Biomedical Projects

The human body is a cool piece of equipment and it's wonderful when we're blessed with one which works well. As a die-hard DIY'er I've always been fascinated by the signals that the body and brain generate in the course of our daily existence. Electrical signals are produced by the brain along with others generated by our muscles, the heart for example. Modern electrical components have made it possible for the hobbiest to construct his own equipment to tap into these signals and record them as digital information or translate them into sounds or graphics. Biofeedback and stress monitoring instruments can be home built at relativly low cost and even a modest computer can process EEG signals and use them to control game objects and cursors. You've probably read articles on this site describing the IBVA, a commercially available device for recording and utilizing brain signals. Here at the studio we use this along with DIY gear to tap into the electrical world of people, plants, and minerals. There are a few things to be aware of before you run out and grab the neighbor's skater kid for your experiments. It is not difficult to incinerate a volunteer when making the marriage of the body and electricity. Volunteers are hard enough to find without carbonizing them with ill designed electrical equipment and they may have family members who will dislike you for days and days thereafter. Be absolutely sure of what you are doing and read everything you can get your hands on concerning the body and electricity. If in doubt, DON'T! I 've been shocked by radio transmitting and receiving gear and it really, really, sucks. That said, here are a couple of sites to check out on this very subject. Enjoy.

This one has some open source stuff for EEG construction projects. I'm not sure how often it is updated though.

Catholic University of America offers this site with biomedical engineering projects.

Botanicalls Twitters

Botanicalls Twitters: "
In case you hadn’t heard, we’ve made Botanicalls Twitter as a do-it-yourself example for people who like to-well-do it themselves. It’s the first step in making Botanicalls available to a wider audience, and the online press has taken note. In the last 48 hours, we’ve been graced by the attention of:
Make Magazine
…and even Business Week
Botanicalls Twitter would not have happened without both brilliant code and sage advice from Limor Fried. We also appreciate the support of Phil Torrone who inspired our Twitter venture and helped to make it a success. Botanicalls is a project from Kate Hartman, Kati London, Rebecca Bray and Rob Faludi.Senhas e Segredos do Windows XP - Tem senhas de jogos 2D toques de corneta em um novo Widget."

(Via Rob Faludi's Blog.)

V*i*d*a Lab Projects

    This site (in Spanish) describes some second semester lab projects from 2007.  These kids are doing a lot of the same things that interest us here in Rhode Island and their well done site bears a look.  As a matter of fact, spend a little time browsing the entire popshop site. 

Thunderbolts of the Gods

    I've always been comforted by the thought that gravity would someday cause the cosmos to fall in upon itself as our expanding universe loses it's energy and begins a death spiral of compression and collision propelling us into some pinpoint singularity.  Indeed, gravity has always been my friend and the pain of the occasional bike accident or slip and fall event has always been far outweighed by the fact that I've never fallen off the planet.  Gravity has always been useful in that regard and I've never been inclined to search for a substitute but just when I thought that all was well with my universe along came these two fellows, David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill whose theories strive to upset the cosmic apple cart.  Their investigation points the finger at electricity claiming it to be the glue holding everything together.... or more accurately, pushing it all apart.  Their team has produced a one hour video which describes life in the "electric universe".  "Thunderbolts of the Gods" will make you re-think everything you've been taught about astronomy, cosmology, and Star Trek.  Enjoy! 


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.)