In early 2019, we met with two leading representatives of the „world capital of auteur cinema" to discuss our idea of mixing scientific Know How provided by the NCCR MSE with their artistic competence: Lili Hinstin, at the time artistic director and Stefano Knuchel, founder and organizer of the festival’s Basecamp laboratory of ideas immediately immediately embraced our initiative with great enthusiasm. Together and on the spot, a truly unique collaboration was established. Watch Stefano Knuchel as he gives the festival's interim summary of the first four years of our project here.
EL & Us—engineering life and us—explores the thin line between contemporary art and molecular research. It is the compelling collaboration between Michel Comte and the NCCR MSE (National Center of Competence in Research Molecular Systems Engineering) at the University of Basel and ETH Zurich, to translate science into art and reveal this life-changing research to a broad audience.
The cutting-edge combination of biology and engineering allows deep interventions into living organisms that are now on the verge of substantially impacting human health and disease treatment. Such comprehensive, paradigm-shifting change accordingly requires the consent of a society well informed through interactive and ethically conducted debate. To facilitate this and bridge the communication gap between complex science and the general public, the NCCR MSE has created Art of Molecule, an interdisciplinary framework through which contemporary artists discuss, challenge and (re-)form the project’s research goals. EL & Us is Michel Comte’s proactive contribution to this project and its central issue: can engineering life lead to a better future? More
Beatrice Trussardi, president of the Trussardi Foundation in Milano and Federico Roveda, CEO of Prima Lab SA in Ticino visited our NCCR MSE again to learn more about the state of the art of Engineering Life research and the #ArtofMolecule ethics framework. The visitors were welcomed by NCCR MSE director Thomas R. Ward and Head Ethics Ralf Stutzki. More
DARWIN’S CIRCLE brings together global leaders from across all industries to talk about the digital future of business and society, while being inspired by the leading experts of the world’s most innovative companies. In the 2022 edition, we were invited to discuss our ArtSci multimedia project "EL and Us" together with Michel Comte in Vienna. More
(l.t.r.:) Michel Comte, Ralf Stutzki, Gretchen Andrew and Jivka Ovtcharova
Nick Lane uses life as a guide to its own origins. Modern cells use electrical charges on membranes to drive their metabolism, which in turn makes the building blocks of genes and proteins. Lane shows that equivalent processes were possible in ancient hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. Electrical charges on mineral barriers can drive the reaction of gases such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide to power a spontaneous proto-metabolism, and ultimately the emergence of genetic information. The genetic code conceals enigmatic patterns that suggest there were once direct interactions between amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, and the first genes. The talk ends with some thoughts on how these processes might culminate in cells developing agency and a rudimentary stream of consciousness. "We will never know for certain how life started on Earth, but we can build a testable framework that shows how a sterile, inorganic planet could spring to life."
In this four-part podcast series, Michel Comte and Ralf Stutzki talk about how our Art-Science project "Engineering Life and Us came to be and the ethical reflections that surfaced along the line.
The story about the compelling collaboration between Michel Comte and our NCCR MSE has just been published by STEIDL, one of the leading players amongst the global art publishing houses. This is huge step forward for our unique Art of Molecule ethics project! The premiere of the „main“ art piece - the video projection with images and sounds recorded by Michel Comte in our labs - is scheduled to take place this year.