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Subtle Technologies: Cc: me Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 09:08 divider Write Comment divider References (1) divider

Elaine WhittakerCc:me (2012) at  Red Head Gallery

Unable to make it for the Festival's opening reception of Elaine Whittaker's exhibition titled Cc:me we managed to catch a lunch break view of her works during the conference. The displays included live salt-thriving bacteria, Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, identified by their pink pigment production. Grown on agar and fixed as wall-mounted petri dishes in an intermix of salvaged fax print outs, the work reflects on the interconnectedness (or disparities) between the inscription of redundant technological communication tools (fascimile) and the living and evolving biological communication entities (bacteria) growing 'over' and 'inbetween' carbon imprints. 

Elaine WhittakerCc:me (2012) at  Red Head Gallery

"The body becomes a site for the infectious nature of language – nuanced, messaged, poetic, copied. Abstracted human figures, sketched using discarded carbon fax typographies, are presented as both wall drawings and insertions in petri dish installations teeming with live bacteria.  These spent faxes, of once urgent environmental campaigns, are juxtaposed against crass viral commercial messaging, become shadowy iterations of the body, images of mutable histories, degraded texts, and transformative ecology. Four local poets, Julie Roorda, Jim Johnstone, Ruth Roach Pierson and Larry Sulky, and sound artist, Tom Auger, respond to the work. The poets’ words are, in turn, transformed into evocative tracings of wit, longing, memory, and life. Installations of word, sound and object. The textual, the aural and the visual. The carbon copy of yesterday becomes the transfigured art of today."

Elaine WhittakerCc:me (2012) at  Red Head Gallery

Elaine WhittakerCc:me (2012) at  Red Head Gallery

Elaine WhittakerCc:me (2012) at  Red Head Gallery

Elaine WhittakerCc:me (2012) at  Red Head Gallery

Elaine Whittaker, Cc:me (2012) at  Red Head Gallery
Subtle Technologies: Bullet and the Biohack - Animating and Repurposing Dead Organs Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 09:33 divider Write Comment divider

Culture of cells onto bio-INcompatible substrates with no relationship to any natural micro-environment.

Talking about the collaborative research conducted at the Pelling Lab for Biophysical Manipulation, Dr Andrew Pelling's presentation showcased his bio-hacking activities that literally pushes limits of biological function. For instance, he showed how his team of PhD's and post-docs are capable of creating microfluidic system that cannot only hold but also bend cells.

Growing of human-jellyfish hybrid ‘skins’ onto LEGO mini-figures.

Developed in preparation for his residency stint at SymbioticA (2011), LEGO project grows living 'skins' around LEGO plastics through a process of culturing genetically modified human cells (including HeLa) expressing fluorescent jellyfish proteins. 

Decellularised process of mouse heart

In a facinating 'Bio-hacking Project', Andrew and his team used a "decellularising" process to remove cells from mouse hearts (otherwise disposed) leaving behind the extracellular matrix (ECM), and then used the heart scaffold to grow liver cells on top, boasting that by "adding a couple of electrodes" you'll have a pumping heart with liver cells.

Multi-bioreactor setup

By using EMC, Andrew's team discovered that they can produce cheap callogen scaffolds, otherwise expensive and difficult to manipulate into natural shapes. Multiple-bioreactor set up is used to collect pure EMC to create designer biodevices. 

Decellularised steak 

Moving from a decellularised steaks, Andrew attested to the hard work his lab before sharing an astonishing result that had emerged on the day of his talk, an image featuring a decelluarised apple with human tissue cells growing on top of it!
Subtle Technologies: Public dialogue on EXPERIMENTS Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 09:37 divider Write Comment divider References (1) divider

Arriving late, from across town where we had been visiting Elaine Whittaker's Cc:me exhibition, Gail Lotenberg, the artistic director of LINK Dance Foundation, and scientist Dr Mark Winston, a Professor of Apiculture and Social Insects at Simon Fraser University, were sharing the outcome of their collaborative engagement.

The dance/science performance titled EXPERIMENTS: Logic and Emotion Collide was shown as part of Subtle Technology Festival.

The performance, which we attended later that evening, attempted to connect processes of dance and science to understand the world around us.

Inspired by non-verbal communication of animals, the performance focused on the interactions between both disciplines - i.e. Dr Larry Dill, a scientists, performs (not dancing but speaking about his research) live alongside three dancers or using 3D space of dance rather than graphs to convey abstractions of real phenomena. EXPERIMENTS: Logic and Emotion Collide was a very literal way of communicating science using the medium of dance and visa versa.

"EXPERIMENTS embodies a dialogue that has been happening since 2007 between a company of artists and a handful of behavioral ecologists, driven to expand public interest in science. There is no easy narrative to follow in the dance because in the spirit of science and art, EXPERIMENTS aims to ignite the thinking mind rather than offer answers. Watching dance is like a behavioral ecologist or a choreographer observing non-verbal communication through movement: The mind receives stimuli and constructs meaning (an interaction between what actually unfolds in front of the eyes and the stories that play out behind them). This is the process of creating dance and the process of formulating a hypothesis. Now, it’s your turn." – Gail Lotenberg
Subtle Technologies: Using MRI and drawing as maps to heal my frozen shoulder Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 12:21 divider Write Comment divider

Jack Butler gave a personal account of mapping his own embodied experience and visual data produced by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  The pain he experienced as a result of his frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis - a disabling condition restricting shoulder movement) and the images produced by the MRI hightlights the limitations of this technology.

Through his drawings, Jack attempts to connect his own mapping of these embodied experiences with the, seemingly reductive, images by the MRI.

In doing so, he ask how these images - MRI and drawings - could overlap to produce visual art at the service of healing.
Subtle Technologies: Art from Synthetic Biology / The Sensorial Invisibility of Plants Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 17:07 divider Write Comment divider

Dr Laura Cinti and Howard Boland were invited to present their research and artworks being undertaken at C-LAB

Laura introduced C-LAB as a research-focused art-science collective and organisation.  

The presentation focused Laura and Howard's shared critique and discourse that deals with how artists working between the domains of art and biology, particularly those employing biotechnology, have been effective at producing speculative and dramatic living displays focusing on aesthetics and ethics. However, there is a need for artists to take into account the biological meaning and knowledge processes, which have so far been overshadowed by cultural ideas and themes that play little, if no role, on a biological or biochemical level. 

Laura discussed her doctoral research (2011, UCL) that included probing scientific possibilities of having living (non-specialised) plants respond directly and visibly to touch.  Drawing inspiration from recent and novel biomedical applications conducted at UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging, where iron oxide nanoparticles were manipulated using magnetic fields and used as 'smart delivery systems' to guide stem cells inside living organisms to sites of cardiovascular injury, she developed an experimental approach of having plants internalise these nanoparticles.  

The outcome, an artwork titled Nanomagnetic Plants, explores how movements can be actualised in plants and this was the first demonstration of magnetically actuated plants.

Howard spoke about his doctoral research and institutional challenges facing hybrid practitioners in articulating scientific knowledge processes within the humanities. He argued that what is captured in the living and its processes can move beyond cultural aesthetics and open new ontological and cultural spaces that breakdown anthropomorphism, or at least better understand the material we are working with.   

Through his daily practice at the molecular laboratory at University of Westminster, he has developed several works including Stress-o-stat, a work that emerged through a series of experiments that looked at visually capturing (oxidative) stress in bacteria as light.   

In another work, Banana Bacteria, he transformed a genetic construct developed by a team at MIT capable of converting an alcohol (isoamyl) into an ester (isoamyl acetate or banana oil) into an odourless bacterial strain and grew this in an odourless media with a small amount of alcohol.  The work allows audience to experience a strange and confusing sensation of bacterial smelling like banana.

He has also explored non-modified system such as sludge bacteria from sewage capable of degrading textile dye as a way of generating 'disappearing' or Transient Images. Utilising bottles containing azo dyes (textile dye), he varies the inoculum resulting in images appearing as the dye degrades and disappears
Subtle Technologies: Cellular Performance Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 19:36 divider Write Comment divider

Verena Friedrich's presentation was divided in two parts: providing a contextual background of her work - Cellular Performance (2011 - ) - and the second, the process and its progress.    

As a starting point, Verena looked at the misappropriated advertising language of cosmetic products (i.e. Juvena) by collecting from the range of terms (i.e."Chroma-Lift", "Pore Minimizer") used to entice its customers. These terms, though seductive, seem to have little to do with their actual effect on the skin.    

During her residencies at SymbioticA and Laboratories of Stem Cell Bioengineering in 2011 and 2012, she developed Cellular Performance by shaping human skin cells into readable texts through a series of methods involving tissue culture, microfabrication, and patterning techniques to manipulate the cell's movements and thus inscribe words. 

Imaging methods (fluorescence microscopy) were used for visual outputs of its development.

By utillising timelapse to capture cells movement over time, the inscribed word (pattern) become visible as if written by the skin cells.
Subtle Technologies: Consciousness | Symbiosis State Project Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 21:09 divider Write Comment divider References (1) divider

Following Marguerite Humeau's attempts resuscitating "voices" of prehistoric lives, Amber Stucke's presentation draws on interdisciplinary ideas integrated in her artistic research.    

She began with a story of a fungus - mycelium - found on dead insects in tropical wet climates. Mycelium spores attach themselves onto ants (or any insect) fatally infecting the ant's brain by altering its behaviour (zombie ants) and using its body as a vessel to reproduce. The fruiting bodies emerge (cordyceps) from the brain and the cycle continues.

When Amber ingests cordyceps mushroom extracts, she recalls the story of these ants and imagines its influence on her mind-body state, and how it may affect her drawings. Her works reflexively connect her biological imagery with other kinds of biological consciousness (i.e. Michael Pollan gives a plant's-eye view).

"This curiosity also leads me to a journey of how my consciousness and drawing have grown together to create an internal state of mind that I call symbiosis state."
Subtle Technologies: Proposal for resuscitating prehistoric lives Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 21:25 divider Write Comment divider

Speculative designer, Marguerite Humeau's presentation looked at the possibilities of reviving sounds of extinct animals by reconstructing their vocal tract that was developed during her Master's in Design Interactions at Royal College of Art Design (2009-2011)

Marguerite's self-described "obsessional expedition" involving "the fictional potential of scientific experiments" was initiated through discussions with various experts that included palaeontologists, zoologists and radiologists. Drawing inspiration from images of skulls and CT scans of larynxes, vocal tracts, she developed 3D sculptural prototypes that utilised data that could reproduce the vocal sounds of prehistoric animals.     

The project attempts in part to follow scientific evidence and approximations by collecting scans of animals similar to those extinct (e.g. a baby elephant).

Following the first successful transplantation of human larynx which opened the question of whose voice the reciever would turned out that the majority of the sound is defined by the oral cavity and this further helped direct her work. Some interesting questions from the audience related to this aspect: Are you not generalising a whole specie by giving it only one voice...?
Subtle Technologies: Primate Cinema: Apes as family Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 21:45 divider Write Comment divider

In what was an amusing reminder of our ape-like selves, Rachel Mayeri presented a series of videos on primate "soap operas" for human and chimpanzee audiences.   

In her video, Primate Cinema: Baboons as Friends, a split screen showed raw footage of Kenyan baboons' mating behaviour shot by primatologist Deborah Forster and juxtaposed with a reenactment by human actors in film noir style.    
"A tale of lust, jealousy, sex, and violence transpires simultaneously in human and nonhuman worlds. Beastly males, instinctively attracted to a femme fatale, fight to win her, but most are doomed to fail. The story of sexual selection is presented across species, the dark genre of film noir re-mapping the savannah to the urban jungle."

In Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, a drama of a female chimpanzee's friendship with a "wild group of foreigners", Rachel creates a multi-perspective viewing experience. The one screen shows a dramatised film enacted by a human actor dressed as a chimpanzee and the other shows the 'TV screening' for the chimpanzees in a zoo by having a TV placed in their habitat.
Subtle Technologies: Exploratory soundscapes of arterial flow Laura Cinti divider 26 May 12, 22:11 divider Write Comment divider

In Dr Dolores Steinman's very engaging presentation, she discussed her research with Dr David Steinman (Biomedical Simulation Laboratory, University of Toronto) utilising sound as a novel method for interpreting data of blood flow patterns.

In spite of its prevalence and clinical significance (i.e. aneurysm and atherosclerosis), artery flow disturbance (i.e. ruptures or wall thickening) is not well understood.

While medical imaging technology allows us to visualise our inner bodies and biological processes, Dolores argued that they also obfuscate our interpretations of what we are seeing.  To evidence her point, we were asked to select which representation provided the most accurate interpretation of data amongst a series the medical images (see photo above).  Result: None of us guessed it right. Ironically, it was the least visually captivating/illustrative image (far right). 

Thus sound, without visual obfuscations (i.e. variations in interpretations or details), may provide a more succinct and richer manifestation of the inside of arteries.

Through their collaboration with Dr Riccardo Castagna (musician/composer, electronic & sound designer, Green On), Dr Valentina Margaria (biotechnologist, Green On) and Diego Gallo (biomedical engineer, University of Torino), they are now exploring ways of sonifying the data by looking at correlations between the sound data and their significations in blood flow of arteries.
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