Blood Red and Neon Stain: the para-site of colour in micro-mobile geographies

Dr Jen Southern1, Dr Rod  Dillon1

1Lancaster University, Lancaster, U.K.


This paper, and the authors artwork, uses the Leishmania parasite as a guide to multispecies travel. The parasites mobility ranges from micro-movements through the sandfly gut, to historical and global migrations within the bodies of humans and other mammals, and travel between labs as elite research colonies. The artwork is framed as a travel blogging portal for parasites, with eight different blogs that trace aspects of the historical and geographical mobility of Leishmania. The conceit of the parasite’s eye view orients us to follow the colour of liquids within which they travel, the red of mammalian blood and the blue of the Leishman Stain used to make things visible in the lab. Thinking through the colour of liquids reveals nested micro/macro assemblages of mobility, that have enabled the disease Leishmaniasis to spread with colonial travel. We also distinguish between the complexity of the parasite situated in the ‘wild’ and the parasite isolated for research, and the different politics of care that are mobilised around breeding for research, in order to prevent their mobility in the wild.


Jen Southern is an artist, lecturer in Fine Art, and Director of the Mobilities Lab at the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University. Her research is a hybrid of art practice and mobilities research. With an ethos of shared authorship she collaborates with artists, technologists and members of the public to produce live installations that combine material and digital experience.

For over 25 years her art practice has engaged with mobilities and has exhibited in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and USA. She curated exhibitions for Global Mobility Futures (2013) and Mobile Utopia: Pasts, Presents, Futures (2017).

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