Meeting of minds
Does the creative process follow the same principles in scientists and artists? Are scientists and artists driven by a similar kind of deeply rooted curiosity? These are questions not often asked by molecular biologists. Indeed, the laboratory and the art studio are two microcosms that rarely overlap.
Jan-Michael Peters, Senior Scientist and Deputy Director at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, is a biologist and an art lover. He is also the coordinator of MitoSys (systems biology of mito- sis), a 10 million Euro, five-year scientific research project funded by the European Commission Seventh Framework (FP7) Programme. The aim of MitoSys is to generate a comprehensive mathematical understanding of mitotic cell division. It is a follow-up project of MitoCheck, which identified 600 human genes involved in mitosis out of the 22,000 genes in the human
genome and characterized the assembly of these mitosis genes into “molec- ular machines.” MitoSys, which started in June 2010, is a large European Union project that integrates the work of leading mathematicians, biochem- ists, biophysicists, biologists, and artists.
Artakt of the University of the Arts in London recently joined the consor- tium of twelve participating research institutions and companies. Artakt Director Marina Wallace devises and curates the ambitious art project Meeting of Minds — the main outreach activity of MitoSys. The project
involves artists from diverse disciplines – dance, ceramics, sculpture and fine arts – who work with researchers and complement their scientific advances. The participants have been paired to form four couples, each involving a scien- tist who specializes in a particular aspect of mitosis and an artist as partner.
The pairs meet regularly to gain insight into the disci- pline and expertise of each partner. Four short videos of the interactions that elucidate the science and document the communication process will be incorporated into the docu- mentary Meeting of Minds. The screening of the film is part of an exhibition that will tour several European cities.
The pairings promise to deliver unique and diverse pieces of art. Geneticist Kim Nasmyth will be accompanied by experi- mental choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh. Cell biologist Tony Hyman is joined by artists Ackroyd & Harvey whose work includes sculpture, photography and architecture. Meiosis expert Melina Schuh will team up with Rob Kesseler, Visual Artist and Professor at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design. Visual artists Lucy and Jorge Orta will interpret the work of cell-cycle expert Jan-Michael Peters.
“I am curious and thrilled about the outcome of the art project,” says coordinator Jan-Michael Peters. “Even though artists and scientists have completely different means of approaching their subjects, I have a feeling that we might all be driven by the same fundamental questions about the mechanisms of life.”
2011 Porcelain and glass panel
Installation view of exhibition Florid at Roundhouse Design London for the London Design Festival. Porcelain vase with printed decal of stem section of Chrysanthemum coronarium (crown daisy) stained with Safranin. Glass panel with printed image of a stained stem section of Gennaria diphylla
(two leaved gennaria).
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© Rob Kesseler