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At the beginning of June, the institute opened its doors to IRB Barcelona’s new Artist in Residence Ayşe Gül Süter (1982, Istanbul, Turkey). A former lab is serving as a temporary art studio for Ayse and a peaceful place in which this self-confessed introvert can ponder over what she sees and learns in our labs…a place in which she can let her imagination loose with new tools that can be used to produce artwork.

Ayse completed a degree in Communication Arts at Boston University in 2006. She then did several internships with advertising and design companies but felt that this wasn’t her calling. She was awarded a fellowship to train at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (2008 to 2010), an experience that she says changed her life. It was in New York that she first came into contact with scientists, and while collaborating with them and learning from their techniques, she developed a fascination for microscopes. Indeed, she is now the proud owner of two! In 2010 she set up her own studio in Istanbul, where she was born and grew up, but she spends two months every year in New York getting inspiration from the scientists she knows there. She has a fascination with light and movement and her projects are related to animation, light installations, kinetic sculptures and bio-art.

IRB Barcelona’s Artist in Residence is the first official position of this kind that she has held and she is very excited about the opportunities it offers.

Find out more about Ayse and how a sea urchin sparked her love story with science!

What got you into science?

About 6 or 7 years ago I saw a sea urchin under a dissecting microscope. A spiky ugly animal. It was the best animation set I had ever seen…the colours, the movement, the synchronisation, and how you can adjust the light. So I started to experiment with the microscopes. There is a lab that combines biology and art studio in New York, at SVA (School of Visual Arts), so that is where I learnt how to integrate microscopy into artwork. I have always been interested in chemistry, biology and physics, in a simple way…the refractions, lighting, the visual side and how I can integrate this into my art.

How are things going at IRB Barcelona, what are your plans?

It’s being an amazing experience! In my first week I met some “ambassadors” from various labs who have guided me through the institute, introduced me to the scientific community, and allowed me to get a privileged insight into their research. So I’m in the process of learning about things like fluorescent proteins, DNA, and cell divisions, crystallisations, and various tissues. The labs are visually intriguing and the tools and equipment also inspire me. I am also very interested in the scientists, why they are doing cancer research, for example, as I want to know if there is an emotional drive behind this decision.

Do you think that the work that you do bridges the gap between scientists and the public?

Artwork can be informative or not. But the public can at least experience through the artwork what the scientists are thinking and the tools they use and their daily activities. And they can see how scientists and artists are so similar. We are always experimenting. We are always searching for something that pleases us. The truth. And we are passionate about life.

Is this your first experience in Barcelona?

I had been here as a tourist previously and I love it so much, so it was such a nice coincidence that IRB Barcelona is in this city. There’s so much light energy here. I think the Mediterranean Sea, the salty breeze…and of course the sangria…all contribute to this energy.

What outcomes are you expecting?

I am expecting to produce more than one piece of artwork in different media. I am getting prepared for a site-specific installation involving interaction with daylight and visually distinctive healthy and unhealthy tissues. Also some sculptural pieces, involving crystallization, and a mini documentary about my collaboration with the “ambassadors”. I will be back at the institute during the fall and I am planning to finish the artworks by December 2018.

In her lab, there is a beaker, filled with water and with some drops of oil paint in it, sitting on a lab stirrer, she switches the machine on….nothing appears to happen, but suddenly a purple vortex forms, a live sculpture. She sees artistic opportunity in everything here and wants to learn more.