Artist Talk: Tanja Gesell (Vienna)

The Vienna-based German scientist and artist Tanja Gesell (University of Vienna, MFPL, Department of Structural and Computational Biology) will give a talk about both her scientific and arts-based research particularly focusing on the past and the future and her work processes on January 16, 2018, 4:15–6 pm at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Oskar Kokoschka Platz 2, 1010 Vienna, Lecture Hall 7. In her artist talk Lost in Translation. Biomolecular and Artistic Cultures, Tanja Gesell will discuss whether contemporary works at the arts and science interface are lost in translation. Topics will include the dynamics of translation and transitions, the original and the impossibility of translation, and the scientist as an artist and the artist as a scientist.  Additionally, she will explore the difference between fine arts and information visualization, where the question of tasks and missions remains intriguing.

For Tanja Gesell’s work the temporal axis that reaches into both past and future is an essential element as it reveals a process of exploration. Her talk will address major paradigm shifts in molecular biology, such as the structure–function paradigm, without losing significant references to art history, such as Piero della Francesca’s Madonna, as forms that are contained in and become other forms, to Masaccio’s Trinity, which is a perfect instance of central perspective and beyond. To enable a direct, near instantaneous, identification of the translation process of molecules and patterns, she will explain Markov Models and her underlying question: What Is a Structure? Tanja Gesell defines a phylogenetic structure based on a simulation framework for molecular sequence evolution as both a scientific tool and an additional metaphor. This definition evokes notions such as incompleteness is inherent in any description of structure. From there she will point to her current artistic research work and The Black Square of Kazimir Malevich. On this trajectory, at the present juncture, her artwork contributes through being present absent to her scientific research, and vice versa. In a period of a fascinating molecular revolution, her presentation is an attempt to extend the relationship between art and science as an unmediated in-between space through simultaneously dividing and unifying the academic fields of art and science.

Tanja Gesell is a postdoctoral scientist at the Department of Structural and Computational Biology, University of Vienna and a free artist. She holds master’s degrees in biology and fine arts from the University and the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf, with a major in experimental sculpture and minors in aesthetics, philosophy, and art history. In 2003 Rosemarie Trockel selected her as a Meisterschüler. In 2009, she obtained her Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Vienna with a dissertation titled A Phylogenetic Definition of Structure. Before her maternity leave, Tanja Gesell also did research at Harvard University and at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and earlier at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, UK. Her research approach is to use scientific and artistic practice to examine the structural concepts that underlie molecular research. Tanja Gesell is a cofounder of and lecturer at the new Connectivity Seminar at the University of Vienna. In this seminar connections between various natural science disciplines, the humanities, and the arts are established with regard to the aspect of structure. In addition, she teaches at the FH-Campus University of Applied Science in Bioinformatics, Structure Prediction, and Molecular Design and at the University of Applied Arts in Cross Disciplinary Strategies, Biomolecular Strategies.

The Guest Lecture Series of Professor Ingeborg Reichle’s seminar Molecular Aesthetics: Living Systems in Art and Biodesign reflects on the transformation of media theory through the rise of biomedia. It is an informative and stimulating opportunity to hear from distinguished artists and scientists about what’s going on in the emerging fields of bioart and biodesign and also helps our students to build their network of contacts. Our guest lectures are open to all.

Date and time: Tuesday, January 16, 2018, 4:15–6 pm.

Venue: University of Applied Arts Vienna, Oskar Kokoschka Platz 2,
1010 Vienna, Lecture Hall 7 (first floor).
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