Name: Alison Banks
Year: Second-year Masters
Submission: Spheres of Heaven and Hell - Embroidery
Commentary: In “Spheres of Heaven and Hell”, Alison Banks uses hand embroidery and paint to illustrate three projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Inspired by Dante’s formulation of hell, in which the afterlife’s realms are organized as a series of concentric circles, Banks’ shows us three potential climate scenarios sewn into three stacked embroidery hoops: the outer hoop depicts human civilization’s best-case scenario, where greenhouse gas emissions decline beginning in 2020; the middle hoop shows what life might look like if emissions begin declining in 2050; and the inner hoop, the most hellish, shows a world set ablaze by humans’ current and unchecked emissions. While Dante’s original inferno consists of 9 circles, Banks’ shows 3, emphasizing the proximity of climate change’s disastrous consequences. Indeed, the inner circle might be the smallest, but it stands out like an irrefutable, fearsome, and maybe galvanizing, bulls-eye, dead center. In the face of all this future-thinking, the judges appreciate the artwork's blatant objecthood: it's big, obviously, but the embroidered sea creatures, multi-colored woven roses, and unexpected shimmer of golden strings show an artist who is thoughtful about the detail this traditional handcraft allows. Written by contest judge Ariel Ackerly.
Name: Michael Francis Year: Third-year PhD Major: Bioinformatics
Name: Sohyun Bang Year: First-year PhD Major: Integrated Life Sciences
Submission: The Music of Life - Musical Composition
Commentary: In their entry “Music of Life”, Michael Francis and Sohyun Bang take the code of living things and re-codify it as musical notation. That is, they turn a DNA sequence into a song. Using the Python programming language and music production software Ableton Live, Michael and Sohyun transform the sterile string of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts (letters that represent the nucleotides that make up DNA) into an auditory experience reminiscent of the compositions of the 1960s foremost minimalist Steve Reich. Our judges were delighted by their playful artistic choices, like extracting the DNA sequence from AVPR1A, the gene associated with musical ability. To complement the song, the entrants offer another video wherein they explain their creative process, which could serve as a helpful starting point for other researchers who are interested in sonifying their own data. Written by contest judge Ariel Ackerly