Duncan's blog

Living Materials

Living Materials: "At the Artissima art fair last month in Turin, i discovered a new player on the local art scene: the Parco d'Arte Vivente (Park of Living Art).

It all started when i almost fell on my knees in front of an installation by Michel Blazy. The first time i saw his work was at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The installation Post Patman stank, rot, crumbled and formed mushrooms, attracted insects and birds but i love it.

The work on show at Artissima, Le tombeau du poulet aux quatre cuisses (The grave of the four-legged chicken), is a skeleton laying on a bed of earth and surrounded by mushroom. The skeleton looks indeed like the one of a chicken, a giant chicken and as it is made of dog biscuits (made themselves from animal products) will be slowly desintegrating over time.

The PAV was also exhibiting one of Jun Takita's sculpture Jusqu'aux recoins du monde, the sculpture of a brain recovered with bioluminescent algae. For years, the Paris-based artist has been interested in bioluminescence.

Jusqu'aux recoins du monde

According to traditional classification, photosynthesizing organisms
belong to the plant kingdom. Plants transform light into energy but are not capable of bioluminescence —that is, they cannot emit light. Excepting a few species like the dinoflagellates, which belong to both the plant and animal kingdoms, bioluminescence is found in only a few animal species. Biological evolution has not
given rise to an organism that can both consume light as energy and use that energy to create its own light. However, over the last few years, genetic manipulation has made it possible to create bioluminescent plants. These plants/nonplants artificial organisms transgress the laws of nature.

Light only Light, by Jun Takita. Image Yusuke Komiyama

It is easy to perceive a figure in the landscape within 10° of one’s line of sight (the size of the visual field of a fist held out at arm’s length). For example, constellations are based on the principle that one reads stars at a distance of up to about 11° from one another as part of a group. Even when we look at the sky, the human hand is the unit of reference for measuring an image. If an object exceeds this 10° visual field, we have to move our eyes in order to perceive it in its entirety. Vision is then constructed by the accretion of several images memorized by the brain. In 1998, the artist started to work on a garden project based on this phenomenon.

On the left, portrait of Jun Takita

The elevated garden is to be situated on top of a building in Tokyo. As Tokyo is a very polluted city, it is not unusual to see gardens being grown on the top buildings by inhabitants in order to cool down a bit the temperature of the city.

The central element of Takita's own garden is a mineral sculpture composed of three walls forming a cave and a bush pruned into a hemisphere. The inside of the cave is to be covered with a bioluminescent moss produced with genetic engineering technology. The moss will emit light via photosynthesis. The visitor is led to a viewpoint along the axis of the sculpture, where the bush is framed by the cave. The distance from this point to the bush will permit the eye to perceive the whole installation at once.

The visitor is invited to discover a visual experience made possible through genetic engineering. During the day, the light of the sun is much stronger than the one emitted through bioluminescence, therefore the form of the bush will be lit by the sun, and its shape will serve to distinguish it from a dark background. After sunset the opposite happens: the bioluminescent background will be broken up by the silhouette of the bush, forming a negative figure (via Takita's paper and the notes i took during the artist's presentation during the round table, titled Places and creative processes of the living arts, and organized by the Parco d'Arte Vivente at artissima).

Last week i went to the temporary headquarters of the PAV to check out their exhibition Living Materials. It closed yesterday but will be traveling to Austria. I do not have the details about that second show yet. But when i do, i'll let you know because Living Materials is a very charming exhibition.

Every work presented involves the public in a timed process cadenced by the cyclic rhythm of biological and ecological phenomena. Life and death are simultaneously present and aesthetically represented in the continuum of procedural works which ask us about the man-nature relationship in the age of biotechnology.

The works on show include Le Poulet and photos of Jun Takita's work but also:

Ennio Bertrand, The creator has a master plan (first created in 2003 under the title Lemon Sky and revamped for Living Materials).

An array of hundreds of lemons are pierced with small metal sheets, they are in fact Volta batteries supplied with citrus energy which powers tiny Leds, one every 4 lemons. Originally the lemons looked like the ones you can see on the image above but when i visited the PAV, the lemons were a yummy green as you can see on the image on the right. I actually liked that a lot, in yellow, they were too perfect, too plastic looking, but covered with decay they were more living than ever.

The artist writes: I imagined that the lemons during their 'work' of withering and decomposing would give back the sun stored by the tree in his fruits during its productive phase in form of small flares.

I think it's fascinating that a fruit of nature through an electronic device can palpitate for some days. It seems the proof to me of our dependence on the environment, of our tight and deep bond to nature.

The project proposes a reflection on the energetic resources of our planet and re-explores one of the artist's theme of predilection: time. Six months of ripening, several days of life for the work and very short flashes of light, like snapshots of the passing by of time.

The last work on show is Food Island, by Andrea Caretto & Raffaella Spagna. The complex water system feeds several interconnected little islands containing various natural elements: stones, plants or animals.

A pump dipped in a water container sends water which reaches each island through transparent tubes. The water produced through various natural mechanism or which is not needed by the island is then collected and sent back to the main water container. the whole installation constitutes a kind of hypertextual narration which explains phenomena of growth and transformation of the material, from inorganic to organic and vice-versa.

All my images.
and the press pictures from three sixty. Video interview of Michel Blazy.

(Via we make money not art.)

Silent Dialogue at the ICC, Tokyo

Silent Dialogue at the ICC, Tokyo: "

0aasilentdialog.jpgJust as i was panicking that i wouldn't be able to post anything today because i had spent most of my time doing some silly shopping, enters Vicente Gutierrez. Our Tokyo correspondent went to visit the latest exhibition at ICC, swift as the light he wrote a few lines about it and thus saved my life. I like drama, you might not so let's go straight to his report from the show:

Currently at the NTT InterCommunication Center[ICC] in concrete-laden Tokyo is an exhibit devoted to nature’s inter-relationships within the ecosystem we share with plants and animals.

Focusing on the interaction between plants, animals and humans, or this ‘invisible communication’ of nature which our senses might not always perceive, the works in the Silent Dialogue exhibition exhibited make those signals visual and audible through the use of biosensors as well as other algorithm-based software programs. Relying on such simulations, the works on display are a true fusion of science, design and art and provide a glimpse into the secret lives of plants while revealing more about the human effect and affect within the ecosystem we share. Investigating how plants, animals, or insects communicate and behave offered new perspectives to the effect of making us more apt to the signals our environment sends in an era of increasing interaction from humans and technology.

Call ? Response, 2007, by tEnt [Tanaka Hiroya + Cuhara Macoto], with technical support by Kamiyama Yusuke

Call <-> Response by Tanaka Hiroya and Cuhara Macoto (who are working under the collaborative title, tEnt) simulates a natural environment for birds in an effort to derive and explore how they communicate. Attempting to communicate beyond human language, the software was designed to record, generate and layer simulated bird calls. Here, the coconut shell is fitted with a small speaker which emits varying bird calls via a continuous algorithm-based signal.

Bio Photon: Allelopathy, 2007, by Ando Takahiro

One of the most interactive works displayed was Bio Photon: Allelopathy by Ando Takahiro. As plants germinate and grow, photons are emitted from their leaves. They are invisible to our eyes but in his work Ando work visualizes the amount of photons via the discreet sensors which results in a hyper-sporadic display of flickering lights across the dome at light speed, if you will. Ando has intentionally set up two electric-current-generating for us, which upon touching, allow us to feel the currents that we couldn’t otherwise visualize.

Paphio in My Life, 2007, by Fujieda Mamoru + Dogane Yuji

Dogane Yuji, a botanist who has focused his research on orchids, collaborated with composer Fujieda Mamoru for Paphio in My Life, where the inaudible sounds of plants are picked up by connected wires then converted to manifest a plant’s ‘voice.’ As plants respond to environmental stress, simulated by varying vibrations induced by the artists’ algorithmic program, the plant’s ‘voices’ vary accordingly. By broadcasting such a dialog, Dogane hopes to bring us closer to plants through this glimpse into their life.

Orchisoid 03, 2003, by FUJIHATA Masaki + DOGANE Yuji

In Orchisoid 03, Dogane Yuji worked with renowned digital media artist Fujihata Masaki (some of his previous works include Unreflective Mirror and Beyond Pages) to better understand adaptation and homeostasis in plants. For this project, several orchids were again wired and set to experience a variety of vibrations from the shifting table they rest upon. The artists concluded that the physiology of the plants changed the same way as human brain wave patterns change in response to stress. And because the orchid’s wave-activity fluctuates in real time, rather quickly, Dogane recognized it as a sign of high-level information processing.

Interactive Plant Growing, 1992, by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau

Also on display were Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau's installation Interactive Plant Growing from 1992. Touch the plants and watch the screen fill up with a digital cascade of the plant’s leaves; still a great example of physical action into digital realization.

Ha, Ha! Your Mushrooms Have Gone, 2005, by Michael Prime

For a glance into the secret lives of mushrooms, Michael Prime affixed bio-sensors to various kinds of locally grown mushrooms to reveal a dialog we perhaps thought never even existed. From their docile setting in an aquarium, the bio-receptors broadcast the sounds of pulsating waves of noise through speakers in the installation space. The result- a surprising continuous drone that shifted tones rather sporadically revealing a brash, trance-like state of mushrooms- fascinating, surreal and surprising.

Until February 17, 2008 at the NTT InterCommunication Center[ICC].

All images Courtesy of ICC.

Fresh from our fruit & veggie aisle: Life Support Systems - Vanda, Night Garden, Post Patman, Upside Down Mushroom Room, Regulated Fool’s Milk Meadow, Living Letters, Real radish races on the net, Flora fights back, Plants racing for survival, etc

(Via we make money not art.)

The Way We Live Now: Mind of a Rock

Published: November 18, 2007

Most of us have no doubt that our fellow humans are conscious. We are also pretty sure that many animals have consciousness. Some, like the great ape species, even seem to possess self-consciousness, like us. Others, like dogs and cats and pigs, may lack a sense of self, but they certainly appear to experience inner states of pain and pleasure. About smaller creatures, like mosquitoes, we are not so sure; certainly we have few compunctions about killing them. As for plants, they obviously do not have minds, except in fairy tales. Nor do nonliving things like tables and rocks.

Continue reading: The Way We Live Now: Mind of a Rock: "Is everything conscious?"

(Via NYT > Magazine.)

Bat House Project - Winners

The Bat House Project competition ended recently and the winners have been announced. Good to see bats regaining some habitat.

Invention: Microsoft mind reader

Invention: Microsoft mind reader: "This week's patent applications include Microsoft's plans to read your thoughts, a metamorphic amphibious vehicle and a wearable medical sensor network.

(Via New Scientist - Latest Headlines.)