EpiMimesis, Epizone V: Shifting Identities

An artistic project realised in the interactive immersive environment authored by Joanna Hoffmann together with the EpiLab Team.
The project is developed in cooperation with 3IT Fraunhofer HHI in Berlin in the frame of VERTIGO STARTS EU program belonging to Horizon 2020, (R&D ICT Project: RIVAS, creating a bridge between real-time interactive visualization of artistic content on 180° ultra-high
resolution panorama screens and VR environment.) The project is supported by 4 producers.

General Concept of the Artwork

Hosting Production Environment

General Concept of the Artwork

Is All Data?

If we are a set of data, which is never independent, or free, and always in interaction with other data or between sets of data.

  • Between all other environmental parameters, how will our unique set of data change?
  • How will the data transform?
  • How will it be identified in a different environment, with different operators?
  • What are we here & now?
  • What can we be now & there?

Let’s go together through an imaginary poetic labyrinth of dynamic data, and let’s shift and unveil here or there our hidden elusive Identities:

EpiMimesis: Shifting Identities, Scientific background:
Challenging the latest imaging technologies and interaction, the interdisciplinary artwork combines real scientific data and expertise in the area of biochemistry, microbiology, biotechnology and the humanities with artistic strategies and visions, essentially exploring our shifting of identities on biological, personal and social levels within the everchanging environmental data, powered by merging bio-tech and digital-tech revolutions.
The EpiMimesis interactive and immersive narrative evolves in a virtual supercomputer environment, or a universe as a supercomputer, assuming consequently all is data, from quantum strings through to molecular and biological structures to the most complex eigen-dynamic of our entire coded world, during permanent interactions between all levels.

EpiMimesis: Shifting Identities recalls processes of a passage: not only from basic molecules of life towards interactions of the most complex dynamic systems but also from our evolutionary and societal past towards new, unknown structures of our future reality/identity. This passage is driven by scientific and technological progress as well as environmental, social, political and economic factors.

  • How can I define and identify my own set of data and wisely guide it towards what I want to become, and not what I will have to be?
  • Is my inner Self already a nostalgic concept of the past?

epiMimesis, Epizone V: Shifting Identities

EpiMimesis: Shifting Identities, EpiZone V

The prefix epi (originated in the Greek prefix epi- (ἐπι- “over, outside of, around”), It refers to the influence of the environment (both physical and digital) on an individual ‘set of data’ (such as mySelf) and on evolutionary processes.

The term mimesis (from the Greek term mimeisthai, “imitate”) indicates an imitative representation of the sensual world (nature). Developed by Plato and Aristotle, the term mimesis suggests a creative interpretation or modelling of nature and looking not only for that what “is” or “was”, but what is likely or possible.

The structure of EpiMimersis is divided into several parts named ‘epiZones’, referring to various levels of organisation of matter and research areas.

The EpiZone V (Shifting Identities), central to the whole project, was inspired by the research on the basic molecule of life, the RNA molecule and its feature of “shape-shifting”, considered the primary mechanism for variation of forms and functions of the living world. The structure of the interactive narrative is based on a model of molecular “labyrinth” of various molecular states driven by thermodynamics and environmental factors.
By manipulating an incommensurable amount of data the interActor trans-forms molecular “states” and moves through different paths of the virtual imaginary labyrinth: whereby creating and exploring his own multiple illusive identities.

The project refers to the perpetual human ambition to gain knowledge and power over ‘Big Data’ of the world for tailoring our better future. At the same time it raises questions about our abilities to fully understand and control dynamic complex systems of interacting data and/or wisely drive ourselves towards what we want to become.
Real scientific data will be provided by scientists from the IChB-PAN, IIMCB and others, to achieve an immersive artistic experience through virtual image, touch and hearing of the processed data.


Detailed Description of the Project

Scientific Molecular inspiration: Labyrinth of Shifting Identities

The direct inspiration came from the research on the fundamental molecule of life – the RNA molecule from which, according to the RNA World hypothesis, the Big Web of Life evolved. Today RNA plays a key role in most cellular processes and the translation of the genetic information into proteins, thus it is considered a key tool of biotechnology and bioengineering.
While the chemical structure of RNA resembles DNA, it rarely forms long double-stranded helices but performs its unique biological roles due to the ability to form different spatial structures.
Thus RNA is not a static composition of “balls and sticks” but can be perceived as a dynamic labyrinth of all it’s possible structural conformations that it has to “pass through” to achieve its final form defining its identity and function. However, some RNAs, called riboswitches, like a “molecular werewolf” are able to adopt not just one but two (or sometimes more) alternative structures, which can be completely different from each other, depending on environmental factors. This mechanism of the structural and functional variability of RNA can be considered as one of the primary mechanisms of variation of forms and functions of the living world.

The primordial variability encoded in the chemical structure of RNA is used as a conceptual platform for EpiMimesis: Shifting Identities.

  • Is any identity then, in fact, just a momentary state of data?
  • Or a transient “snap-shot” within a larger dynamical unfolding?
  • Or a complex algorithm of a different assemblage of entangled data?

By manipulating a huge incommensurable amount of data, the interActor trans-forms molecular “states” and moves through different paths of the virtual labyrinth: whereby creating and exploring his own multiple illusive identities. Scientific data will be processed according to the artistic narrative and the interActor will be able to play/interact with different prepared simulations and data. The interactor acts as a catalyst for processes and, according to rules of mimesis, transforms his environment. Nonetheless, in a non-stable system, his actions can bring unexpected results.


The message of Part A: identity accuracy is time and place dependent, is a momentary state of data that can be influenced/modified/changed/transformed/defined any time and in many ways at different places, within a complex environment.

The message of Part B:
Are we able to fully understand and effectively control dynamic organic and non-organic systems? Are we ourselves one of many possible models of evolving master-system of elusive/open identity predefined by an ever-changing and interacting sets of data?


The cultural importance of the artistic project

The double helix of DNA, associated with stability, with continuity and determinism, become a cultural icon of the progress of civilization in the XX. century. RNA, as the expression of instability, diversity, changeability and multiplicity of possibilities, can become an icon of achievements and transformations of the XXI century.
From this perspective, the proposed and pioneering artistic project will empower the general public with an understanding of scientific research and the societal and cultural significance of the research on RNA. In addition to its power and potentials.
By evoking the notion of mimesis as a creative method of combining art, science, and technology, the project strives to propose a new quality or orientation of mind, by stimulating imagination and reflection, brought about through our attempt not only to
follow and control in real time but even to anticipate the transformation of data, shaping our future.

epiMimesis, Epizone V: Shifting Identities


3IT HFFI the Interactive Time Lab

3IT Fraunhofer Heinrich Herts Institute: Innovation Center for Immersive Imaging Technologies Berlin
Starting out as the 3D Innovation Center in 2012 the scope was officially extended in September 2014. Now the whole field of immersive imaging technologies, including 3D technology, UHD, HDR, HFR and VR is covered.

Four strong and committed producers signed the agreement to support the production of epiMimesis: Shifting Identities

4a. UAP University of Arts in Poznan, Faculty of Animation

  • provides the technical infrastructure necessary for the production of the said artwork:  provides professional equipment for image registration and processing, VR environment platform, relevant software and computing power.
  • provides expertise and technical advice, support of skilled staff.

4b. Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences

  • provides scientific data for artistic interpretation, especially data from bio-molecular structures analysis and simulations, from subcellular and intracellular structures analysis and monitoring cellular processes (confocal microscopy, fluorescent microscopy, flow cytometry, thermocycler LightCycler 480, xCELLigence system, CO2 incubators, laminar flow cabinet, HPLC).
  • provides to the Artist and her team scientific & technological advice necessary for the production of the said Artwork;
    supports the Vertigo Art Residency in the scope of its expertise.

4c. International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw, Laboratory of Bioinformatics and Protein Engineering

  • provides scientific data concerning RNA research for artistic interpretation; especially RNA sequence-structure-function relationships (in particular 3D modelling, dynamics, folding simulations: ModeRNA, SimRNAweb, CompaRNA, MODOMICS, RNA Bricks, SupeRNAlign, RNArchitecture, ClaRNA)
  • provides to the Artist and her team scientific & technological advices necessary for the production of the said Artwork;
    supports the Vertigo Art Residency in the scope of its expertise.

4d. Foundation: Art & Science Synergy Foundation / Art & Science Node

  • coordinates the artwork production process related to the artwork epiMimezis, Epizone V: Shifting Identities.
  • provides the artist and her team a venue/ studio in Berlin.
  • provides the artist and her team artistic, scientific and technical advice supporting the production of the said artwork.
  • collaborates close together with all other producers which will be in charge of providing further support to artists in residence.