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Campus art installation captures the richness of basic software actions

Sound and light sculpture inspired by Nobel Prize-winning method on genome editing

On 6 December, Nobel laureates Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna (left and right) visited the KTH campus to study Un|fold, a sound and light sculpture inspired by their work on genome editing. Pictured with professor Benoit Baudry, who led the development of the art work. Photo: Clement Morin / Nobel Prize
Published Dec 07, 2022

Art can be a powerful projector of breakthrough science. During the 2022 Nobel Week Lights, an annual lights festival taking place during the Nobel Week, KTH launched an artwork called un|fold, which captures the richness of a simple software action.

“Art allows people to understand science through other parts of the brain than conscious analytical thinking, inviting people to consider the material from new perspectives,” explains Benoit Baudry, a Professor in Software Technology at KTH.

Unpacking software mysteries

Baudry leads re|thread , a collective of software researchers, artists, and designers, working at the intersection between software technology, art, interaction design, sonification, and visualization. Their mission is to untangle the secrets of software technology through art.

Un|fold is a sound and light sculpture which visually reveals the deep software supply chain behind the simple text editing action “copy and paste. Placed in the old Turbine Hall on KTH campus, it turns the 200k+ operations triggered by using “copy and paste” into a large-scale sound and light sculpture that captures the richness of the simple software action.

The work was inspired by the work of Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, who in 2020 were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a method for genome editing.

Since the key to genome editing technology is the ability to identify and replace a part of the DNA, one way of explaining genome editing is to liken it to “copy and paste” in a text document.

Benoit Baudry explains the un|fold installation

Nobel laureate visit

On 6 December, the two Nobel laureates visited the KTH campus to witness the sculpture themselves.

“This is a wonderful expression of science with art,” Doudna acknowledged, when signing an artwork for the re|thread team.

“Maybe not intended but incredible artistic piece of software language,” professor Charpentier added.

un|fold was supported by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, The Nobel Week Lights and the Wallenberg Autonomous Systems, Software and AI Program (WASP). Associate professor Leif Handberg was instrumental in making the KTH Turbine Hall the location of the art work.