Unraveling is a series of single-channel video loops. The animations were created with SARS-CoV-2 protein structures in molecular visualization software. Using the specialized features of the software in unconventional ways, Laura Splan unravels and distorts the folded structure of the coronavirus spike protein. She playfully manipulates the folded protein forms, known as “conformations”, which determine biological function including infectivity. After morphing the unraveled proteins with their original conformations, she then further processes the animations using other video editing tools. The colors in each video were chosen from the software’s palette that includes references to nature such as plants, animals, and chemical elements. The video titles echo the colors’ names that are entangled with idyllic representations of the natural world such as blue skies, green forests, fruit and flowers. The series presents a mesmerizing meditation on increasing entanglements between natural and constructed worlds.
Syndemic Sublime is a series of data-driven computer-generated animations created using COVID-19 data libraries and molecular visualization software. The animations intertwine molecular models of SARS-CoV-2 with both human and non-human protein structures such as antibodies and cell receptors. The generative movement is created using data from COVID deaths in the U.S. over the last 20 months to disrupt the 20 amino acid residues along the protein structures. The resulting disruptions create mesmerizing tableaus that are sometimes spastic and sometimes sublime. Each animation has a unique starting and ending form as it slowly morphs from its biological folded form or “conformation” to its technologically distorted form. The generative quality of the process allows for unpredictable and unique transformations within each animation as the software creates unexpected visuals. The unraveling and collision of the proteins results in both jarring glitches and in soothing movements. The animations combine models of proteins from the coronavirus with proteins from llamas, alpacas, cats, dogs, pangolins, bats and humans evoking our increasing interspecies entanglements in the contemporary biotechnological landscape. From zoonotic diseases to transgenic vaccine development, our understanding of what it means to be “human” in the “natural world” is becoming increasingly complex. As a series, the slow, quiet animations create liminal spaces for reflection, contemplation, mourning, and wonder at the unseen molecular forces of the biological world affecting our daily lives in profound ways.