AGE ART - Science meets art

Ageing is in Our DNA: The Finite Thread of Life

May 24, 2019

We would like to thank Sofia LeWitt from the Estate of Sol LeWitt and Thomas Rieger from the Konrad Fischer Gallery without whom this event would not have been possible.

Sol LeWitt, a pioneer in the world of minimalist conceptual art, has created works that embody mathematical models and theoretical systems. On this evening, we unveiled one of his conceptual wall drawings for the audience here in Cologne. The main theme of the event was “Replication” exploring the fundamental elements of transcription and multiplication both in biology and art, specifically for this event, the Wall Drawing #797 by LeWitt.

The evening began with an introduction by Dr. Maren Berghoff from Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing. As a starting point, she laid out the ground for exploration. How do ideas of replication in biology and in art coincide? How does the tension between the faithful replication and fluctuations play out in these disparate disciplines?

The second speaker of the program, Dr. Rita Kersting from the Museum Ludwig, presented a fascinating historical insight into the conceptual and minimalist art movement and Sol LeWitt’s pivotal role in it. LeWitt believed in the artist as a generator of ideas and this was instrumental in his work. Conceptual art, defined by LeWitt as an intellectual, logical act, influenced artists for generations to come.

The Wall Drawing #797 was in the spirit of these ideas. For this work, a set of instructions is given, which states exactly how the piece should be made. These instructions form the bases of self-replicating art. For the wall in our institute, it took four artists, 20 hours to complete the work.

Dr. Björn Schumacher from the Cluster of Excellence for Aging Research, then presented his version of the basic underlying system in Biology. This, of course, is the DNA, the material inside of us that determines all the characteristics of a living thing. Here Dr. Schumacher explores the mechanisms to replicated DNA and DNA damage and errors.

What is the template for its own DNA duplication? What happens when there is an error in DNA replication? Is fidelity of DNA copying mechanisms relevant to longevity?  The same questions can be posed for LeWitt’s drawing #797. What is the template for its duplication of lines? What happens when there is an error in the replication? Is fidelity of lines copying relevant to the overall outcome?

Finally, the audience got a chance to see the extraordinary wall drawing, some taking photos, some standing and staring for an extended amount of time. One thing for sure, those present had a chance to experience something truly magical, the magic of replication!

by Helen Antebi

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