Bioengineers capture the quirky beauty of biology in their art

The imaginations and technical skills of researchers at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) have been unleashed, and will be on show in the Art of Bio Eng exhibition as part of Artweek 2020.

Skewed, by Dane Gerneke. The cell structure of bamboo skewers makes a good test object for checking MicroCT image quality, and this artistic rendering shows how perspective can change how samples appear.

The exhibition, on the ground floor of the Auckland Public Library 10-18 October, includes 20 works of art which explore the interconnections between art, biology and engineering, and showcases the level and type of research undertaken at the ABI

The works on display include many intriguing and revealing images: the cell structure of bamboo skewers from a weirdly distorted perspective; the patterns made by EEG waveforms propagated by deeper brain structure; a high-res scan of a bladder in which the tissue resembles the head of a camel.

This is the second time the ABI has held the competition for researchers to show their artistic side. The winning entrants will be announced on October 14 and will be judged by Associate Professor Peter Shand, head of Elam School of Fine Arts, Kate Harsant (Elam alumna and ABI executive assistant) and Arron Hynds, Director of Research Development at Hynds Smarter Water.

Associate Professor Peng Du is also on the judging panel. He organised the first Art of Bio Eng in 2015, and he notes that this year’s competition has attracted entrants from a wider selection of subject areas. “It really shows that the field is growing and is more interconnected than ever before.”

The competition is a way to change the misperception that engineers, or STEM subjects are ‘boring’ and “all about theories and equations”, he says.

The Camel Within: a section from a very high resolution microCT image of a urinary bladder tissue reveals a striking resemblance to the head of a camel. By Zohreh Ekhlasi, Mahyar Osanlouy, Dane Gerneke, Janet Keast, Peregrine Osborne.

“As a biomedical engineer, I study the same natural aspects of the living body that are celebrated by athletes and artists throughout the ages. With advances in technologies, we are now able to visualise a world that would otherwise be closed off to our imaginations and investigations.”

Reuben Keeling, senior communications adviser at the ABI, helped organise the event this year and was both surprised and thrilled by the number of entries this year. Art of Bio Eng is a unique way to show off what the ABI does, he says.

“I don’t think many people know about the Institute or the life-changing research ABI researchers are doing, so we challenged our researchers to take a different perspective on their projects, to create something artistic and get people’s attention. There are some really stunning pieces in this collection – who knew bioengineers could be so creative?”

You can view all the entrants and vote for your favourite in the People’ Choice on the Art of Bio Eng website.

(Wilson and Parkmate are offering free weekend parking in 27 carparks in the city centre for the month of October, if you are able to visit the Library in person.)