Infinite Transformations

Creating Transcendent Space with Projection and Sound

Our shared human history is full of impressive structures that provide venues for us to meet our spiritual needs. At a time when our social institutions and clubs are falling into decline, when places of worship are becoming condos, and even shopping malls are emptying, our fractured societies need places for people to come together, create, and share much needed contemplative experiences of connectivity. Moved by this need, and the poetry, art, and science traditions of his Persian cultural heritage, Foad Hamidi was inspired, with Linda Dusman, to initiate the project, Infinite Transformations (previously Raaz, in Farsi: راز). It is a “pop-up” structure for bringing people together for spiritual transcendence in celebration of perhaps the most powerful idea shared by world religions: Love. It is an immersive meditative multimedia installation that required the interdisciplinary research team that produced it to use draw knowledge and techniques from Persian culture and poetry, synthetic biology, forms of aperiodic tiling that vary endlessly and never repeat, projection mapping and engineering, spatialized music and sound composition, animation, and most recently, dance, to create a space that supports experiences of reflection on ideas that can bring resilience and vitality to a culture. Several iterations of it have been exhibited—some with performance—at UMBC. Most recently it was installed in the Dance Tech Space in the UMBC Performing Arts and Humanities Building as both an installation and a dance performance by students in the Department of Dance.

2 images side-by-side: one of the tomb of the poet, Hafiz, the other, an image of the ceiling within that structure
2 images side-by-side: one of the tomb of the poet, Hafiz, the other, an image of the ceiling within that structure

The meditative space embodies representations of a canonical poem by fourteenth-century Persian Sufi poet Khajeh Mohammad Hafiz Shirazi (Farsi: خواجه شمس‌‌الدین محمد حافظ شیرازی) who used the pen name Hafiz (حافظ). The biologically-embodied text is a meditation on timelessness through transformative love. The text is encoded using Morse code, translated into viable genetic code, fabricated, and inserted into the genome of living yeast cells used to make wine. Ambient audio infused the space with the Hafiz poem, which is transformed into timelessness using the resonant frequencies of a room similar to the tomb of Hafiz. The Morse code translation combines with an original bass flute melody tuned to the poetry reading.


The poetry audiences hear is an excerpt from a longer ghazal—a classic Persian poetic form—that has been translated many times into English and other European languages since the late eighteenth-century. Following is a contemporary translation of the poem.

“One whose heart is vitalized by Love never dies:

Our continuity is written on the face of time.”

The poet, Hafiz, was born in Shiraz (Farsi: شیراز), a desert city in Southern Iran known for its poetry and wine, in 1315. His poetry collection, known as the Divan of Hafiz, is one of the most popular poetry books in present-day Iran. The poems are regularly memorized in Iran and recited at significant events such as weddings and new year celebrations. In addition to the audio of a reading of the two lines, the calligraphic video projected on the table shows their Farsi characters written in ink on the skin of a drum, producing intricate sound.

The Biology of the Wine

The steps needed to move from the original poem to the fermenting wine can be broken down into the following stages: (1) converting the poem into a viable DNA sequence, (2) having the DNA sequence synthesized and inserting it into a plasmid (a circular DNA capable of carrying the inserted DNA into cells), (3) transforming living yeast cells using the plasmid and verifying that the yeast cell DNA has incorporated the correct code, and (4) growing the transgenic yeast and using it to ferment grape juice into wine.

Audio Composition

The audio component of Infinite Transformations emanates from the poetry itself, embodying a layering of transformational continuities that “never die.” As a foundation, Foad Hamidi ‘s reading of the Hafiz poetry passes through reductive filtering processes until it is processed to a near-sine tone, the fundamental building block of all sound. Music for the bass flute surrounds the audience, summoning the ancient Persian ney and focusing on the breath, and grows from the foundational sine tone while accompanying the text. From a distance, Persian morse code sounds out the poetry in high-pitched sine tones, reflecting the genetic coding of the yeast DNA. The melodies fragment and transform as they sound via speakers installed surrounding the space. Through multiple representations, the poem resonates both literally and metaphorically through the meditative space. The scraping sounds of the Persian reed pen ground the continuous calligraph around the wine in the center of the space.

Electron microscopic image of yeast cells used for the project
Electron microscopy image of yeast cells
An varied but non-repeating pattern of black lines on a light blue-green background
The aperiodic tiling design created for the project

Projected Imagery

a blue geometric pattern with polychrome imagery of yeast cells behind it
A blue geometric pattern with polychrome imagery of yeast cells behind it

To produce the animated imagery projected on the inverted dome ceiling, a mixture of live transgenic yeast and wine sediment was stained with three fluorescent dyes: acridine orange, calcofluor white, and congo red. Photomicrographs and video were acquired with a Zeiss LSM 900 confocal microscope using 405 and 488 nm lasers and 3 collection windows (blue, green and red wavelengths) and were processed using Huygens (SVI) deconvolution software and Imaris (Oxford Instruments) cell imaging software. The yeast cell images are placed in a circular field where they are animated and integrated with the aperiodic tiling pattern inspired by ancient Persian mosaics. The pattern was doubled and the two instances form moire patterns that ripple across each other as they pass one another, to create a five-minute looping visual animation that is projected on the ceiling of the space. The geometry and biology both talk to endless variation brought about by a shared instruction set—an idea expressed in the poetry.

Design of the Physical Structure

The overall structure that defines the physical space of Infinite Transformations is based on a motif of concentric circles, distributed in space from the floor to the inverted dome ceiling. It is inspired, in part, by the the tomb of the poet in Shiraz, but also the broader meaning of the circle which connotes wholeness, the cyclical rhythms of nature and the passage of time. It features a table in the center with a large vessel of wine in its center and a projected animation featuring a complex interplay of moving yeast cells and shifting geometric patterns is projected on the curved fabric ceiling. Unlike most domes in buildings designed for spiritual purposes, this dome, formed by a suspended parachute, is inverted, inviting people in, rather than sequestering those already inside. Projected on the table around the wine is a circular video of a skilled calligrapher writing the poem in a circle around the table, over and over again. A schematic drawing of the structure can be found here.

Researchers and Creators

Bioart: Foad Hamidi, Assistant Professor of Information Systems

Music Composition and Sound Art: Linda Dusman, Professor of Music

Recording Engineering and Surround Audio Design: Alan Wonneberger, Director of Recording and Music Technology, Department of Music

Art Direction: Lee Boot, Director of the Imaging Research Center

Animated Imagery: Ryan Zuber, Technical Director of the Imaging Research Center

Choreography and Improvisation: Carol Hess, Professor of Dance and her students (see below)

Cellular Microscopy: Tagide DeCarvalho, Assistant Director, CNMS Core Facilities, College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

Rigging and Technical Production: Greg Schraven, Technical Director, Department of Theater; Brian Jones, Technical Director, Department of Dance

Biological Consulting: Lisa Scheifele, Associate Professor of Biology, Loyola University

Calligrapher: Laila Kolkabi, Independent Calligraphy Artist


Spatial Design: Fahmida Hossain, Graduate Student, Intermedia and Digital Art

Animation and Motion Graphics: Liza Aleinikova, Graduate Student, Intermedia and Digital Art

Experience Design Research: Lydia Stamato, Erin Higgins, and Hasan Mahmud Prottoy, Graduate Students, Human-Centered Computing

Choreography and Improvisation: Juju Ayoub, Erica Doerrler, Sarah McHale, Joanna Pedro

We would like to thank the Baltimore Underground Science Space (BUGSS), UMBC’s Departments of Theatre, Eve Muson, Department Chair, and Dance, Department Chair


$24,000. 2022 Imaging Research Center, Faculty Research Fellowship awarded to PIs, Foad Hamidi and Linda Dusman.

Publications, Exhibitions, and Performances

The prototype described here has been presented as an art installation and space of transcendence at UMBC’s Performing Arts and Humanities Building from May 22-24, 2023.

It was again presented, this time with the dance component on February 9,10, 2024.


Stamato, L., Prottoy, H. M., Higgins, E., Scheifele, L., Hamidi, F. 2024. Message in a Bottle: Investigating Bioart Installations as a Transdisciplinary Means of Community Engagement. Accepted, to appear at CHI’2024.

Conference Presentations and Invite Talks

Hamidi, F. 2023. Raaz: Transcendence through Creating Transgenic Poetic Wine. Presentation at Interdisciplinary Conference on Taboo, Transgression, and Transcendence, Malta.

Hamidi, F. Investigating Transdisciplinary Approaches for Community-engagement. Talk at Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA, November 2023.

Hamidi, F. Community-based Participatory Design Investigating Emerging Technologies. Talk at HCIL, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, November 2023.

Dusman, L. Talk at Conservatorio “G. Nicolini” Piacenza, Italy, March 2023.

Dusman, L. Talk at University of Utah School of Music June 2023.

Dusman, L. Talk at Peabody Conservatory, July 2023.

Dusman, L. Talk at Berklee College of Music, April 2022.