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Artist Statement

The Invisible made Visible is a project that explains the scientific process of Covid testing through the creative process of lino-printing and film, with music by Boa Morte. I am really excited to be working with the Dr Cormac Gahan, from APC Microbiome, who has been instrumental in developing the Covid Test here.

Covid tests use a process called PCR (Polymerase chain reaction), where a small amount of barely visible genetic material is taken from a virus, and replicated through a series of prescribed repetitive steps, so that multiple copies of DNA are visible.

This process is similar to lino printing, where you start with a blank page and carefully go through a series of prescribed steps to create multiple copies of the original image.

"Both processes involve replication, accuracy, and patience."

The design of the lino print also describes the steps involved in Covid PCR testing. As a botanical artist, I am typically inspired by the organic forms found in nature. I really wanted to avoid the stereotypical images of viruses and syringes for this project, so instead, I have taken my inspiration from the sea, and the beautiful artwork of Ernst Haeckel, diving into the complexities of the DNA replication in a way that will intrigue and captivate younger audiences.

The entire creative process will be filmed, and the video will be shared in schools to explain how Covid PCR testing works. The scientists involved will provide the voiceover, aligning the two processes. Our goal is to communicate that PCR testing is a way of controlling the virus and restoring calm.

SFI Research Centre Statement

Professor Cormac Gahan and Dr Aimee Stapleton

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a procedure that is used across the globe to diagnose COVID-19 through specific detection of Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. However, PCR has many other uses, from forensic science to molecular cloning and vaccine research. In APC Microbiome Ireland we routinely use the approach to analyse the contribution of specific gut bacteria to human health and disease. Despite the ubiquity of the term ‘PCR’ in our current newsfeed, there is a general lack of understanding of what it involves and how it underpins research and diagnostics across medical and life sciences.

The fundamental basis of PCR is that it is a method to greatly amplify a specific target molecule (DNA or RNA) in a biological sample. In swabs from patients with COVID-19, the virus is present in relatively miniscule amounts. The PCR approach precisely identifies a virus-specific target and uses an amplification process to ensure we can now easily detect this target, thereby making the invisible visible.

The features of PCR, including the specific chemical cycles and the process of amplification, reflect the processes of design, printing and copying that are widely used in the visual arts. Through collaboration with renowned visual artist Shevaun Doherty we will communicate the concept of PCR through the process of creating unique lino prints. The resulting work will represent a visually captivating artistic statement, whilst the lino printing and copying process will form the basis of practical workshops that will be carried out in classrooms and galleries across the country.

Music by Boa Morte. Image by Craig Carry (l-r): Cormac Gahan, Paul Ruxton, Bill Twomey, Maurice Hallissey