virus into sound
Dr Zisis Kozlakidis
Ephemeral Transformations is an ongoing collaboration between the artist Jockel Liess and virologist Dr Zisis Kozlakidis that is exploring new ways of modelling epidemics in a creative and more accessible form.
In the first phase of this project, Jockel was given access to anonymised genetic samples gathered during an outbreak of H1N1 influenza in Brazil in 2017.
Treating this sampling as 'snapshots' of the epidemic's evolution, Jockel took the data from the virus' RNA and, breaking it down into strings of nucleobases (a, c, g & t), assigned a sonic element to each of these parts.
Then, using the mutation of the virus as framework, Jockel created a generative algorithm that recompiled these sonic elements, building them back up into an aural experience, making it possible to listen to this specific epidemic in an orchestrated form as it unfolds over time.
With this first phase now successfully completed (essentially providing "proof of concept"), Zisis and Jockel have begun to investigate ways of making the framework predictive, allowing the listener to hear where an epidemic might lead, if left to run it's course. They are also expanding the project into the visual realm by creating an immersive environment that can be presented in both a gallery and clinical setting.
The goals of this project are two-fold: the artist is aiming for an aesthetically pleasing experience (that remains scientifically coherent), while the virologist continues to look for new ways of communicating what occurs during an epidemic to those people directly affected by it.
Click the link to listen.
We recommend wearing headphones and turning up the volume, innit.
Dr Zisis Kozlakidis is Head of Laboratory and Biobanking at the IARC / WHO (International Agency for Research on Cancer). He is also a virologist and Innovation Fellow at UCL working on the front-line of diseases outbreaks around the world.
Jockel Liess is an audiovisual artist and composer specialising in live-generative audiovisual systems that create abstract, meditative environments.