Art4Science – Biology as an artist

Rational and systematic on the one hand – emotional and aesthetic on the other. On closer observation, the obvious contrasts of art and science result in a common picture that can be viewed as a whole not only in terms of willingness to experiment and inspiration. This was made possible by the “art4science” project of the St. Anne Children’s Cancer Research Center. It combines the poles of art and science and thus makes an important contribution to the new field of creative communication of science. The connecting elements were presented on Thursday evening as part of a panel discussion on the topic of “exploration and sensuality” in cooperation with the “Wiener Zeitung”.

“Science and art can definitely influence and stimulate each other,” emphasized Thomas Lion, medical director of Labdia Laboratory Diagnostics and molecular geneticist at St. Louis Children’s Cancer Research. Anna, in her opening statement. Consider, for example, the Atomium in Brussels or the famous Henry Moore sculpture in Chicago, which artistically depicts the first controlled nuclear test. The concept of fractal geometry developed by the Polish mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot also falls into this category for Leo. It can also be used for the mathematical notation of very irregularly defined shapes in nature. “If you think about the shape of a cloud or the shape of a tumor growing irregularly,” said Love.

Cells that cause a tumor or indicate its path to healing are the focus of a joint project between molecular biologist Sabine Taschner-Mandl and fashion designer Romana Zöchling. The wide range of aesthetics of these cells under the microscope inspired the two to create art. Although the aesthetics of the painting is only a by-product of their work, Taschner-Mandl emphasized that the results of the research can also be presented with it. As a result, biology becomes an artist.

The research work of a molecular biologist is related to the visualization of cell properties using imaging microscopic methods. Zöchling brought these visualizations to fabrics and designed clothes from them. “The images show very nicely how the individual structures in the cells spread out and actually physically touch and communicate and interact with them,” says the scientist. Research is often perceived as abstract. In art, it becomes tangible and vivid for them.

“Inspiration always comes when people look beyond their own noses and have the courage to expand their horizons and make them bigger,” said Judith Belfkih, moderator and deputy editor-in-chief of “Wiener Zeitung”. This was not only implemented by Taschner-Mandl and Zöchling, but also by the photo artist Bela Borsodi in his ongoing project. In it, he documents the birth of a tumor that first appears in the femur. But it is also about the strength of the immune system, treatment and the working methods of scientists.

During the discussion, he presented the common inspiration that appeared during the work on the project. “I didn’t have nice colors and pictures, I had to imagine complicated things and I was trying to put the approach of a scientist in a world that is completely abstract, unlike our world,” said Borsodi. The work resulted in sculptures that will later be photographed. “Translated into the world of science fiction, I recreated the discovery or birth of cancer, as well as how cancer cells move,” explained the photographic artist.

Unthinkable and imaginable

Because art can make the unimaginable conceivable and allows things to be communicated that a scientist probably doesn’t see as being able to communicate at all. Borsodi sees the inspired spirit as the connecting element of all disciplines. “Whether it’s science, music, art or even football, the spirit behind it, which drives people to explore something because they’re curious, is very similar everywhere.” However, the strategies are very different.

Zöchling emphasized that fashion is a particularly superficial, aesthetic moment. Therefore, the question arose as to whether a link should be established with the deadly disease at all. “We never show aggressive tumor cells on fabrics and clothes, but what happens when we fight a tumor. We investigate how it can heal,” Taschner-Mandl emphasized. The concern was to treat the subject with respect. Ultimately, this resulted in six different looks composed of individual pieces and strictly limited garments, which the fashion designer flourished in her Ferrari Zöchling label.

In this form, research can be opened. And this should be discussed publicly to enable discussion of science and scientific topics. Clothes promote communication, sculptures promote communication, paintings promote communication. But not everything should be explained, “because some things can definitely remain in the fog of uncertainty,” Borsodi concluded.

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