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drew berry - body code

drew berry - body code - 3D computer animation displayed as single-channel DVD projection

body code, 2003
3D computer animation displayed as single-channel DVD projection; stereo audio
8:34 mins; colour
Sound design: Franc Tétaz
Collection: Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Courtesy: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) and the artist

contents:   essay  |  artist's bio  |  artist's statement


In recent years, as high-end digital animation tools have been used to create impossible worlds in popular cinema, these same tools have been used to visualise the scientific and medical worlds with previously unimagined accuracy. Using scientific data to inform the properties of digital visualisations, animators have been able to illustrate and illuminate the landscapes concealed beneath the surface of the natural world.

Drew Berry, one of the world's foremost animators working in biomedical visualisation, has concentrated much of his work on cellular visualisation - animating the behaviour, dynamics and physical properties of DNA, bio-molecules and proteins.

For viewers unfamiliar with biomedical science, Berry's animations function as a tool for representing activities occurring within our bodies that could otherwise only be seen at a magnification of 100 million times. What distinguishes these works in the context of the moving image art form is the creation of a visual landscape that is extraordinary, strange and other-worldly, even though viewers are armed with the knowledge that they are scientifically exact. To follow the virtual camera through this strange world reminds them of the constant energetic presence of their own seething, pulsing, cellular functions. Watching these works, viewers become strangers in their own skin, inhabitants of a foreign landscape. Berry uses this synthesis of scientific and digital technology to create a holistic sense of the world beneath people's skin, sending a ripple across the viewers' bodies as they interact with the work, enlivened with the knowledge of their organic relation to the alien world on screen.

Berry, who studied cellular science as a Masters student at the University of Melbourne, presents the viewer with work that traverses the spheres of science, education and art. The sophistication and rigour with which he creates these animated journeys across the microscopic landscape of the human interior illuminates the viewer to a world that is always present within us but impossible to see or experience as an image. 

artist's bio

1970 - Born in New York, USA; lives and works in Melbourne, Australia

Drew Berry is a 3D digital animator who creates complex biomedical visualisations for the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), Australia's flagship centre for medical research. Born in New York, he relocated to Australia where he gained a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. He went on to receive a Master of Science for his work in studying human cells using time-lapse microscopy. The innovative and elegant approach to 3D biomedical animation that he has engaged in while at WEHI has seen his work transcend the boundaries of medical research.

Berry's animations have been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the National Museum of Australia and, most recently, as part of SIGGRAPH 2003 in San Diego, USA. His animations have also been included in numerous documentaries for Channel 4, PBS and ABC. Focusing primarily on visualisations of cells, DNA and proteins, Berry's work has enabled a large audience to understand the microscopic workings of the human body while illuminating the mysterious landscape of the body at cellular level.

Work of Drew Berry included in:

~ "DNA" documentary series (5 x 1 hour episodes), Produced by Windfall Films, screening on Channel 4 (UK), PBS (USA), ABC (Australia), 2003
~ "DNA: The Secret of Life" 30 minute film for museums around the world, Produced by Windfall Films and RGB Co, UK, 2003
~ "Preventing Disease Transmission", American Red Cross, Produced by StayWell, 2001
~ "Bloody Suckers" Kill or Cure Series, Natural History New Zealand for Discovery Channel, 2001
CSIRO's "Australia Advances" TV science series, screened on ABC and Qantas's in-flight entertainment program, 1999
~ "Blood Sucking Plants?" Produced by Horizons, 1998
~ Traveller's Medical and Vaccination Centres as a component of their video teaching aids, 1998
~ Cytographics science education videos "Microscopic Life", "From Egg to Tadpole" and "Cell Division", 1998, 1999


~ Viruses & Mutations, Experimenta Media Arts Festival, St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, 1998
~ Great Australian Science Show, Melbourne Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Australia, 1998
~ Human Mind & Body Program, Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, 1999
~ Technologies of Necessity, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, Australia, 1999
~ Great Australian Science Show, Melbourne Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Australia, 1999
~ CSIRO Scinema Science Film Festival, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 2001
~ Dolan DNA Learning Center video installation, Cold Spring Harbour, NY, USA, 2002
~ Siggraph 2003, Electronic Theatre, San Diego, USA, 2003
~ 7th International Conference for Information Visualisation, Computer Animation and Special Effects Show, London, UK, 2003
~ oZone, Cinema of Tomorrow Experimental Digital Media Art Festival, Pompidou Centre, Paris, France, 2003
~ International Genetics Congress 2003, Melbourne, Australia, 2003
~ Graphite, SIGGRAPH 2003, Electronic Theatre, Melbourne, Australia, 2003
~ Oberhausen Film Festival, Germany, 1988

Website links

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

artist's statement

If a device were possible that could magnify objects 100 million times, we could directly watch the writhing, dynamic molecular world of DNA. However, even with the most advanced imaging technology, the biggest bio-molecules are resolved as static blurry shapes, with scientists relying on other techniques to determine how they interact and accomplish their roles in creating life. Drawing upon this fragmentary evidence from all fields of biomedical research, my quest is to holistically construct the most accurate, insightful visualisations of cellular and molecular worlds that have ever been produced. With clarity and detail never before seen, the animations are enlightening visual explanations of how cells, DNA and bio-molecules perform the essential tasks at the basis of life.

Each of the animations is founded on the latest scientific data sets, such as X-ray crystallography, so that details such as molecular shapes, sizes and real-time dynamics are distinctively accurate. Through the animations, an audience can be placed face-to-face with a neuron pulsing with electric messages, or inside an artery to view the rush of blood cells, or hover above the growing knot of flesh in a tumour.

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