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Chance to become part of ‘living sculpture’

Posted on 13 May 2014

A visual artist is looking for groups of people from the York area to take part in a dynamic science-art project which will create ‘living sculptures’.

The project ‘Symbiosis: Social Experiments with Living Sculptures’ is a collaboration between Liverpool-based artist Laurence Payot and Professor Michael Brockhurst, an evolutionary biologist at the University of York. It is looking at the parallels between symbiotic relationships in nature and social bonding between groups of people.

Photo-shoots will take place on 17 and 18 May at York Medical Society in Stonegate, when participants will become a ‘symbiotic glow in the dark collective living sculpture’.  The visual experiment involves participants being immersed in a dark room and invited to use hundreds of meters of glow-in-the-dark bead necklaces to create connections with each other. The beads, like floating bacteria seen under the microscope, will be brought to life by the people involved.

People can join the project as a group – for example, family, friends or colleagues - or as individuals to be paired up with other participants. The resulting work will be presented at the York Festival of Ideas in June.

Professor Brockhurst, an Anniversary Chair in York’s Department of Biology, said: “Our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria. Our view of their importance has been revolutionised by genome sequencing, which has revealed their vast diversity but also the associations between particular bacterial species or combinations of species and our health.“The living sculptures project is investigating and re-scaling these symbiotic relationships and testing this biological model of mutual benefit in social bonding experiments.”

Laurence Payot added: “The aim of this work is to make visible our invisible connections - just like in the laboratory where scientists make visible the invisible microscopic worlds. It is about organic relations, about life and its constant shift of shapes.”

The innovative project is funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council England Grants for the arts programme, and the University of York’s Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2).

The free photo-shoots will take place on 17 and 18 May from 10am to 5pm at York Medical Society, 23 Stonegate. Participants will receive a free high resolution digital photograph of their group portrait. As places are limited, any group of friends or family interested in taking part should contact to book one of the 20 minute slots.

Notes to editors:

  • For more information on ‘Symbiosis: Social Experiments with Living Sculptures’ visit
  • More information on the University of York’s Department of Biology at
  • Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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General enquiries

  • C2D2 Administrator
    Ron Cooke Hub RCH/109
    University of York
    York YO10 5GE

    +44 (0)1904 328876