The artist Jo Berry is to “light up” a city center with a unique and challenging exhibition fusing art and science, which is based on world-leading human cell research. Jo worked with scientists for six months studying how the hormone Ghrelin stimulates the body’s cells, potentially paving the way for new drug treatments for obesity and diabetes by “turning on and off hunger”.
She has turned her research into an innovative new exhibition comprising digital drawings, multi-layered laser-cut light boxes, vinyls and animations, which will go on display all over Derby in July 2011. Jo admitted that the work, funded by awards from the Arts Council and Wellcome Trust, “took me completely out of my comfort zone” but said the collaboration between the art and science worlds fascinated and stimulated her.
She said: “It is art inspired by the work of scientists. The process of working in a facility where they are doing such important research, and taking that research, its software and imagery to create something cutting edge and entirely different has been incredible.”
Jo worked closely with Tim Self and Dr Nicholas Holliday of Nottingham University School of Biomedical Sciences, her work involving interpreting microscope images and live cell signaling to find out more about how drugs work within individual cells. The process, which particularly fascinated her, involved using Carl Zeiss software to manipulate still and moving imagery and make animations of the microscope images before taking them to her studio in Carsington, Derbyshire, where stills from the films formed the source material for the light boxes.
She said: “I was able to play about with color, cutting and pasting, speeding up and slowing down films, making stereo images and looking at cells from different three-dimensional views – taking the science and software and approaching it from a different angle. The project is celebrating the human body, the use of new technology, the collaboration between science and art, and also gives the public the opportunity to see art in a non-traditional setting.
“The hormone we studies is in us all, helping us decide when to eat, so the inspiration behind the work is part of everyone. I really want people who do not usually go to art galleries to come along and enjoy what they see, and see how exciting putting science and art together can be.”
The works also include an “art documentary”, which filmed Jo throughout the process.
Whilst the main exhibition will be based at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, the project, “Hijacking Natural Systems: a voyage of discovery inside our cells” will be exhibited all over the city on bus stops, posters, billboards, the BBC Big Screen in the town’s Market Place and the Royal Derby Hospital.
Jo will also give guided “mapping tours” around the city, and run workshops for the public and school children teaching them how her work is created.