Sticky Settings is a sciart collaboration between interdisciplinary artist Laura Splan and theoretical biophysicist Adam Lamson. The project explores entanglements of computational and biological worlds through research, artworks, exhibitions, and public engagement. Process and production for the project are informed by Lamson’s biological simulations and Splan’s studio practice interrogating scientific imaging techniques.
Lamson’s simulated chromatin structures serve as both material and as a conceptual framework for artworks that attempt to communicate complex biology by connecting 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.1 “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.2 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.