When the artists settle in the laboratory

“I’m going to my laboratory!”, It feels in one of the corridors of the Biomedical Research Institute of Barcelona (IRB). An affirmation that would not deserve to lead an article if, as usual, it came from a scientist. In this case, however, it comes from an artist, Ayse Gül Süter, who has been installing a few months in this research center to interact with the scientific team and thus enrich his creative project.

The interactions between art and science are nothing new. “From now on I just want to talk to scientists,” Salvador Dalí said at a certain time in his life. And it is that in the 1920s, the Empordà painter had read scientific journals and, based on the discovery of the structure of the double helix of DNA in 1953, science was one of his main inspirational motifs. He was interested, above all, because he made the invisible visible. In this line, one of his most representative works is Galatea de las esferas , which consists of a portrait of Gala built from spheres that symbolize the atomic and discontinuous nature of matter.

From science to art

For many years now, scientific institutions around the world have launched initiatives to revive Dalí’s creative spirit. The CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research) has a program of residence for artists, including, among others, works of sound art, the so-called data art and three-dimensional digital objects inspired by the scientific conception of particles elementals ESO (European Southern Observatory) has a similar program. In that same line, the IRB launched its own project of artists in residence in 2017. The most obvious objective of these initiatives is that the knowledge generated in scientific institutions through the walls and reach society in new ways. The other objective, more difficult to achieve, is that the presence of the artist has a positive impact on scientific practice.

The research carried out at the IRB already spurred the first artist of the program in 2017, Anna Rierola, who is working on a triptych inspired in equal parts by the work El jardí de les delíciesdel Bosch and the life cycle of a cell: like the painting of the flamenco artist shows paradise, sin and hell in a temporary sequence, the work of Rierola will represent the genesis of a cell How it relates to the environment and proliferates, and, finally, the process of disease and death. “Scientists told me so many things that scare me,” confesses the artist, “but in the end I came to the synthesis that cooperation is crucial to life: genes cooperate to generate the genome, cells do so to form organisms, and organisms, to give rise to societies. ” This synthesis will love all the brochure of Rierola.

For his part, Gül Süter works in an installation inspired by an old operating room, in which the light that will enter through the windows will give rise to a concrete perception of several murals with images of crystals created in the microscope, which will evolve to symbolize the progression of an illness. “Right now I am experimenting with the controlled growth of crystals,” he explains. And, indeed, the space occupied by one of the IRB’s laboratories is filled with petrel capsules and containers with crystals of very different geometries. He also works on a transparent plastic surface to which he has adhered color silicone tears, with the idea of creating a sick tissue that interacts with the light.

From art to science

The impact that the artist can have on research is often the most complex part of materializing in these projects. “The work of an artist is 99% creativity, and this reminds us that that of scientists must also be,” says Ernest Giralt, director of the IRB’s molecular chemistry and pharmacology program. According to Josep Perelló, a researcher at the University of Barcelona and responsible for the Art and Science program at Arts Santa Mònica from 2009 to 2012, there are several degrees of depth in this interrelation. In the first degree, “artists give a glimpse of the scientific practice that causes it to leave the institution and brings it to the cultural field,” he explains. But “you can also understand that the artist is part of the research team as one more, although it has a different methodology,” he adds. In these cases, the artist is considered as a disruptive element that questions uncomfortable and questions the activity of scientists. “In institutions such as the University of California in Los Angeles, this practice has even led to scientific articles,” concluded Perelló.