in silico v1.0:
Ecce Homology, 2003-2005

with Ruth West, Jeff Burke, Cheryl Kerfeld, Tom Holton, JP Lewis, Ethan Drucker, Weihong Yang

"Ecce Homology" is a physically interactive artwork that visualizes genetic data as calligraphic forms. A novel computer-vision based user interface allows multiple participants, through their movement in the installation space, to select genes from the human genome for visualizing the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST), a primary algorithm in comparative genomics.

Five projectors present "Ecce Homology's" calligraphic forms across a thirty-five foot wide wall. Multiple users can simultaneously interact with the installation through its computer-vision system (in which hand movement is detected and rendered in front of the user for feedback). By moving in the installation space, users are thusly able to draw their own calligraphic characters. A pattern-matching algorithm compares the user-drawn forms with the existing visualizations of genes in a genome database to select a character from that database. The system visualizes a BLAST run with the selected character as its target.

Advances in molecular biology make genomics an increasingly important topic for public discourse. BLAST (Altschul et al. 1990) is foundational to genomic biology. Yet despite its universality, BLAST is still something of a "black box" process whose workings are little understood even by researchers in the biological sciences.

"Ecce Homology" engages the public in genomic issues through an artistically based holistic visualization of genomic data coupled with an esthetically engaging interactive experience.

"Ecce Homology" is the first major work to use Kolo, a widespread framework for computing in the arts of which I am a primary developer.

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Exhibition History

Eitan Mendelowitz