"Angel of Death" - Ubiquitin
Copper, Steel - 9"x9"x16"
2011 - currently on display at ScienceHouse

Life is a dynamic equilibrium of creation and destruction. Inside our cells the protein nano-machines, to which we owe our distinction from the inorganic, are perpetually recycled and rebuilt, forever battling the inevitable fate of entropic decay. Once covalently tagged with Ubiquitin, a protein is doomed to destruction by the proteasome, a protein degradation machine found in all of our cells. The component amino acids are then reused to synthesize new proteins. The constant recycling and rebuilding of proteins not only ensures that damaged proteins are removed quickly, but also allows rapid regulation of enzyme levels in the cell. The meandering path of the metal ribbon closely follows the fold and thus the internal structure of Ubiquitin. It features all of the major structural elements of typical proteins, including two alpha helices and a curved beta sheet. Its small size (76 amino acids) makes it one of the most studied proteins for protein folding and dynamics.
KcsA Potassium Channel
Copper, Steel - 14"x14"x20"

Potassium channels form potassium-selective pores that span cell membranes. They are the most widely distributed type of ion channel found in virtually all living organisms. The four identical subunits are situated in a four-fold symmetrical manner around a central pore, which allows potassium ions to pass freely. At the top of the structure, formed by four loops lining the pore, a selectivity filter is situated which prevents other ions (such as sodium ions) from passing. The correct ions are detected by their size and charge. Note that that no active pumping of ions occurs; it merely allows passive conductance of ions down the con-centration gradient between the two sides of the membrane. The KcsA is an archetypal membrane protein with eight tightly packed membrane-spanning a-helices. The four short helices in the center where the chain crosses half the membrane and then returns to the top are a more unusual feature.
Bacterial Porin
Copper, Steel, Wenge Wood - 12"x12"x24"
2012 - Currently at Hutchinson Cancer Institute, Seattle

The boundary of cellular life, which delineates the living chemistry from its surroundings, was among the most important fundamental inventions of evolution eons ago. Protein channels span these molecular castle walls and regulate the diffusional traffic of molecules trying to enter or leave the cell. One class of these molecular gatekeepers are the Porins, beta-barrel proteins that are situated in the outer membranes of cells or organelles such as human mitochondria. The Porin channel is partially blocked by a loop, called the eyelet, which projects into the cavity and defines the size of solute that can traverse the channel. Porins can be chemically selective, they can transport only one group of molecules, or may be specific to one molecule. For example, for antibiotics to be effective against a bacterium, it must often pass through an outer membrane Porin. Bacteria can develop resistance to the antibiotic by mutating the gene that encodes the Porin – the antibiotic is then excluded from passing through the outer membrane.
Savior (IgG)
Copper, Steel, Gold/Chrome plating - 56"x50"x18"
2013 - Hutchinson Institute

The machinery of life, an inevitably complex system, must constantly defend itself from intrusion and subversion by other agents inhabiting the biosphere. Ever more intricate systems for the detection and thwarting of intruding foreign life forms have evolved over the eons, culminating in adaptive immunity with one of its centerpieces: The Antibody. Also known as Immunoglobulin, this pronged, Y-shaped protein structure is capable of binding, blocking and neutralizing foreign objects such as as bacteria or viruses. The two tips of the Y have special patches which can tightly recognize and bind a target. Our body generates astronomical numbers of variants, each recognizing a different shape. The variety is so great that completely alien molecules can be recognized even though the body has never encountered them before. Once bound, the antibody blocks the function of the foreign object by physically occluding its functional parts. The Antibody sacrifices itself in the process but not before signalling to the immune system to make more of its specific variant form. After the intruder in question has been fought off, memory cells remain in the bloodstream that can quickly be reactivated should reinfection occur to produce more of the successful variant Antibody.
Copper, Steel, Walnut, Gold/Chrome plating - 10"x6"x6"
2014 - Series of 3, private collection

It is a brave new world, moving from our mechanical world, born in the industrial revolution, to the biotechnological future. The gears of life are complex, encoded polymers, nano machines that create order out of disorder and harness the free energy of the sun to perpetuate the information they carry in to the unknown. Now, man begins to alter that very microscopic machinery that constitutes his existence, that gives rise to his consciousness out of inorganic matter, ever driven forward by his curiosity and desire to manipulate his surroundings and himself.
Cast bronze, Cast Glass, Wood - 20"x10"x12"

Lysozyme enzyme with NAG-NAM glycan chain in active site.
White-Chen catalyst
Cast lead glass, Steel, Magnets - 14"x12"x12"
2015, private collection

DNA Study 1
Cast lead glass, Steel- 9"x7"x4"

Inceptionism: Cities
Convolutional neural net

Inceptionism: Patterns
Convolutional neural net, chance

Inceptionism: Landscapes
Convolutional neural net, chance

Groovik's Cube
Libery Science Center, NJ

Groovik’s Cube is a fully playable, 35ft-high sculpture inspired by the classic puzzle, Rubik’s Cube. It was built by Mike Tyka, Barry Brumitt and a team of artists and engineers from Seattle in 2009. It is, to our knowledge, the largest functional Rubik’s Cube structure in the world. Groovik’s Cube is controlled from 3 control stations that surround the main structure - each player is able to rotate only one axis, creating an entirely new, collaborative puzzle solving experience.

Groovik’s Cube offers a unique new playing mode where three players must collaborate to solve the classic Rubik’s cube puzzle. The cube is controlled via three touch screen interfaces located around the cube, with each interface capable of rotating only one axis of the cube - no single player can solve the cube alone. This innovative twist adds a completely new dimension to the game and turns the classic puzzle into a social game and a fascinating social spectacle.
Liberty Science Center, 2013, NJ
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Groovik’s Cube is built from a lightweight aluminum frame, covered in fabric, and illuminated from the inside by 2 kilowatts of high-power LEDs. It simulates the motion of an ordinary Rubik’s Cube by animating the rotations on the 54 "pixels" that comprise the cube. The total weight of the structure is around 2000 lbs and is designed such that participants may walk safely under the structure. The thin supports are virtually invisible from a distance, creating the magical illusion of a floating cube.

VIDEO: Timelapse of the installation
VIDEO: Speedcubers playing Groovik's Cube
Liberty Science Center, NJ
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Pacific Science Center, 2011, Seattle
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Burning Man 2009, Nevada
Burning Man 2009, Nevada

Mike Tyka studied Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the University of Bristol. He obtained his PhD in Biophysics in 2007 and went on to work as a research fellow at the University of Washington and has been studying the structure and dynamics of protein molecules. In particular, he has been interested in protein folding and has been writing computer simulation software to better understand this fascinating process. Protein folding is the way our genetic code is interpreted from an abstract sequence of data into the functional enzymes and nano machines that drive our bodies. Mike currently works at Google in Seattle.

Mike became involved in creating sculpture and art in 2009 when he helped design and construct Groovik's Cube, a 35ft tall, functional, multi-player Rubik's cube. Since then he's co-founded ALTSpace, a shared art studio in Seattle, and started creating sculptures of protein folds. He hopes to capture some of the hidden beauty of these amazing molecules, make it accessible to the general public, and maybe act as inspiration for those who want to learn more about these fascinating molecules that make life possible.

For more information on the pieces or for commissions contact him at: