XIIth Florence Biennale 2019 ASN is delighted to announce that Joanna Hoffman and the EpiLab team have been invited 

 to participate in the XIIth Florence Biennale

with the artistic project“ EpiMimesis: Shifting Identities”

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


The Florence Biennale

The Florence Biennale is the major contemporary art exhibition in Florence where it is regarded as an outstanding showcase of the international contemporary art production. During the last edition which was attended by more than 10.000 visitors, there were 460 artists participating from 72 countries, held under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Tuscany Region, and Municipality of Florence.

The Florence Biennale & artists

The Florence Biennale has been providing participating artists with an extraordinary intercultural and interdisciplinary experience over the last twenty years. In recognition of this commitment, the Florence Biennale has been included in the program “Dialogue between civilizations” by the United Nations in 2001 and has obtained the patronage of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO in 2017.

Within the framework of the Florence Biennale, each participating artist competes for the “Lorenzo il Magnifico” Awards, conferred by an International Jury to the best exhibiting artists for their works on show, as well as for several Artist Residencies and other Special Awards. The “Lorenzo il Magnifico” Lifetime Achievement Awards are conferred to individuals and/or organisations who have reached pinnacles of artistic achievement and/or stood out for their contribution to culture: Marina Abramović, David Hockney, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Gilbert & George, Anish Kapoor, El Anatsui are among the recipients in the past editions.

XIIth Florence Biennale 2019

During October 2019, the XIIth Florence Biennale 2019 will take place at the historical Fortezza da Basso. Engaging participating artists and visitors in a rich programme of artistic and cultural activities. Aside from the main exhibition, there will be collateral events, workshops, conferences, and lectures relating to the new edition’s theme of the new edition, which is related to the 500th Anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death: Ars et Ingenium – Toward Leonardo da Vinci’s Legacy of Similitude and Invention.

‘In anticipation of the fifth centenary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in 2019, the International Contemporary Art Biennial of Florence will reflect on the cognitive and creative approach of the great master of the Renaissance who is regarded as unsurpassed genius.’ Dr. Melanie Zefferino, Curator of the XIIth Florence Biennale

Leonardo da Vinci

Ars et Ingenium

The theme of the XIIth Florence Biennale will focus on Leonardo da Vinci’s multifaceted being: an outstanding artist, he was also ‘scientist’ committed to exploring nature in order to grasp the knowledge spanning different disciplines of comparative anatomy, botany, geology, physics, and intertwining cosmology with his studies on light and more besides.

Considering Leonardo as an extraordinary exemplum for contemporary creativity, the XIIth Florence Biennale considers how by

‘joining art practice and ‘scientific’ research with experimentation , he challenged the long held distinction that had long been made between artes mechanicae and artes liberales. Through this he ennobled the visual arts, especially painting, which in his view was ‘science and legitimate daughter of nature’. Like music and geometry, according to Leonardo, painting was based on the laws of harmony since, according to Leonardo ‘it considers all continuous quantities, the qualities of the proportions of shadow and lights, and distances through its [science of ] perspective’’ Dr. Melanie Zefferino, Curator of the XIIth Florence Biennale

Florence Biennale

Leonardo da Vinci’s work, which has been considered a source of inspiration for many for over five centuries. Will now be reinterpreted in a variety of ways by many contemporary artists at different career stages and with different cultural backgrounds, interests, and talents who will participate in the XIIth Florence Biennale.

ASN and the EpiLab team are honored to be part of this wonderful event with the artistic project EpiMimesis Shifting Identities. Juliette Harvey is the Project Coordinator for the participation of this project at the XIIth Florence Biennale.


XIIth Florence Biennale 2019 EpiMimesis, Epizone V: Shifting Identites

Background of this artistic project

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


An inter-active 3D hologram-like display (Pepper’s ghost): “A Breath for Leonardo”.

The artistic project is presented as an immersive, multi-sensual experience, inviting the viewer to enter an interactive, poetic audio-visual Zone, combining image, sound, poetry, and touch, bridging scientific data with artistic visions.
The audience will be engaged in virtual reality creation and moving through the imaginary labyrinth of elusive identities.

EpiMimesis is based on the assumption that we are living in the World of interacting data, that All is Data

The title of Epi-Mimesis refers to the impact of environmental data (epi-) on an individual set of data (i.e you) and to mimesis: the strategy, mastered by Leonardo, of creative interpretation of natural processes, examining not only what “is” but what is likely and/or possible.

EpiMimesis is divided into several epi-Zones related to various levels of organisation of matter and research areas, disciplines.
EpiMimesis – EpiZone V: Shifting Identities is the heart of the project.
In the Universe of interacting data, no data get lost, or “disappear”. All data are entangled, memorised, and confined in the never-ending process of evolution named “self-organised complex systems with eigen-dynamics” or life Leonardo’s data are not lost, but present here and now, in each of us, in our bodies, in the air we breathe, in our “gardens of data”..

Art & science

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 on 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.

A detailed description of EpiZone V, Shifting Identities

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

Are you intrigued?

Then enter the Zone V of EpiMimesis, the super-computer organic luminous system, the data universe, from elementary particles through biological structure to most complex eigen-dynamics of our all coded world.

The Vitruvian WoMan

In Epizone V you will be confronted and guided by Vitruvian WoMan.
not like a Vetruvian Man of the famous drawing of Leonardo with the connection between a human being and nature, based on the mathematical Harmony of the world, but more as an expression of complex eigen-dynamics.
Wayward to Leonardo’s supposed self-portrait, the today Vetruvian WoMan has neither stable nor gender identity but composes a labyrinths of various possible identities bridging evolutionary and cultural narratives.

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

Allow Vitruvian WoMan to guide you 10 minutes longer on VR experience. 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 threshold of your labyrinth.

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

For 10 minutes your audience will follow you to find out where what or who is Leonardo after 500 years. You may find here and there only Leonardo’s fragments, you may face different Identities.

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

The science background of the artistic project

Contrary to the past, when algorithms of life were only in hands of the 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.

As a bio-molecule, RNA is not a static compositions 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?

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.

All is Data

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 sextillion (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 configurations 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 creation of Leonardo of the 21 st, century.

epiMimesis, Epizone V: Shifting Identities
epiMimesis, Epizone V: Shifting Identities
epiMimesis, Epizone V: Shifting Identities
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The technology background of the artistic

The interest and talent of Leonardo were not only in painting, drawing or sculpture but also in science, technologies and human perception of his time. Thus, following his path the artwork is developed with the newest, highest science and technologies.

The art project embraces two main parts:

VR interactive and immersive environment which is a fully illusionary digital world addressing various human senses;

Interactive pseudo-hologram display uses optical illusion technique popularised by English scientist John Henry Pepper in the XIX century (Pepper’s Ghost)

The project will be an immersive, multi-sensual artistic experience, connecting Virtual Reality environment with 3D pseudo-hologram and other media, bridging artistic visions with scientific knowledge and expertise, scientific data visualisation with sound, touch and poetry.

The choice of technologies is not accidental.
Whilst by the Pseudo-Hologram-like display, the interactor is placed “outside “ the labyrinth, but in the Virtual Reality environment, the interactor is inside the system.

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

XIIth Florence Biennale

18–27 October 2019

Fortezza da Basso, Florence – Italy