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Looking Glass - an Arts and Science project

November 8th2018 - IMBA, together with the University of Applied Arts, releases unique “picture book” illustrating significant publications from the history of our institute.

Art and science – both disciplines query concepts and theories, explore new contexts, and render abstract information tangible. Both fields are strongly motivated by creativity and the ability to visualise.

A recent joint “Arts and Science Project” with the University of Applied Arts in Vienna has resulted in a very special publication, Looking Glass. This unique conceptual picture book combines photography and molecular biology in a playful manner: Looking Glass conveys highly complex content in an emotional-aesthetic way allowing pure molecular research to emerge in a new light: groundbreaking discoveries originating from IMBA and published in prestigious journals (Nature, Cell, Science and others) are transformed into unique photo galleries—visualised with applied photography—which imbue the fundamental mechanisms of life with stories. 

For me the process of creating something new in Science and in Art is very similar.

Josef Penninger

Founding Director of IMBA

„For me the process of creating something new in Science and in Art is very similar. One has to have the courage to get oneself lost in a dark forest – like Dante in the Divine Comedy – a forest that can be very dark and scary, and then you find a guiding spirit to find one’s way out," says Josef Penninger, founding Director of IMBA and editor of the book.

Cross disciplinary dialogue

Fifteen impactful publications in the history of IMBA formed the basis of the cross disciplinary exchange that yielded unique insights and unexpected findings, some of them paving the way for novel medical treatments.

For each of these publications, an artist-scientist-tandem was formed. The artists met with the researchers, who tried to convey their research in an easy comprehensible way. (For this project) Several interactions took place: Artists attended a “DNA extracting” workshop in the Vienna Open Lab, based at the IMBA; Researchers from IMBA attended several exhibitions and art events offered and organized by the University of Applied Arts.

The dialogue between the two disciplines built the basis for the artistic realization of the “molecular mechanisms – in photography”. Longstanding member of the IMBA Scientific Advisory board, and Nobel prize laureate Eric Kandel supported us throughout this initiative, contributing an exclusive foreword “On the Beholder’s Share: What happens in our brain when we look at art?” . This contribution resulted from a very spontaneous impromptu seminar at IMBA and, together with IMBA founding director Josef Penninger and Gerald Bast, President of the University of Applied Arts, Eric Kandel engaged in a discussion about Arts & Science that laid the conceptual framework for Looking Glass.

An Added Dimension

“Looking Glass” is released by De Gruyter publishing house (Edition Angewandte) in November 2018 and will be internationally available, online, and in selected book/arts and museum shops. A more prominent Vernissage is planned in 2019. Looking Glass and the concept behind it  will be showcased at a renowned Science and Art meeting in Adelaide, Australia, as well as the Paris Photo, one of the worlds most important fairs for contemporary Photography.

A Look inside