PHO705: Research Artsci, Communicating Science Visually, Computational Biology and a new Avante-Garde

Following the visit to the Wellcome Museum, it was clear that others must be working in an area where art is created from science.

Artsci is the term coined in the book (Miller, 2014) where Artsci acknowledges a convergence of Arts, Science and Technology.

Colliding Worlds – How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art (Miller 2014)

The work in bulk extensively sells the market for Artsci, by giving innumerable personal reflections on individual contributor after individual contributor, yet this is rebalanced in the final chapter by doubts over the acceptance of Artsci in restricted / specialist galleries being deemed almost gimmicky as an art form. However, examples are made in the ending of the rejection of Picasso and the Impressionists who had to set up their own groups. And so it is left to the reader as to whether or not to take up the “cause” of Artsci.

Millar describes the technical evolution of technology in computing in this book (Millar, 2014). So much resonates with my early career in technology as a world in which artist and scientist no longer are viewed strictly different disciplines. Art and science and engineering are disciplines seen as having a conceptual touchpoint in terms of methodologies e.g. minimalism and cubism.

An electronic signal called a butterfly transform, photographed on Polaroid film, was one of my earliest technical visualisations. I designed and built an electronic circuit to automatically tune to a signal frequency of a type used to communicate with deep space satellites. The active tuning process was viewed on an oscilloscope and the overall capture presented on film. During development one of the early characteristics was that of a squegging oscillator which pulsed on and off due to design tolerance issue in this automatic circuit. This was around the time that a successful MSc application was made to study the subject of Cybernetics that involves the control of machinery using feedback and software controllers. A funding issue arose that prevented the place from being taken up. Besides this, an economic downturn occurred that would certainly have blocked an immediate return to research and development within the industry.

The book runs a direct parallel to my early involvement in computing, discusses the various technological art movements and the establishment of schools for such art.

The book also discriminates between Media and Fine Art the former being linked to crafts and it notes the rejection that occurred on many fronts.

However, with repeated incursions of technology into art and advances in the modern world, it is argued that contemporary art can no longer exist without the structures and knowledge of the scientific world and they are seen to combine.

Artists are seen to look towards science and without getting directly involved with expensive equipment instead read the ideas and then through contemporary art communicate these ideas. Scientists look towards artists to understand how they approach a topic e.g. Nils Bhor and the wave-particle dichotomy of physics and the resolution of this through Picasso and the advent of Cubism, where it is fine to have multiple perspectives present all at once.

The question has to be where does this lead to in terms of the Final photo project? Well, it resolves why the author takes a technological view of art and provides an independent and solid standing. The intent of the work becomes understood in the wider context.

The book identifies the avant-garde as being the convergence of art, science and technology and it is seen as an exciting frontier in Contemporary art.

There is a summary for Antony Gormley, his influences including in science, and his work which was on display in London during visits there.

Another outcome is a strengthened resolve so as to honour or be true to one’s life experiences. Otherwise work would remain conflicted.

Had this work been uncovered earlier in the course, there would have been the time need to develop programmed work such as animations. These would be over and above the glow images attributed to mtDNA. What there is also are elements of identification (determined through psychoanalysis).

The book has been difficult to put down and yet the historical side has to stop at some point to allow time for project progress.

Computational Biology – Human Proteome Folding

Following a career in research and development in electronics and computing, sometime later, there was a formative even if only a side involvement in grid computing donating spare machine cycles to do then return completed calculations to researchers in computational biology. This was in the search for new drug treatments.

Specifically, spare machine cycles were donated to human proteome folding projects. These projects are highly visual as protein formation and attachment is shape-dependent.

These projects go back to around 2004 and there is little visual material remaining. In lieu of this, a TEDtalk was discovered that ably shows the visuals (Dill, 2013).

For 50 years, the “protein folding problem” has been a major mystery. How does a miniature string-like chemical — the protein molecule – encode the functions of living organisms: how our muscles exert force, how our immune systems reject pathogens, how our eyes see our surroundings, how plants convert solar energy, and all the rest. Huge progress is being made. Moreover, these amazing nano-machines could play important roles in health and disease and commerce in the future.

(Dill, 2013)

What this post identifies is what is behind the intent in making the photo project.

Art of Now

Research uncovered a BBC Radio 4 broadcast Art of Now. (McNamee, 2019)

Recombinant Rhymes and DNA Art

The successful sequencing of the human genome has not only had huge implications for medicine, bio-technology and the life sciences – but it has also provoked a great and growing reaction among artists and writers.

Anna McNamee meets poets, visual artists and scientists collaborating creatively on the frontiers of DNA science in a genre that Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of AI Renaissance Arthur Miller calls Art Sci.

In Melbourne, the bio-animator Drew Berry tells how his dramatic but scientifically exact visualizations of cellular and molecular processes have earned him fans around the world – including the musician Bjork. 

The poet Sue Dymoke and the structural biologist Pietro Roversi reveal how their creative partnership has resulted in a three-dimensional, topsy turvy poem called DNA Time that mimics DNA’s unique and complex structure. 

In his lab, the Canadian experimental poet Christian Bök has successfully encoded his work into the DNA of a bacterium creating what is essentially a living poem.

While at the European Bioinformatics Institute near Cambridge, the artist and filmmaker Charlotte Jarvis and the scientist Dr Nick Goldman have stored music in DNA which they then suspended in a soap solution and used to blow bubbles, quite literally, bathing their audiences in music.”

(McNamee, 2019)

Drew Berry

Drew Berry is a biomedical animator at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. He produces animations of proteins and protein complexes to illustrate cellular and molecular processes (Berry, 2011).


Animation Development

Berry describes the molecular level being sub-light wavelength and how he gained inspiration from the accurate scale drawings of David Goodsell:

Beyond this Berry incorporates measurements of cell dynamics and microscopic observations of larger cell structures to create his animations. His intent is to make work that viewers can take-in with avoidance of technical descriptions and acronyms which otherwise make the subject opaque and turn off the viewer (Berry, 2012)

Animations from Berry and molecular biologists and cell biologists:


Berry, D. (2011) Animations of unseeable biology. Australia: TEDxSydney. Available at:

Berry, D. (2012) Communicating Science Visually. USA: The Broad Institute. Available at:

Dill, K. (2013) The protein folding problem: a major conundrum of science. TEDxSBU: TED Talks. Available at:

McNamee, A. (2019) ‘Art of Now Recombinant Rhymes and DNA Art’. A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4. Available at:

Miller, A. I. (2014) Colliding Worlds – How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art. New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company. Available at:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.