Thesis Info

Singing cells, art, science and the noise in between
Anne Niemetz
2nd Author
3rd Author
Master of Fine Art
Number of Pages
University of California Los Angeles
Thesis Supervisor
Prof. Victoria Vesna
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Design|Media Arts
Languages Familiar to Author
German, English
URL where full thesis can be found
convergence of art and science and technology, transdisciplinary interdisciplinary projects, collaborations, two cultures, NANO, The Dark Side Of The Cell, separation between the sciences and humanities,
Abstract: 200-400 words
My investigations focus on the artistic, scientific and cultural context of The dark side of the cell project, as well as on the larger context of art-science collaboration in which this project is situated. The dark side of the cell is an audio-visual event treating what I consider to be one of the most interesting recent discoveries in nano-biotechnology: cellular sounds. The dark side of the cell takes this scientific discovery and places it in an artistic context. The act of claiming the tool of the scientist – the Atomic Force Microscope - as a new musical instrument and introducing the sound of cells in the form of a concert is performed as a cultural act. It is another step in extending the repertory of music, and shifting the borders of art. Cells can be observed and their sounds recorded but they can also be manipulated through temperature changes, chemicals and physical force, which results in a change of sound. Much mystery is brought forth by the discovery of cellular sound, and few answers can be given. It is unknown how or why cells oscillate, but it is possible to manipulate this oscillation. The dark side of the cell project draws attention to the discrepancy between scientific knowledge and technological power. Its composition reflects the general scientific process from discovery through experimentation to control. For a long time musicians have been inspired by microscopic life-forms and the fascinating structures of the smallest building blocks of the universe, but not until now have we been able to listen to the sound of living cells. Prof. James Gimzewski and Andrew Pelling at the UCLA Department of Chemistry first made the discovery that yeast cells oscillate at audible frequencies in 2002. In collaboration, Andrew Pelling and Anne Niemetz from the Design|Media Arts department developed the first concert of cell sonics. Interdisciplinary projects such as The dark side of the cell naturally raise the issue of collaboration in the art making process and production. Media artists have broken ground for a growing understanding between art, the humanities and science, but the ongoing controversies triggered by C. P. Snow’s thesis of the “two cultures” indicate that, although changing, the separation between science and the humanities remains a problematic aspect in Western culture. The process of reconciliation between the “two cultures” is still in a vulnerable stage, even though 45 years have passed since Snow’s lecture. Remaining issues and positive developments are discussed in regards to the role of the media art as field of intersection of the disciplines. Examples of various art-science projects give insight on how transdisciplinary collaborations can be established, and on what basis successful collaborations can flourish. Pioneers of the interdisciplinary alliance are continuing the exploration of emerging fields of research, and in doing so continue to challenge the traditional views of art and science.