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Genomic Pictograms

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Inspired by the sequencing of the human genome and the rice genome, artists and scientists have created Ecce Homology, an interactive art installation that transforms genomic data into unique visual compositions. The work is on display at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles, California.

Ecce Homology 2003, interactive installation, 60-by-12 feet.
The luminous interactive projections of DNA and protein are created by viewers.

Visitors to the work become part of a huge projection. By moving their bodies slowly in the gallery, they create visual projections, or “pictograms,” that represent either a human gene or a rice gene that helps break starch down into carbon dioxide.

The pictograms are metaphors for the cycling of energy and the unity of life, according to the artists. The work represents artistically the process by which scientists search DNA databases to find similar genes in different species. The search tool is called “BLAST” (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool).

Ecce Homology 2003.
Detail of the interactive process triggered by viewers.

The art was created by in silico v1.0 —a group of molecular biologists, software developers, computer graphics designers, and visual artists. Ruth West, a lecturer and media artist at the University of California, Los Angeles, led the team.

Ecce Homology is on view at the Fowler museum through January 4, 2004.

For more information, visit the Ecce Homology Website.

See related article Skinny Dipping in the Gene Pool.

Birgit Reinert

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