Lecture: Macromolecular Complexes – The Switches of Life


Tubes meander throughout the exhibition spaces of the Frankfurter Kunstverein, connecting the laboratory apparatuses and objects in Thomas Feuerstein’s installation in a functioning experimental set-up. A slow-moving slime that molds itself into a liquid sculpture emerges from algae and fungi. Various chemical processes lead to the extraction of a synthetic hallucinogen, which exerts a psychotropic effect that would affect human perception if ingested and cause solid objects to dissolve.

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote in his doctrine on the unity of all things, “Everything flows.” This saying gains a new, contemporary significance when considered against the findings in cell biology. All living things are composed of cells. Thus, understanding life means first and foremost understanding cells. Numerous organisms are single-celled organisms that, in the smallest of spaces, produce energy, metabolize and synthesize all of the compounds necessary for life and reproduce as a result of biochemically-driven processes.

Prof. Volker Dötsch is a specialist in structural biology, which he combines with research in biochemistry and cell biology in order to study the regulation of biochemical processes in cells. In his lecture, he considered Thomas Feuerstein’s work from his perspective as a molecular biologist and explained its underlying scientific concept.

In 1991, Prof. Volker Dötsch wrote his dissertation at the ETH Zurich. After receiving his doctorate, he pursued studies in biophysics as a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Medical School in the United States in 1994. He continued his academic career at UCSF in San Francisco from 1998 to 2003, where he also taught as an assistant professor. Since 2003, Volker Dötsch has held a chair in Biophysical Chemistry at the Institute of Biophysical Chemistry in Frankfurt.