Art and science collaborate in new DNA research

Published by: The Lead South Australia | 18-May-2021
The South Australian Medical Research Institute has partnered with the Australian Network for Art and Technology to combine science and art to examine DNA.
The ANAT-SAHMRI residency program is providing an artist with the opportunity to engage with complexities surrounding DNA ownership and governance.

The current 2020-21 ANAT-SAHMRI resident, Dr Helen Pynor, has been based in the SAHMRI building in Adelaide and said these issues have been a key interest in her previous work.

One of my central interests in my practice has been to explore the status of life forms and living entities that hover in ambiguous states, she said.

The ANAT-SAHMRI residency has offered an opportunity to explore the status of DNA that is out of place.

Dr Pynor's residency at SAHMRI will culminate in a body of research that will take the form of a written piece and a series of artworks.

The artwork generated from this research will include a video work, still photographic images, a kinetic sculpture involving exhaled water vapour, and the DNA genomic data itself.

The kinetic sculpture tests the collection of a shared breath sample using an R-Tube device. The exhaled DNA is then extracted, analysed and sequenced.

Dr Pynor has been based in Adelaide's SAHMRI for the bulk of the project, which is South Australia's first independent health and medical research institute.

SAHMRI is home to more than 700 health and medical researchers, including genomic scientist and leader of the SAHMRI Bioinformatics Platform, Dr Jimmy Breen.

Dr Breen has worked closely with Dr Pynor throughout her residency to bring her project to life.

The collaboration with Jimmy has been enormously valuable, Dr Pynor said.

With my own prior background in molecular biology, I feel we've formed an extremely productive and generative collaboration.

Jimmy's experience has greatly expanded my own understandings.

Promoting the collaboration is ANAT, an Adelaide-based agency facilitating the uptake of artists into science and technology sectors.

For over 30 years, ANAT has been identifying opportunities for artists to contribute to scientific innovation.

Dr Pynor said she is grateful for the opportunity.

We hope the new work will stimulate philosophical reflection, and expand viewers' perception of life and its endlessly reiterating exchanges, she said.

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