Monthly Archives: August 2016

Digital to Physical – Made to Last? Alex May Interview 22 August 2016, Brighton

Planned Script (Not strictly adhered to)

Thank you for agreeing to talk to me about the subject of my research paper. I hope this has relevance to your work too. Would you mind if I recorded our discussion so that I may reference it in my paper?

Describe my research question.

Will functioning digital art be part of our future cultural heritage? Will only physical art survive intact over time? Can purely digital artworks continue to operate in the distant future and thus provide a digitally functioning legacy for generations to come?

State that you are particularly interested in his born digital work with Anna Dimitrui, Sequence.

I met him at the V&A Digital Design Weekend on 26 Sept last year.

Notice that the write up in the V&A only included Anna’s work on the project.

Ask Alex to describe it and what prompted him and Anna to make it. And to describe his contribution.


1. Alex, Do you think that it is important that art produced today should be available for future generations to enjoy? And why?

2. Do you think that this also applies to art produced using or relying on digital products and processes? And why?

3. I know that you use digital processes in a lot of your work. Please could you briefly describe them or any future digital technologies you are interested in using in your practice. Ask about Artist in Residence at Uni of Hertfordshire and Robot Companions project.

4. With particular reference to ‘Sequence’ What digital processes does it rely on? If any of the hardware or software used became redundant could your work be shown as you originally intended? Is your work documented in a way that it could be shown or reproduced and exhibited as you intended?

5. Do you think, with the massive advances in technology that today’s important digital artworks will be able to be seen as the artist intended in say the next century?

7. If not, why not?

8. Do you think that art institutions and fine art schools such are addressing these issues? Ask about Uni of Hertfordshire and whether that include art conservation in their curriculum in particular for born digital work and digital installations.

9. Do you think that conservation of their work is practiced by most digital artists? Do they document their work in a way that it could be reproduced without them?

10. What more do you think needs to be done?

11. Are there any questions or areas I have not explored today that you think I should have covered?

Thank you Alex

Please turn your sound up full and forgive the background cafe noises.

Crafting Our Digital Futures

As part of V&A Digital Design Weekend 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9576868-4-7

26 Sept 2015


Alex May and Anna Dimitrui


Sequence. As seen on screen. VR view on Oculus Rift

 ‘Sequence’ is a bio-digital installation created by artist Anna Dumitriu, the emerging technology of whole genome sequencing of bacteria, which the emerging technology of whole genome sequencing of bacteria, which makes it possible to study the entire genetic blueprint of an organism. The project considers what this new technology, which is revolutionizing the study of bacteria, means to us personally, culturally and socially.

Dumitriu’s artistic research has led to her learning how to sequence an entire bacterial genome, from the complex and delicate process of preparing the DNA, to sequencing and assembling the resulting data (around 2.8 million base pairs of DNA long) of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that lives on her own body.

He learned that this organism, which currently lives on her with no obvious effect, is likely to be a human pathogen, and under different circumstances could make her ill or even kill her. She also found out that it has several significant antibiotic resistance genes: the blaZ gene, which confers resistance to beta-lactams, such as penicillin; the norA gene which confers res fluoroquinolones such as ciprofloxacin; and the tet(38) gene conferring resistance to tetracyclines such as doxycycline. It can be treated with methicillin and so is not a form of the famous methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The preparation of the DNA for sequencing is time consuming, and very high precision (Dumitriu needed to dilute the DNA so precisely that 1000000 fragments of it would cover 1mm of the flow cell used in the sequencer). Originating from fluorescent chemical compounds. Each nucleotide binds to a different coloured compound, and Each nucleotide binds to a different coloured compound, and at each stage digital image is taken. The machine then builds up a picture of there and outputs a raw file of data. This data can then be assembled using software. Assembled genomes can then be compared to other assembled genomes to reveal how infections spread as minor changes in the DNA show how closely related one organism in a species is to another.

‘The bacterium I have studied is one of millions which go to make up my microbiome. The detailed knowledge of this one organism only serves to highlight how little knowledge we have of the workings of our own bodies, as we reflect on the sublime microbiological worlds we carry with us. (Dumitriu)