Microplastic pollution: an allegory of art and science by Danish artist Sissel Marie Tonn  
Within the scope of the European project S+T+ARTS, Area Science Park will host an art residency at its Genomics and Epigenomics Laboratory and the Orfeo Data Center
Il Parco
Microplastic pollution: an allegory of art and science by Danish artist Sissel Marie Tonn  

From 16th to 20th May, Danish artist Sissel Marie Tonn has been guest at Area Science Park’s labs to work on her art residency project “The Sentinel Immune Self”. She is the winner of the “Preserving co-evolution” challenge organised as part of the European S+T+ARTS programme. S+T+ARTS (Science + Technology + Arts) is a European Commission initiative launched under the Horizon 2020 programme which encourages hybrid collaboration between science, technology and art.

The art residency is organised as part of the research work carried out by the institution and some of the centres in the system. Organised in collaboration with Milan’s MEET Digital Cultural Center, it is one of 21 fellowships funded across Europe by the programme.

The theme for the challenge was Preserving sustainability and inclusiveness in the co-evolution, that is: “How can we preserve the evolution of species by improving the ability of communities to be resilient?”. The greatest challenges of our time – issues such as mass extinctions, viral pandemics and climate change – serve as a reminder that we are intrinsically connected to our ecosystems. In her arts research, Sissel Marie Tonn has been exploring the relationship between our immune system and our constantly changing environment for some years, including with the help of immunologists and toxicologists.

She has been talking to a number of researchers from Trieste’s research hub since March of this year. Among them are Alessio Ansuini and the research team working on data science and computing infrastructures at Area Science Park; Jacopo Grilli, a researcher at the ICTP working on theoretical and mathematical models to define the factors impacting terrestrial biodiversity; and Lisa Vaccari, an experimental scientist at Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste who uses various techniques in her research, from spectroscopy to microscopy, applying them to different study topics, from materials science to biology.

Through the lens of an immersive, interactive animation, she will use the information gleaned from researchers and her upcoming visit to the labs at Area Science Park, to reconstruct a science-fiction universe in which humans share their immune response with all other species affected by microplastic pollution. As an allegory of the process of evolution, the project is intended to warn us against the profound consequences pollutants have on us and our ecosystem.

The artist’s works will be on display to the public from October 2022 at the Maxxi Museum in Rome, the MEET Digital Culture Center in Milan, Ars Electronica in Linz (Austria) and ZKM, Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe (Germany).

“Researchers today have to be able to explain their research findings in a clear and understandable way to reach as many people as possible,” says Area Science Park President Professor Caterina Petrillo. “This requires exploring new languages, stimulating contamination between different disciplines – one of which is, without doubt, art, which has the same creative path as science. Bringing together these two seemingly disparate worlds stimulates new ideas and thought processes on both sides, which leads to new forms of innovation.”

Read the residency diary.