Thanks to Annina, the researcher I’m working with, the collaboration is inspiring. Here are some of her thoughts:
It is fascinating to have the unique opportunity to see your own research through completely different eyes. The collaboration with Jonathan made me focus on the “raw information” that is conveyed in my graphs and images, rather than the technical details and analyses my work normally focuses on. Through Jonathan’s eyes, flow cytometry graphs became a video and a glimpse through the microscope became layers of engraved perspex.
The light box is a fascinating reflection of the thymus that I observe through the microscope. For me the multiple layers reflect the network through which the T cells travel and where their fate is decided by the thymic epithelial cells. By slightly changing the angle of observation the image changes and becomes dynamic, just like the thymus itself, which allows our body to constantly adapt to new immune challenges.
Working with an artist on my research topic has been incredibly interesting and it made me realize that even though our work is very different, in the end, we are both trying to find new and interesting information by experimenting – me in the laboratory and Jonathan in his studio.
Printing went well yesterday. There is almost an alchemy when the image is released from the plate – when everything comes together, it’s a magical moment.
I worked out which plates have mileage and which will be editioned, which will be worked into and which abandoned.
Thankfully, the engraving worked. I shall edition the small version, but also create a series of prints from a large engraved plate that will accompany my large light boxes to form an installation.
This project started life as a printmaking project and the printmaking process informs the way I approach the subject matter of T-cells. When I look at the files of the T-cells, the details of the nucleus and the visual data, I have a particular method of printmaking in mind. I have prepared plates of all kinds: carborundum, drypoint, engraving and etching and shall be proofing them today.
I was initially struck by the beauty of Annina’s graphs used to analyse the characteristics of the thymic epithelial cells. Their beauty belies their function and cry out to be reappropriated.
Annina Graedel: The graph underlying the video “AIRE” is a detailed analysis of thymic epithelial cells. These cells are specialized in testing T cells in the thymus and deleting autoreactive cells that could cause autoimmune diseases. To create this graph I used a method called flow cytometry to look at various characteristics of these cells. Flow cytometry is a method where cells are labelled in a certain way and then analysed – in a way similar to a bar code scanner in the supermarket. In this manner we can scan the information of millions of cells and see how well-equipped these thymic epithelial cells are in testing T cells and preventing autoimmune diseases.
I am impressed how well scientists explain their research to those of us who don’t have a scientific background. I started a project a couple of years ago with the Oncology Department in Oxford and attended lots of events that aimed to make the research accessible to the public – their world of science entered the mainstream in language easily understood – as an artist I think I can take a lot from their approach.
Annina created an infographic to accompany my lightbox, which will explain her research to the general public at Wellcome Trust events in a community based arts centre (Fusion Arts) and the JR Hospital in Oxford over the coming months.