XIIth Florence Biennale 2019, 18–27 October 2019, Fortezza da Basso, Florence – Italy.

ARS ET INGENIUM: Toward Leonardo Da Vinci Legacy of Similitude & Invention

Joanna Hoffman with the EpiLab team have been invited as honored guests of the XIIth Florence Biennale with the artistic project EpiMimesis, Epizone V, Shifting Identities.

and awarded by Magnus Laurentius Medices, Biennale Internazionale dell Arte Contemporanea, Cita de Firenze

The EpilLab Team

The artistic project EpiMiemsis is authorised and developed by Joanna Hoffmann together with Epilab Team of devoted outstanding artists, scientists, engineers.

Epilab Team members represent various fields of highest expertise which makes the project a real platform for communication & knowledge exchange between various milieus.

Read more about the team here

EpiMimesis, Epizone V: Shifting Identities


The artistic project EpiMimesis EpiZone V Shifting Identities designed for the XIIth Florence Biennale 2019 comprises of two main parts: An inter-active immersive VR environment and an interactive 3D hologram-like display

EpiMimesis Epizone V

“W?W?W? Leonardo”, Where, What, Who (is) Leonardo?

“A Breath for Leonardo”

see our memories! 

EpiMimesis: All is Data

EpiMimesis is based on the assumption that we are living in the World of interacting data, that All is Data. from the entanglement of elementary particles through biological structures and the most complex Eigen-dynamics, with interaction at all levels.

Imagine: In such a world of interacting data, no datum can be ‘lost’ nor ‘vanished’. Even Leonardo da Vinci’s data are present, here and now, in each of us, in our bodies, in the air we breathe, in our “gardens of data”.. making us able to imagine him 500 years after his death.

Accordingly, this work has been developed building on the idea that ‘genius’ can be regarded as a unique configuration of data which happens periodically or, in other words, as a wave sustained by enumerable small waves resonating in each one of us. We can strengthen those waves by arousing curiosity through inspiring, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural endeavours like this project, virtually an art-and- science-experiment.

You are invited into an imaginary journey through the labyrinth of shifting identities, in search of Leonardo, 500 years later…
In search of Leonardo’s data, we don’t pretend to debate with the J.Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in efforts to reconstruct Leonardo da Vinci’s genome. Instead, we rather pose questions about Leonardo’s elusive identity(s) beyond genomic information, within the “Infinitely big and infinitely small” universe of interacting data, at the dawn of New Digital Renaissance

EpiZone V: Shifting Identities

EpiMimesis is structurally divided into several EpiZones in which different actual societal issues are addressed. Epizone V addresses the identity issue in general and more particularly the epi-genetic Identity.
Newest real data of RNA directly provided from research Labs are processed and transformed combining scientific research, art, culture, and imagination so as to offer an immersive multisensory experience.

EpiMimesis – Epizone V: Shifting Identities bridges scientific research with new cultural narratives, raises environmental awareness and poses crucial questions about what do we want to become. Today the notion of identity is usually associated with genetic information stored in the DNA, and yet that represents just a small part of our identity history. Hence, in Epi-Zone V, the audience enters an imaginative labyrinth of shifting identities inspired by the most fundamental molecule of life, the RNA molecule (the Web of Life evolved from that every molecule, which is now a key tool for biotechnology and bioengineering to shape our future). The interActor/audience exploring the labyrinth of Shifting Identities within Epi-Zone V is confronted and guided by a Vitruvian WoMan (expressing the complex Eigen-dynamics of our micro and macro worlds), wayward to Leonardo’s famous drawing. Through their response, the Inter-Actor/audience act as a catalyst in the creative process and, according to the mimesis principle, transform the immersive environment experienced by creating and discovering multiple, interdependent, elusive identities.

Art & Science @ Anthropocene

The art & science synergy has a long tradition from the Pythagorean pursuit of the Harmony of the World through to the renaissance polymath. However it acquires particular importance in our current times, the age of a revolution of knowledge which gives us powers that a human being has never imagined, powers of shaping our future(s). We are facing incredibly rapid scientific progress that radically changes paradigms, values, the perception of ourselves and our environment.
And yet, we are living in times of global and crucial issues, i.e. ecological crisis, the sixth mass extinction of species, growing social inequalities, migrations, political and cultural tensions and more…

These urgent situations force us to reflect on the complexity of the civilization processes and to revise the cultural narratives of Anthropocene, or more particularly questioning the further evolution of Humankind for developing visions about: what we do want to become.
The new challenges which are in front of us, as artists, scientists, citizens, as species, to develop a new cultural paradigm, a narrative that will allow us to protect our ecosystems and to shift from a selfish human towards a conscious, collaborating humanity.
We have to re-establish, to create a new connection between a human being and nature, not as a crown of the evolutionary tree and/or the “sense of the world” but as a part of ever-evolving, interacting and interdependent Big Web of Life.
To achieve this cultural challenge we have to go far beyond schemes of thinking, to extend all of the human mind’s creative potential predicated on inter-disciplinary and inter-cultural inspirations.

Leonardo, as a symbol of human creativity and visions, merging science and art, can be a key figure to discuss & reflect on these vital issues.

An inter-active immersive VR environment: “W?W?W? Leonardo

First, you will be introduced to the virtual zone of elementary particles, a “garden of data” where “everything starts to be possible”. You will assume the role of an “apprentice” or a “catalyst” if you prefer, and, following rules of mimesis, you will transform your environment.

You will create your basic atoms and learn how to bond them into pairs, mysterious tetrahedrons and further into more complex architecture towards the first molecule of life…reaching the Vitruvian Tree – the threshold of your own labyrinth.

Remember: as a non-stable system, EpiMimesis is unpredictable, thus your actions can bring unexpected results…

An inter-active 3D pseudo-hologram: “A Breath for Leonardo”

In “A Breath for Leonardo”, the original, static two-dimensional diagram of Vetruvian Man is replaced by dynamic multidimensional geometry of the fundamental molecule of life, RNA molecule. Using your breath, you can transform molecular states and move through various paths of the elusive labyrinth of shifting identities.
Be careful: you may interact with Leonardo’s data dispersed in your environment, in your body and/or in your breath going in or out. By breathing you can inject your Leonardo’s data into the system influencing the path of the elusive labyrinth of shifting identities.

As a bio-molecule, RNA is not a static composition of atoms (balls & sticks) but a dynamic labyrinth of all its possible forms, which it has to pass through to achieve its final conformation 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. The primordial variability encoded in the chemical structure of RNA is used as a conceptual platform for EpiMimesis: Shifting Identities, posing questions:

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?

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Contrary to the past, when algorithms of life were only in hands of Nature, today algorithms of life are influenced and driven by culture towards the future life designed by technology.
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.

EpiZone V: Shifting Identities was inspired by the latest scientific 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.

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.

Read more about Science here


We assume that we are living in the world of interacting data from elementary particles, through biological structures to most complex eigen-dynamics of our entire world, with constant interactions between all levels. In this universe each breath, each action, each thought matters.
Your breath contains around 25 sextillions (that’s 25 followed by 21 zeroes) air molecules, which may spread around the globe within a couple of years. According to mathematical calculations, roughly one molecule of Leonardo’s air will appear in your next breath.
Your body is composed of astronomical numbers of atoms, mainly oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen born in the cores of distant stars. However, these atoms don’t stay long by you, being replaced in 99,999 % by other atoms in a span of seven years. In your retina, you may have right now an atom of Leonardo, which before was a part of a jellyfish, a leaf or a bird.

Mind: genius results from a unique configuration of data which happens periodically, it is a wave sustained by uncountable small waves resonating in each of us.
You can strengthen them by your passionate/undaunted curiosity, resulting in the creation of Leonardo of the 21 st, century.

Partners & Supporters

This artistic project has been developed with the support of the International Centre for Molecular and Cell Biology Warsaw, Art & Science Node Berlin, University of Arts, Poznan, Institute of Biochemistry Polish Academy of Sciences, 3IT Fraunhofer Heinrich Herts Institute: Innovation Center for Immersive Imaging Technologies Berlin.
It has been carried out with 2019 science funding from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education as a research project.

XIIth Florence Biennale

18–27 October 2019

Fortezza da Basso, Florence – Italy