8 February 2023

An artist re-imagines the science of circadian rhythms in 'Body Clocks'

science communication

The science of circadian rhythms is re-imagined by artist Isabella Martin, who collaborated with CBMR scientists to produce the unique exhibition 'Body Clocks', which is installed in the scientists workplace.

In each of our cells, a genetic clock ticks, keeping our bodies in time. The metaphor of the ‘body clock’ is a powerful tool for sharing the science of circadian rhythms with the public. But where is the body in the body clock?

In a series of installations, artist Isabella Martin is inspired by scientific research into circadian rhythms. The project is the result of over two years of collaboration between Martin, Postdoc and curator at the Medical Museion Kristin Hussey, and the circadian scientists of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR). The new works are displayed in the scientific work space of CBMR in the Maersk Tower in at the University of Copenhagen.

“There is something incredibly beautiful and also very strange in chronobiology about the idea of being so interconnected with the world around us, down to a cellular level," says artist Isabella Martin.

"The artworks in Body Clocks play with this, using the body as a starting point to make imaginative connections between inside and out. In these works muscle tissues turn into moons, hands become clocks, and organs function like hourglasses, each measuring their own time. I’m delighted to install these works at CBMR and share them with the researchers that both inspired and contributed to their creation.”

Bring art into a scientific workplace

In Body Clocks, the body is dissected and the border between internal and external becomes permeable. The body is at the heart of science – but it is often broken down into cells, genes and model systems. Through these new works, art is brought back into the scientific center that inspired it – offering an engaging reflection on bodies, time, and scientific working practices.

This project is the result of over two years of collaboration between Martin, Hussey and the circadian scientist of CBMR. Displayed in different locations throughout Center, the works aim to provoke and inspire the scientists to ask new questions about their research.

“Art-science projects are usually displayed in art galleries – removed from their original scientific context. We hope by integrating artworks throughout a working scientific space we can make our own contribution to the research environment at CBMR," says Kristin Hussey.

Inspired by basic metabolic research

Many CBMR scientists were involved in the collaboration, among them Associate Professor Zach Gerhart-Hines.

“Witnessing firsthand as Isabella and Kristin brought concepts of our inner clocks to life has been incredibly thrilling. The creativity through which they extracted inspiration from oscillating lines of data, blinking and beeping scientific equipment, and 24-hour laboratory protocols and transformed these ideas into thought-provoking and visually stunning artistic works is remarkable. They did this all while maintaining the natural wonder of how we are each, down to our last cell, inextricably and beautifully linked to the very rotation of this planet,” says Zach Gerhart-Hines.

Postdoc and Curator Kristin Hussey works in CBMR's Research Program 4, Cardiometabolic Research in Society and Culture, which is situated in the University of Copenhagen's museum of medical history, Medical Museion. The overall objective of the program is to situate metabolic science in cultural, historical, and philosophical context through humanities and science communication research, which in turn informs innovative public engagement practices.

“Building on many years of combining humanities and arts perspectives with metabolic research, it’s great to showcase Martin’s intriguing and delightful artworks next to scientific laboratories. We’re excited to hear the responses,” says Medical Museion Director Ken Arnold, Director.

The exhibition runs from January 25 to April 14, 2023 and can only be viewed by appointment. Please contact Strategy and Communications Officer Peter Stanners if you are interested.