Virus One Billion Times

Virus One Billion Times

For White Night Melbourne 2014 the State Library of Victoria's domed reading room was transformed into a vast microscope with a magnifying power of one billion times. At this magnification an infectious virus, which is usually an unimaginably small 30 nano-meters across, becomes enlarged by the dome lens into a giant 30 meter geometric molecular ball hovering overhead. Entering the room the audience becomes enveloped inside the twitchy, brownian world of molecules that writhe across the walls and cling to bookshelves with electrostatic life.

All of the molecular structures have been built to scale at one billion times magnification, using the raw scientific data from X-Ray crystallography.

The artwork examines eight different types of human virus in ultra-high resolution detail. Every two minutes the room switches to a different type of virus, including herpes, influenza, HIV, polio and smallpox. Depending on the type of virus and the way it stores its genetic code, long snaking coils of DNA or its more ancient cousin, RNA, grip and slide across the walls like agitated Chinese dragons.

Mutating the nature of the room into a genetic library, the bookshelves are illuminated with the genome code from each type of virus. The scrolling text is written in with the four letters which encode all life on Earth: G, A, C and T.

Drew Berry and Franc Tetaz, 2014

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