Upcoming Artist Talk by Laura Splan
FEMeeting: Taos 2023
Taos, NM, US
July 23-30, 2023
In “Sticky Settings: Ambient Portals in the Genetic Landscape”, interdisciplinary artist Laura Splan presents recent work exploring computational, virtual, and digital representations of the biological world. Her immersive installations and sensory experiences engage audiences with abstract biological concepts and provoke curiosity through unfolding detail. Her work evokes notions of residues in both the abstract (metaphorical, poetic, ethereal) and the physical (literal, material, biological). Her research-based studio practice draws from epigenetic research on environmental influences on gene expression.
“Baroque Bodies (Ambient Portals)” is an animation created with molecular models of nucleosomes and AI-generated reflections. The mirror surfaces of histones and DNA reflect idyllic landscapes that are otherwise invisible in the animations. “Baroque Bodies (Configuration)” is an animation created with computationally driven movement from simulations of chromatin configurations. Biophysical calculations generate the movement of spheres representing nucleosomes. The colorful metallic surfaces of the spheres and the reflected images in the mirror proteins were created with AI image generators using text prompts from scientific research on epigenetics. “Baroque Bodies (Patchwork)” is a spatialized sonification of computer-generated contact map visualizations depicted in a related series of weavings, “Tangible Variations”. The soundscapes were composed by converting sound files into midi tracks. A different midi instrument was assigned to each of the 20 tracks creating an ethereal sonification of contact among molecular bodies that are situated in a liminal space that is at once biological and technological.
This work is part of “Sticky Settings”, a collaboration between interdisciplinary artist Laura Splan and theoretical biophysicist Adam Lamson. The project explores entanglements of computational and biological worlds and is informed by Lamson’s biological simulations and Splan’s interrogations of scientific imaging techniques. Lamson’s simulated chromatin configurations serve as both material and as a conceptual framework for artworks exploring virtual representations of the biological world with sensory encounters and tactile experiences. The collaboration explores the potential for deeper understanding of complex science by rematerializing representations of molecular phenomena. Weavings, soundscapes, animations, and immersive installations engage audiences with physically intuitive experiences of abstract biological concepts. The creative underpinnings of Sticky Settings are informed by Splan and Lamson’s shared fascination with the layers of translation involved in digital representations of molecular biology. In software interfaces, “sticky settings” is a phrase used to describe “remembered” user settings. “Sticky” is also a term Lamson uses to describe certain molecular interactions in his computer-generated models. In biology, evidence has emerged for gene bookmarking suggesting mechanisms of epigenetic memory or “stickiness” in DNA. Their collaborative artworks repurpose the “GUI” interfaces with which we confront “gooey” biological materialities in the lab and reframe their implications in our everyday lives. From the epigenetics of trauma to the visualization of its manifestation at the molecular level, Sticky Settings explores the biophysical processes that affect our embodied experience of the world around us. The collaboration operates on the belief in the potential for art to not only communicate science but to connect people through a shared understanding of its complexity and its implications for the future of our humanity.
Launched in 2017, the conference “FEMeeting: Women in Art, Science and Technology” was driven by the desire to develop and promote more direct collaboration between individuals who identify themselves as Women, independently of their sex . The idea behind FEMeeting was orchestrated by the Portuguese artist Marta de Menezes and scholar Dalila Honorato, after realizing that women in the field of Art and Science have an unquestionable presence worldwide. FEMeeting acknowledges the social relevance of a core community and its role for the future. FEMeeting’s main purpose is to disseminate projects that are being carried out by women in order to contribute (a) to the development of research methodologies in art and science and (b) to the development of collaboration strategies that can increase knowledge sharing and bring communities together. The main FEMeeting conferences are structured integrating part of presentations open to the public in urban centers and the main part of presentations held behind closed doors in smaller locations. These characteristics, in addition to several organized or spontaneous social activities, have the function of encouraging communication between participants. The two first FEMeetings took place in Portugal and were organized by Cultivamos Cultura. The outcomes of 2018 and 2019 conferences have been many and, though most are intangible, among the project’s distinguishable objectives there are: (a) a strong personal support through instant internet communication between women doing research work (in the broadest sense of the term) in art, science and technology (b) and the encouragement towards the formation of local nodes to support research and artistic creation developed to enable a wide network of direct communication among them and encourage trust.