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A collaboration with immunologists and microbiologists Linda Horianopoulos, Kylynda Bauer and Mihai Cirstea

Crossing, an interactive puzzle painting, is the result of a collaboration with a group of scientists for the Invasive Systems exhibition during Curiosity Collider’s Collisions Festival.

Here is the piece in action and a few details about the imagery in the puzzle’s solution. I’ve also written about the collaboration and process of making the piece here.

Crossing
Interactive Puzzle Painting
Acrylic on 21 wood panels
20×44 inches
photo by Sarah Race

Crossing is an interactive puzzle that encourages viewers to contemplate our relationship with the microbes that inhabit our surfaces and those that cross over our protective barriers. The puzzle examines the role the microbial community plays in our behaviour and health.

Crossing – Detail

During the exhibition, many people attempted to solve the puzzle. Few were able to do it without the help of my hint window, but all attempts were made with enthusiasm and a passion for science, art and the games many of us loved growing up.

Crossing – Detail
Two branches of the vagus nerve tracing out subtle facial expressions

Using the branching fractal as multi-functional motif to represent everything from microbial colonies, nervous system and microglia, vascular system and blood-brain-barrier, I emphasize the relationship they have with one another. The puzzle element brings to our attention the complexity of these relationships and our understanding of what promotes health and what leads to illness.

Puzzle Painting, Title: Crossing, black and white image of a brain and gut connected by the vagus nerve
Crossing
Solved Puzzle
Acrylic on 21 wood panels
20×44 inches

The solution to the puzzle is an image composed of a brain and gut with subtle facial expressions delineated in the two branches of the vagus nerve connecting them to each other. This interior landscape also doubles as an exterior landscape, with sky, land and weather patterns, suggesting that our environment is as much existing within us as around us.

Crossing Detail
The Brain
And microbial colonies surrounding and crossing over the blood-brain barrier
Crossing – Detail
The Gut
And microbial colonies in the environment and entering the intestinal tract
Crossing – Detail
Vagus nerve tracing a facial expression depicting distress
Crossing – Detail
Vagus nerve tracing a facial expression depicting delight
Char Hoyt (centre), Curiosity Collider’s curator and visitors working on Crossing
photo by Sarah Race
Invasive Systems visitors peeking at the hint windows for clues to solve the puzzle
photo by Sarah Race
People gathered around a painting puzzle on a table with one visitor attempting to solve the puzzle
Crowd gathering around Crossing and attempting to solve the puzzle
photo by Sarah Race

I would like to thank Linda Horianopoulos, Kylynda Bauer, Mihai Cirstea (the microbiologists and immunologists from UBC) for their contributions to this project.

Crossing

Crossing is an interactive puzzle that encourages viewers to contemplate our relationship with the microbes that inhabit our surfaces and those that cross over our protective barriers. The puzzle examines the role the microbial community plays in our behaviour and health. Here I show you the complete image, with close up details of the painting as well as visitors working on solving the puzzle during Curiosity Collider’s Collisions Festival and Invasive Systems exhibition.

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