ÆON – is a poetic philosophical-speculative scenario about possible near future world where biological clock can be reversed by genetic reprogramming. Today scientists claim being able to reverse the major hallmarks of cellular ageing by re-activating specific genes in human genome called the Yamanaka factors. Emilia Tikka created – in close collaboration with scientists from Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) – an artistic concept engaging with the question of longevity. Drawing on experiments where she reactivated one of the Yamanaka factors in human cells using the novel dCAS9 system, a form of CRISPR, the recently discovered gene-editing technology. Based on the proof of concept experiment the aim was to speculate about possible future(s) where aging can be reversed on molecular scale through genetic engineering.


Emilia Tikka designed a speculative scenario of a rejuvenation technology embodied as a device for daily use and narrated as a fictional story. The story told with a series of photographs, has been executed in a collaboration with photographer Zuzanna Kaluzna. ÆON illustrates a couple, who in the past as young adults, has made opposite choices to use the rejuvenating technology and now 60 years later has to face the consequences of this decision. The emotional story indicates how the possibility of so-called eternal life challenges us to face our own fears about loss and the threshold of death. The fictional scenario also functions as a metaphor for the constant loop of decay and rebirth as a central molecular process in all the living beings and the human drive to interfere these processes with novel biotechnologies.


Selected through STATE Festival's Open Call, Emilia Tikka spent two months at the MDC Laboratories. There, her research focussed on molecular hallmarks of aging and CRISPR/dCAS9 system. The project aims to question the human desires and dreams driving current biotechnological innovations in a scheme of human longevity. ÆON addresses societal dimensions of the idea of a prolonged lifespan underlying significant philosophical questions about human life, death and afterlife.  



Collaboration partners:

Photographer: Zuzanna Kaluzna

MDC Scientists: Jürgen Stumm and Norman Krueger (Stem Cell platform)

Dubravka Vucicevic (Computational Regulatory Genomics)

Actor: Nico Ehrentait

Actress: Helena Norowitz

3D rendering: Pauli Hyvönen

Make-up & hair: Caterina Veronesi

Microscope: Franco Klingberg

Location: Das schwarze Haus