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Marie-Sarah Adenis, the poetry of life

It is always tempting to describe a creator as an artist, designer, poet or scientist. Marie-Sarah Adenis defines herself above all as a storyteller of the living.

Thanks to an atypical background that combines studies in biology at the ENS-Ulm and in design at the Ensci-Les Ateliers, she is at the crossroads of science, design and the arts. From biology, she extracts formidable stories of the living to tell, from design the questioning and the rigor, and from art the imagination the tools.

Winner of the AudiTalents prize in 2020 for her project “Ce qui tient à un fil”, exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in 2021, this determined and enthusiastic young woman continues on her singular path away from conventional paths. The project is a scenographic, visual and sound journey retracing the forms of DNA, component of all living things (animals, trees, viruses or bacteria).

One walks in a garden of Eden in the middle of chromosomal column shapes and images on a black background. Without going into the life sciences, but with a seven-year background in biology, she expresses her vision of creation that has the mission of translating the narratives of the infinitely small, embracing the discoveries of this sector, and confronting them with the power of the imaginary. “My studies were not a means to acquire a profession but rather a way to nourish my approach.” She immerses herself in the mysteries of the living world and the multiplicity of her questions: how does an organism work? What is the secret mechanism of plants and ecosystems? What is the purpose of our DNA? This question is all the more relevant today (due to global warming), because if nature is to be preserved, it must be integrated into the material world.

Ce qui tient à un fil
Ce qui tient à un fil

In the project Tousteszincs [all and all cousins], she proclaims our belonging to the same brotherhood, whether “we are human, pelican or bacterium“. In the form of a small sculpture, the Phylogenetic Temple, she correlates the beautiful images of chimeras, which reveal their beauty and mystery, with the representatives of the great families of the history of species. Is it a question of popularizing science, as the biologist Jean Painlevé had begun with his research films on the underwater world (in reference to the exhibition “Les pieds dans l’eau“, which took place until September 18 at the Jeu de Paume, in Paris)? While having assimilated the sciences as a superposition of knowledge in perpetual movement, Marie-Sarah Adenis endeavors to put them into form, borrowing different tools such as design, drawing or writing through installations, exhibitions but also very concrete projects.

Tousteszincs project, Phylogenetic temple, Marie-Sarah Adenis

Between fundamental and applied research


In 2015, she co-founded Pili, a pioneering project that develops an ecological process for the production of dyes to replace those produced by the petrochemical industry through the cultivation of bacteria and the transformation of these micro-organisms. Today, in collaboration with With more than 40 scientists from laboratories in Paris (Cnam), Toulouse (TWB) and Lyon, the company is about to launch its first bio-based pigments (and drastically reduce carbon emissions by 40 to 80%).

Anne Swynghedauw

Find our special report “Design Next Gen” in the issue 214 of Intramuros, available in newsstands, in partner bookstores and concept stores, and on our online store.