Back in January 2015, we staged a second roundtable to bring together all of the collaborators to share, feedback and learn from each other’s experiences. Each project has been developed separately under the theme of Silent Signal, and has been developed organically through an R&D period to promote exploration of both specifics and broader tropes. What was immediately obvious was the partnerships are truly collaborative. Both the artists and scientists are now comfortable using each other’s vocabulary and offering reflections on each other’s disciplines.
Mutual lab and studio visits have built on these dynamic exchanges and their layers of dialogue and translation mirror those explored across Silent Signal. The collaborations have now moved from the learning stage to one of interpretation and response. Continually sharing test material has allowed for dialogue and exchange, ensuring that the production of the artworks fully takes into account the complexity of the science.
Additional patterns identified during investigative discussions between the producers, partners and collaborators, have begun to appear and will themselves become visual devices to further contextualise and enrich the artworks. These are external from the scientific mechanisms and data, and have emerged from a translation of the scientists themselves as much as the research directly. These deeper interrogations and serendipitous discoveries highlight the power of collaborative working and how discussion and free exchange is vital for its success.
These six animated artworks will bring new and exciting interpretations of signalling in biological systems, far beyond visualisations littered with disclaimers, that shall act as both a provocation and invitation to new audiences. Although these projects are still work in progress at this stage the outputs have already met many of the personal objectives of the artists, scientists and the curatorial team, and continues to develop and inspire more collaborations and productive outputs.
Here is a brief overview of what was presented at the roundtable:
The infection modelling data acts as a muse to explore how a disease is spread and maintained in a fictional landscape. How a landscape is perceived and represented is currently a hot topic, as scientists need to be able to extract and apply infection scenarios to certain environments to make predictions and plan intervention strategies. Humans like to extend their environment by illuminating the landscapes they inhabit and so light and its ability to represent and define a space became key elements of this project.
“We talked about this idea of defining parameter space, and where boredomresearch were exploring that parameter space and filtering based on what gave an artistic rendering, I was filtering it based on fitting it to data. Then we looked to see how much of an overlap there was and explored the different outcomes.” Dr Paddy Brock
Sleep may seem like a benign process, but it appears that we do not save much energy when we sleep, and scientists are now beginning to look at sleep as an active state with diverse functions. Sleep disturbance has often been ignored as a true symptom but it is a common feature of neurological disorders, and by learning more about these correlations it could help identify useful invention points. The issue scientists face in using sleep disturbance as an early warning system is on which scale to monitor it, the molecular clock, the organism or the community level? Sleepless will focus on the cycles or synchrony and de-synchrony in circadian biology and its causative relationship with mental health.
”Stories, human stories, are an important part of my work. With Professor Peter Oliver’s science and some of the applications of his science: who it can affect, and who it could help, was an appealing part of the project.” Ellie Land
Originally inspired by the question “What genes mediate our most primal behaviours?” this project has developed to explore larger themes from identifying biological circuits to linking genes to behaviour to the accelerating developments in genomic editing tools. In the near future what machines might ultimately be able to decode and edit our genes to influence our behaviours and what might this machine think as is passes this judgement? The narrator will be a hybrid of future computing hardware and biological technology and will act as a playful guide through the history of computing and sequencing, and the layers and language of technological and biological codes in a conceptual arena to consider the biological, evolutional and ethical burdens of such technology.
“Since our last roundtable I’ve developed the script a lot further. I’ve moved past the ‘artist trying to understand the science’ phase and really honed the language. Dr Darren Logan recently visited my studio in Bristol and we worked on this latest version of the script and the storyboard.” Charlie Tweed
Fundamental to autophagy is the ability of septin monomers to attract bacteria and form a prison around them until they can be destroyed. However the exact mechanisms of how this happens is not known. This area of ‘unknown’ is partly what will be explored in Loop. An animation workshop held in the lab allowed each member of staff to visualise and discuss their own take on this ‘unknown’. These discussions and diverse approaches have all been woven into the narrative of Loop and they have been given life and movement through the animation. Loop has now become a metaphor echoing throughout the piece from the movement of the fish, bacterial tails, experimental and feedback cycles.
“A key influence of this project has been the different people in our group. I try to bring in different perspectives to the lab, whether the person is German, Spanish, Italian or Malaysian. You will see in the work how each member of my team has independently affected the science.” Dr Serge Mostowy
Learning how naive T cells evolve into smarter more specific memory T cells will hopefully enable scientists to turn off these functions when they go wrong, like in autoimmune disease. The dynamic interactions between the cells of immune system have been distilled down into archetypal behaviours to establish game play functions with which to battle cell cultures in a multiplayer environment trading in naivety and memory dynamics.
“Cells obviously aren’t just circles as they are often drawn, they have hundreds and thousands of receptors on their surface; little proteins that move. We don’t know how they move, but Eric Schockmel’s cell tests give a good indication of how these different receptors can move up and down and change over time.” Dr Megan MacLeod
As an exploration of cascades and a voyage through the inflammation process, this piece takes complex interconnected aspects of the inflammatory process, and the tools used to study them, and reinterprets them in familiar context. In producing the work, gaming technologies will explore data collection techniques and allow intuitive engagement with the generated immune environments. Avatars moving through these spaces will experiment with the physicality of key processes from various points of views from the initial infecting horsefly bite, across the three dimensional battlefield of the inflammatory response to the tipping point of damage or healing.
“I’d like to emphasise the skills development we’re going through. Hearing everyone speak about what they’re doing has been incredible. And having to articulate ideas, that normally we might just draw for ourselves, we’re having to communicate our work in a way that we haven’t had to before.” Nicola Schauerman, Genetic Moo
Bentley Crudgington, June 2015