The origin of life on earth remains an unclarified mystery… and the magic of the beginning is still happening over and over again, each time two gamete meet and become a single cell, ready to grow to achieve its goal of becoming an organism in all its complexity.
Suspended moment proposes to live a particular moment out of time. The incredible ballet of two drops of complex inert matter in levitation, dancing around in a slow and fragile manner. They will finally
LEVITATE team is composed of five European partners. Their research consists of manipulating ultrasonic wavefronts to create levitated objects. The University of Glasgow is responsible for the levitation software development and is the place where Domique Peysson was welcomed as an artist in residency. This French visual artist has also been a researcher in material science. Her installations, videos and performances involve smart and living materials.
During this residency, the team explored fluid levitation. Dominique Peysson aimed at creating “Suspended Moment” a zero-gravity dance on the origin of life. Two liquid drops in levitation, dancing around, finally merge. Then the levitating drop starts a primitive life, dividing itself under the audience’s eyes. Two questions arise from this artwork: how have chemical systems ever become primitive living cells and what are the ethical limits that we will have to answer soon if a scientist can recreate life from the beginning in their laboratories? The drops, as proto-cells, are suspended in the air thanks to an ultrasonic phenomenon. The residency allowed people from different fields of knowledge and countries to work together: in addition to the artist and the LEVITATE project, the Spanish researcher Asier Marzo and the engineer, David Olivari joined the team. From a scientific point of view, the study of protocells has never been performed under zero gravity whereas it would be particularly judicious since it is very possible that the early life-forms were formed on meteorites. “Suspended moment” wants to be an emotional experience, since sensations are part of our ability to apprehend issues affecting the living. Art can here ensure its historical function, which is to produce the imaginary proper to this life creation.
Acoustic waves can levitate particles of a wide range of sizes and materials through air, water and biological tissues. To date, the levitated particles had to be surrounded by acoustic elements, which limited the translation and the rotation of the object in levitation. LEVITATE is the first to show full acoustic trapping, translation and rotation of levitated particles in real time using a single-sided array. Jumping into this already innovative research, Dominique Peysson brought the idea of fluid levitation and dance. As LEVITATE team was not focused on this question, it opened new fields of research for the group. Moreover, thanks to the research that the artist conducted to find the adequate liquid for her artwork, they started to reference the properties of liquids in levitation which will be really helpful for further projects. Thanks to the links Dominique Peysson created between different laboratories, other scientists started to be interested in the levitation device. They expressed their interest in using it to facilitate their research. For example, they think it could be used for biological and medical research, as it could be really interesting to have the molecules and tissues levitating for a better observation and deeper understanding. This is a development path that has yet to be studied. Finally, there is also a societal impact to this residency. As the artist through the dissemination of her artwork provokes the audience to reflect on the ethical limits of scientific researches looking for recreating life from the beginning in their laboratories.
Interview with Dominique Peysson at CENTQUATRE-Paris, during the STARTS Residencies Days 2020