The 30 Computers Sculpture Project
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TVol Photos

Photo by: Tvol, Timothy Vollmer, May 30, 2009


Published as: "Computer Virus Sculptures and the Science That Inspired Them," Leonardo, 47(3), 206-211. The MIT Press, June 10, 2014


The Origins of Computer Virus Sculptures

The idea for the Computer Virus sculpture series grew from fertile ground that had two critical ingredients: first, the early sculptures in the 30 Computers series were based on polyhedrons and second, they were given anthropomorphic names: Bones, Skin and Digital Womb. While trying to develop ideas of what to do with the remaining computer parts I began to search for other biological images. I was stunned and amazed when I found an image of an HIV virus in the shape of an icosahedron. This startling discovery led me into the world of microbiology and virology. The T4 bacteriophage, the adenovirus, rhinovirus and so many other viruses had icosahedral capsids; a polyhedron that I had come to know and appreciate. Inspired by these fascinating organisms and their polyhedral shapes, many of the remaining computer parts found their sculptural home as shown below.

The Structure of Biological Viruses

The term virus has been attributed to a Dutch microbiologist Martinus Beijerinck who is also known as the father of virology. While there are many shapes and structures to virsues, the scientists acknowledged to have identified the icosahedral structure are Caspar and Klug who presented their work at a 1962 symposia. [4].

Interestingly, during the late 1950’s as their research began to take direction, they were influenced by Buckminster Fuller’s book and the concept of tensegrity structure. It should be noted that while this term is attributed to Fuller the original concept can also be traced to American sculptor Kenneth Snelson who built a sculpture exemplifying this concept in 1948. [1].

Based on Fuller’s influence Caspar and Klug developed the idea that virus shells were structured like geodesic domes. Subsequently they were able to demonstrate that the virus they were studying had icosahedral symmetry based on their observation that it had 5-fold symmetry and rotational symmetry called 532 symmetry by crystallographers. [5].

Casper and Klug also developed the idea of "self assembly" after considering the viral assembly process as a crystallization process. [6].

Similarities Between Biological Viruses and Computer Viruses: Self-Replication.

It was the self-assembly or self-replication characteristic of biological viruses that influenced University of Southern California doctoral candidate Fred Cohen He is the person who coined the term "computer virus" to describe a computer program that can "affect other computer programs by modifying them in such a way as to include a (possibly evolved) copy of itself." [2], [3].

There are many other similarities between biological viruses and computer viruses. The relationships have been studied by IBM Researchers, anti-virus developers, microbiologists, and many others.

The similarity between biological viruses and computer virus sculptures is based on the icosahedral and spherical structures of viruses. These similarities are shown in the side-by-side images below. Additional information about each virus and sculpture can be found by double clicking the respective images below.


Representations of Actual Biological Viruses and Sculptures of Viruses Using Computer Parts

Photos, Drawings and Other Representations of Biological Viruses Computer Virus Sculptures
T4 Bacteriophage CV #1: Floppy
T4 bacteriophage
Source: See National Science Foundation  
HIV Virus CV #2: Wilco Virus (Toroidal)
Aids Computer Virus - Aids
Copyright Russell Kightley Media,  
Rhinovirus 16 (common cold) CV #3: Transformer Virus
Source: Dr. Michael Rossmann, Ph.D., Structural Virology, Purdue University  
Rhinovirus 14 (common cold) CV #4: Capacitor Virus
Source: Created by: Tom Smith, Structural Virology, Purdue University.  
Cucumber Mosaic Virus CV #5: Magneto Virus
Source: Virus World  
T4 Bacteriophage CV #6: T9 Track Virus
Adenovirus CV #7: AdenoCD Virus
Image source: Wikipedia
Artomatic 2012
HIV Virus CV #8: Power Supply Virus (2013)
Aids Computer Virus
Copyright Russell Kightley Media,  
Mammalian Orthoreovirus CV #9: S3 Video Virus (2013)
Mammalian Computer Virus
Coronavirus CV #10: Blue Capacitor Virus (2014)
Mammalian Computer Virus
Norovirus CV #11: Transistor Virus (2014)
Mammalian Computer Virus
HIV-1 CV #12: Radial Inductor Virus (2014)
Aids Computer Virus

Artomatic Comments

So clever! Love it! Heather Bartlett
Awesome! Keep churning out the viruses! XXOO
Seriously. Freaking. Awesome.
LUV-IT. Neat stuff
This is completely ingenious!!!
AWESOME - This taught me all about viruses, computers and beyond. Brilliant
Very cool. bacteriophage... T4 Virus?
010001010 AWESOME Steven Krensky IBID
Terrific Work!! Dr. G
Very inventive! Renee
I love it! Dahlia
Very creative. I like the techy stuff. Keep up the good work. Amir
Computer Virus Transport Module!! FTW
I remember you from last year. You are too goooood. Sklov
Love it! Very well done, very clever.
Looks Great. Sorry we missed you. Rob "The Enabler" & Amy
Love the use of technology parts. Julian Lee
Is technology an actual virus overtaking biological life?
as a scientist, definitely appreciate the creative edge you bring.
Making science accessible is a good thing. Merci
Great Exhibit!. Love the viruses - you&squot;ve made us Artomatic devotees. Barbara & Jose Luis
I need a satellite like that! -E
Awesome - that is so cool! Donovan
Intelligent, well conceived, funny, thought provoking. Carole
I love recycled art. Great stuff. Lisa
Very creative use of recycled parts - also makes me think of the environmental impact of all these discarded computer parts, esp. monitors. Thought-provoking. Jennifer Brewer
No error here! AWESOME
Very creative. Alex Z
What an interesting concept. No vaccines yet? ...
Hey neighbor - quite impressive Francine & Harvey
Very creative blend of biological, cyber and artistic efforts. -J 23rd
I am forever turning off my anti-virus QM
Whoa!! I get it. Clever, very clever
GREAT. Way to recycle. Keep junk off our mother!
Thank you for stepping the show up a notch. Craftsmanship is elegant and attention to detail precise. Plus altering the public view of social issues. Much encouragement to you & thanks. CE
Can I get swine flu just from walking thru? Are these live viruses? JV
Great Idea. Love it. -Isiah Headen
Incredible. I love mixing art & science. Ben Z.
Really cool!! I love recycled art! Conner C.
Vert creative and futuristic. Keep up the good work. I especially adore the T4 project. Very neat & cool - Raven
Thank you for the laugh. NICE! Very interesting, too! K. Bliss
Ya stuff is k-rad! Come to! --tim ball
I caught aids
This is so cool! Very creative. Lynn
Cool! -Eric E.
This is scary. They look like aliens and I think they are going to eat me. Good job though! -Devvie
That is pritty brainy. Mattie M.
Cool concept!
Yes, very cool. thx.
Oh My God, Your work is awesome
Cool! the viruses are crrazzzy
This joint is legit.
Personally, I think your illness is "TERMINAL" LOVE IT!!-M
SO COOL! - Rachel
		./ &
		./ &
		echo YES
Create Intersection of Biology & Computers & Art! Suzanne
bad ass! -W
Your bacteriophages are disturbingly lifelike. -Biologist
Great! fantastic work. please add me to your mailing list. Emily G.
Awesome. Your work is so creative. Keep it up. You make me smile.
Infectious!! PC
Nice work
Sweet!! You are so creative.
It was great meeting you. Glad to have such a cool, talented and original neighbor. Lydia Prentiss
Your art, it is Amazing! It was a good idea to make art that way!
great art from computers - combinations of digital & biological worlds.
Great, funny + "inventive" to the max! Love this work - you could teach classes based on diff. disciplines/etc. Sally Wood (Aartwork)
Nice work. Very differnt; However, your note on the Wilco Virus is not 100% correct. An "AIDS" virus is really H.I.V. - AIDS is caused by HIV.
I love it. Zea
		I once had a virus,
		       and I let it spread,
		            then my computer,
		                  just wound up DEAD
		            D. Pinegar Xavieur
The Most Binarial Creative Concept
ICZ (Art Curator)
I love it! How much for a virus? Ursula M.
Superr Cool Casey
Good to see another artist with a passion for science & and book learning. -A Golden
Really neat concept.
Good stuff. I like the Womb
You Rock
Very clever CJ
We took a break from dog-walking to visit Artomatic - and it was worth it!! Excellent, interesting sculptures! Dwight & Sherri

Artomatic Photo Streams



[1] Morgan GJ, Comments from Gregory Morgan Available from: Accessed September 22, 2009.

[7] Jeffrey O. Kephart and Steve R. White, "Directed-Graph Epidemiological Models of Computer Viruses". Available from

[2] Fred Cohen & Associates, Available at:, Accessed September 22, 2009.

[8] Wassenaar TM and Blaser MJ. "Contagion on the Internet". Emerg Infect Dis. 2002 Mar, cited September 22, 2009. Available from

[3] Brian Krebs, "A Short History of Computer Viruses and Attacks" Washington Post online, Friday, February 14, 2003; Available at Accessed May 17, 2010.

[9] Gert Korthof, 2 Feb 2006, Similarities and Dissimilarities of Computer Viruses and Biological Viruses. Available from

[4] Morgan GJ. The Beauty of Symmetrical Design. PhD Dissertation in Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 2004.

[5] Morgan GJ. Historical Review: Viruses, crystals, and geodesic domes. Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 2003; 28(2): 86-90.

[6] Morgan GJ (2004) "Early Theories of Virus Structure". In: Cheng H, Hammar L(eds) Conformational proteomics of macromolecular architectures. World Scientific, Singapore, Chapter 4.

Virus (2013), The Chicago School of Media Theory

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