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Visualizing BioData

We have witnessed paradigmatic shifts in visual arts throughout the history where imagining new methodologies in creating art is a constant happening. One of the sub-genres of BioArt is the visualization of biodata. Artists have engaged with various processes of image making in incorporating biodata in works such as painting, sculpture, photography, video, performance, and sound art.

By the rise of 3D printing and 3D modeling software, artists have been granted the luxury of rapid prototyping artificial life and speculating scenarios in which microorganisms or the interaction of life and matter are the prime force of image making. Genotypic and Phenotypic correlations, body scans, images of living and dead animals, plants and microorganisms, and EMG readings manifest in sculptures, installations, machines and robotics, electronics and sensor-run apparatus, sometimes even bodies.

Our current artist resident Laura Splan, has also done many interesting projects in the past and currently learning some of the other platforms used in imaging molecular data at the Integral Molecular lab.

In Manifest series (2015), she examines the potential of objects to embody human experiences and to materialize the intangible. Corporeal expressions of wonder are the basis of data-driven sculptures, where electromyography (EMG) recordings of electrical activity produced by her body are incorporated in defining forms that showcase: Swallow, Blink Twice, Squint, Furrow, Frown, and Smile—a careful consideration of the recorded movements as they related to notions of wonder.

2015, laser sintered polyamide nylon, 8”H x 4.75”W x 4.75”D each

Each activity produced unique data that was captured by an EMG device and later translated into a curve using custom software written by the artist. Each curve serves as a profile for a different 3D printed sculpture.

In another series, frenetic imagery is formed from EMG data collected while performing tasks and expressions with her own body to create digitally woven tapestries that examine notions of labor and craft as they relate to material and technology. By combining hand and digital processes with traditional textiles and new media technologies, the series destabilizes and interrogates how each is categorized and valued. The narrative implications of these categories are mined for their potential to explore how technology, data, and cultural artifacts mediate our understanding of the human body. (*)

2016, computerized jacquard loom woven cotton, 70”H x 53”W each

Check out some of Laura’s other projects here.

(*) Laura Splan (