Glass sculpture '2020: the Sphere that Changed the World' by Angela Palmer, 2020. Edition 1 of 3. Hand engraving of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on 28 sheets of glass. Piece comprises the glass sculpture, plus slatted base, plinth and perspex lid. Illuminated from below.
In 2020, as Covid-19 spread across the world, Angela Palmer became fascinated by seeing and knowing better the architecture of this invisible virus. In previous work, she pioneered a technique to reconstruct the human body by drawing or engraving details from MRI or CT scans onto multiple sheets of glass, displayed layer by layer to build a shifting picture of the subject. Interested if this method could help make the architecture of the Coronavirus available for scrutiny and interrogation, she contacted bioinformatics specialist, Professor Dmitry Korkin of Worcester Polytechnic in Massachusetts, USA, who shared cross sections of his model of the Covid-19 virus. This was mapped from the viral genome provided by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, which uses the genomic map of the original virus found in Wuhan, China. Palmer collaborated with Professor Yiannis Ventikos, the Head of Mechanical Engineering at UCL, and his team to translate Korkin’s data into cross-sections usable in her work.
She then spent the ﬁrst three months of the 2020 UK lockdown engraving by hand the multiple layers and spikes constructing the virus particle onto individual sheets of glass. For Palmer, the resulting sculpture oﬀers the observer the opportunity of a meditation on the year 2020, a chance to reﬂect on both the global impact of a pandemic but also individual, personal implications of the period on each and every international citizen. ‘It may prompt reﬂection and contemplation of loss - a loss that will of course be unique in form to each observer'. ‘Laid bare, the particle sphere may also oﬀer empowerment and agency, seen suspended and imprisoned in a glass chamber, suddenly solitary, isolated and vulnerable.’