Nobel Week Lights 2022 illuminate the Stockholm winter darkness 3-11 December and is the only light festival in the world where each artwork is inspired by Nobel Prize awarded discoveries. Benoit Baudry, WASP Professor in Software Technology and the re|thread collective participate with an artwork called un|fold, that captures the richness of a simple software action.

The Nobel week Lights festival is a culture experience that is accessible to everyone during the darkest time of the year. Directly inspired by Nobel Prize-awarded discoveries, artworks illuminate the Stockholm winter darkness and invite new insights into the research, lives and contributions of Nobel Laureates.

The historic Turbine Hall at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology is the scene for Benoit Baudry, WASP Professor in Software Technology and his colleagues in re|thread:

-We were inspired by the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to E. Charpentier and J. Doudna for the development of a method for genome editing, says Benoit Baudry

This year science and culture are highlighted with a modified, energy efficient light festival:

-Our light installation is performed through a combination of LED technology, drawings and mirrors that naturally amplify the audiovisual sculptures, says Benoit Baudry.

un|fold: emotional perspective on “search and replace”

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 “search and replace” in a text document.

-The chemical processes that enable the search and replace action on genomes are extremely sophisticated and linking it to text editing is a good analogy to help us understand advanced chemistry, he continues.

However, the simplest piece of software also hides complex processes:

-un|fold is a sound and light sculpture, which visually reveals the deep software supply chain behind the simple text editing action “search and replace”, says Benoit Baudry

-un|fold turns the 200k+ operations triggered by using “search and replace” into a large-scale sound and light sculpture that captures the richness of the simple software action, says Benoit Baudry.

Communicating the science of software through art

re|thread is a collective of software researchers, artists, and designers, working at the intersection between software technology, art, interaction design, sonification, and visualization. Through artifacts and performances, they intend to cultivate curiosity of the scientific and technical aspects of software which appear to many as a “black box”:

-The key motivation is to let a large audience make sense of software through emotions, says Benoit Baudry.

– Software is omnipresent, immense and blazingly fast, yet it is invisible and intangible. This makes it difficult for anyone curious about software to grasp this complexity. Science and arts have often collaborated, and we found that working together with sound and visual artists is an effective way to let the public feel the immensity of software, he continues.

Each installation that re|thread have performed in the last three years during Nobel week lights focuses on one specific invisible characteristic of software, such as the depth of the supply chain, the frequency of evolution or the speed of software:

-Then, we create artworks that let the audience make sense of these characteristics through immersive installations, says Benoit Baudry.

Published: November 9th, 2022

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