reinterpretation of a baptismal font, playfully referred to by the artists as “our ancestors.” Meandering through a garden of hairy microbes suspended above furry wax pools filled with orange jelly eggs, one gets the paradoxical impression of both navigating the gooey insides of a stomach, and standing on the twilight shores of an alien world.

Described by the duo as a “sacred ode to the microbial organisms all around us,” Baum & Leahy's installation invites visitors to take a moment and reflect, engage with their full range of senses, eat the art, lie in the sand to get a different perspective, and imagine what the microbes might be up to as they bounce around the church and under their skin.  

© Rose Leahy 2020