S+T+ARTS in the City | Challenge nº9 | Understanding and Engineering Photosynthesis for a More Sustainable Future 

+ Consortium Partner

+ Problem Statement

How does photosynthesis function at the molecular scale, and can we improve it? Unveiling the processes governing nanoscale energy transfer could advance sustainable agriculture, green energy, and carbon capture. We invite artists to support the scientific challenge of making plants even stronger allies in the fight of big cities such as Barcelona against climate change.

+ Keywords

Climate change, Sustainability, Energy, Carbon, Air, Bio-Art, Bio-Hacking, Electronic Art

+ Description

We need to advance clean energy research and enhance agricultural production in order to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. Natural photosynthesis has sustained life on Earth for more than 3.5 billion years, but the exact mechanisms that regulate this very fundamental process are still not completely understood.

From ICFO, based in Barcelona, Prof. Liguori’s group utilizes experimental and computational tools to explore the regulatory mechanisms governing sunlight harvesting in photosynthetic organisms. Their research aims to deepen our fundamental understanding of natural photosynthesis and potentially uncover strategies to optimize the utilization of solar energy in photosynthetic organisms.

In the artistic field, photosynthesis and chlorophyll have been the subject of several research projects in bio-art and bio hacking, to analyze the inter-species relationships and the ecological perspective that separates humans from nature, moving towards a non-anthropocentric ecology but also researching and using photosynthesis as process to co-create artistic works.

+ Residency Characteristics

The artists will be embedded in the daily life of the research group, being able to have its own office space shared with other researchers. The artist will have full access to the facilities and the researchers of the research group, as well as the outreach team and the clean program coordinator, being the main contact person the Group Leader, Dr. Nicoletta Liguori, with whom the artist will be able to have regular meetings around the project. The artist will be embedded in a laboratory that hosts a world unique spectroscopic setup that allows to probe with ultrafast resolution how photosynthetic complexes sense and respond to changes in light and environment and, consequently, how they regulate photosynthesis. The laboratory hosts also a strong expertise in molecular dynamics simulations to depict what are the dynamic structural changes of photosynthetic complexes that regulate photosynthesis.

The research group is looking forward to working with an artist to reinterpret and to engage in a profound exploration and untapped potential surrounding the understanding and improvement of natural photosynthesis. . “Art can aid the scientist in processing and interpreting the data towards an understanding of the concepts and processes; in this way art is powerful – if often subconscious – tool to inform the process of discovery”[1].

The group is open to any type of artist, although would prefer a final product that is a piece or installation rather than a performance.

It would be nice if the artists can participate in the experiments that the researchers will carry out, and that they participate in some of the group meetings to have a better understanding of the overall research performed in the group. But there is total flexibility on which ones these should be, as these can be better identified once it is understood what idea the artist has in mind and what needs the artist would have.

It is expected that there will be a final product that can be exhibited/ showcased (in contrast to a performance).

The artists are welcome to start contact with the group in October, but a stay with the group is advisable starting in November and it can run until the end of April (6 months). This can be negotiated depending on the needs and of the artists and availability of the group.

[1] Tools for Observation: Art and the Scientific Process. Pettit, E. C. ; Coryell-Martin, M. ; Maisch, K. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2015, abstract id. ED51D-0836

+ Jury Day

The Jury Day will be held online between 21- 27 September 2023 (date TBC).

+ Useful Links

+ Local Expert Group