Biosynthetics and Body - Machine Relationships

Art and Life: Biocybrid systems and the reengineering of reality by Diana Domingues, Adson Ferreira da Rocha, and Cristiano Jacques Miosso/ ColourBlind by Alan Dunning and Paul Woodrow/ Morphogenesis by Christophe Viau/ Whose electric brain by Maryse Simone de la Giroday/ Fish and Chips, MEART and Silent Barrage, pioneering cybernetic organisms from the SymbioticA research Group by Stuart Bunt
Monday, 19 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:25
Chair Person: 
Ekmel Ertan
Diana Domingues
Alan Dunning
Christophe Viau
Maryse de la Giroday
Stuart Bunt
Adson Ferreira da Rocha
Paul Woodrow
Cristiano Jacques Miosso

Art and Life: Biocybrid systems and the reengineering of reality

by Diana Domingues, Adson Ferreira da Rocha, and Cristiano Jacques Miosso

This paper describes biocybrid systems in ontological levels of creative reality and the  reengineering of  life.  Collaborative transdisciplinar research in  Art and TechnoScience at LART focuses on the biocybrid life,  meaning the symbiotic zone where the biological, cyber and physical worlds interact. One of the main aspects is the development of enactive interfaces, which allow intertwined affordances between human bodies, environments and networks. The  Ouroboros’ mythical   principle and  Gibson’s ecological perception are confirmed  and ecosystems propitiate the  co-existence and co-location in biocybrid worlds,  abandoning the original idea of separation between synthetic worlds and concrete worlds. What is landscape now? What is body now? What is urban life now? In particular, our  embedded systems  combine developments in biomedical engineering, software engineering, in order to  communicate information coming from biological signals and  other sources. Transparent interfaces provide the ubiquos and mobile communication in biocybrid narratives for urban mixed life. Peripheral perception using locative and mobile interfaces  and the virtual reality  in augmented reality modeled  scenes , by tagging and geotagging  synthetic objects, everywhere, create a   biocybrid  geography  that changes  radically our landscapes.  Datavisualization and computer vision in  AR mobile   allow the  post biological extrusion of human vision, by the act of seeing shared with the satellite eye in the sky and the handled eye of the mobile phone camera. What is vision now? Neuropsychophysiological  act of seing is a modified perception  which characterizes that biocybrid human condition. The recent implementation of microcircuits with biosensors for wearable art systems (BWAS) measure frequencies of  body heat, heartbeats, electrical biopotentials, breathing and skin resistance  combined with biofeedback, resulting in perceptive, cognitive and affective expansions, as well as a supplementation of the human body. Finally, we present  three artworks case studies in urban mixed life and domotic spaces, as well as a biocybrid environmental  system of a Bioma in the remote Brazilian Pantanal-Mato Grosso.  Datavisualization of sonic landscape, the frogs’audio signals; voice recognition techniques and  frogs'  signatures  classification of species,and  the interaction between humans and the remote ecological sanctuary trough teleproxemy, emphasizes  the sense of human  presence and nature preservation .


by Alan Dunning and Paul Woodrow

The Einstein’s Brain Project is a group of scientists and artists working together to develop installations and environments exploring ideas about consciousness and the new constructions of the body. Recent work has used strategies taken from paranormal science and psychology to explore how interpretation in shared machine-human environments contributes to the construction of our worlds.

 This paper briefly introduces and contextualizes a new, developing work – ColourBlind - that explores the internal workings of a machine through an implementation of the Ganzfield Effect and Closed Eye Visualisation as they relate to ideas about hallucination in human and machine hybrids. The work explores ideas about machine vision and how hybrid interpretation gives rise to unbidden and unexpected colours, images and patterns in streams of unstructured data, and considers these as machine hallucinations.

This examination of the work ColourBlind, explores machine vision and computational analysis to examine a machine’s interiority – its phenomenal self-model, asking the question where is this model to be found? It does so in, in the context of earlier work that used ideas found in Electronic Voice and Video Phenomena to explore ideas about presence and absence, and pattern and randomness. These installations took the form of blinded cameras that sent visual and audio noise to a computer that analysed it for patterns that looked like human faces and sounded like human speech.

New work suggests it is possible to use machines and their interiorities in a phenomenologically driven investigation to discover hallucinatory tendencies that can create something akin to machine imagination. Increasingly our machines see and discriminate much as we do, and in turn change our perception of the world. This paper explores ideas about how we and machines see and experience the world, and raises questions about the capacity of both to discriminate. In the search for pattern in randomness, for colour where there is none, when faced with the horror vacui of sensory deprivation, the brain, and in this case the machine, we suggest continues its processing regardless, creating its own colours and forms as interpretative hallucinations, as part of a grid of a memoriously relational world.


by Christophe Viau

The Morphogenesis project explores the fusion of arts and bioinformatics. 
Generative artists can be inspired by biomathematicians in exploring the structure of nature. Some elegant mathematical models come from "morphogenesis," a branch of biology studying the mechanisms of growth and pattern formation. The goal of this paper is to show deep relations between morphogenesis and generative art that can be called "morphogenesis art," not just borrowing scientific tools, but participating in its own way to scientific research. 

Some great scientists as D'arcy Thompson, Alan Turing and Stephane Leduc all share the same idea: life could emerge from inorganic elements by complex physico-chemical reactions. Life can then be synthesized. Seventy-five years after the decisive experiments of Leduc in "synthetic biology," these ideas crystallize in Artificial Life (AL). As Christopher Langton says, describing AL: "It views life as a property of the organization of matter, rather than a property of the matter which is so organized." 

Morphogenesis art is investigating synthetic life by focusing on geometrical models of growth and pattern formation "in silico." This model exploration is an important part of the biomathematics, morphogenesis and AL work. As Langton says: "We would like to build models that are so life-like that they cease to become models of life and become examples of life themselves." 
Morphogenesis find synthetic structures bridging the gap between organic and inorganic worlds. As Leduc says: "the first dawn of the synthesis of life must consist in the production of forms intermediate between the inorganic and the organic world — forms which possess only some of the rudimentary attributes of life". 

The Morphogenesis project proposes to create an "artificial phenomenon." The ultimate goal would be to create an abstract synthesis between organic and inorganic manifestation as fascinating as a solar eruption, an eclipse, a virus, an alien life form, constantly evolving guided by synthetic physico-chemical reactions. The paper discusses three experiments called "Spherical product," "Orbs" and "Genoma," used as a testbed to experiment with the morphogenesis art conceptual framework.

Whose electric brain

by Maryse Simone de la Giroday

Memristors are collapsing the boundaries between humans and machines and ushering in an age where humanistic discourse must grapple with cognitive entanglements. Perceptible only at the level of molecular electronics (nanoelectronics), the memristor was a theoretical concept until 2008. Two different researchers without knowledge of each other had postulated its probable existence respectively in the 1960s and the 1970s. Traditionally in electrical engineering there are resistors, inductors, and capacitors. The new circuit element, the memristor, was postulated to account for anomalies that had been experienced and described in the literature since the 1950s.

Conceptually, a memristor remembers how much and when current has been flowing. In 2008 when it was proved experimentally, engineering control was achieved months later in both digital and analogue formats. The more intriguing of the two formats is the analogue where a memristor is capable of an in-between state similar to certain brain states as opposed to the digital format where it’s either on or off. As some have described it, the memristor is a synapse on a chip making neural computing a reality. In other words, with post-human engineering we will have machines that can think like humans.

The memristor moves us past Jacques Derrida’s notion of undecidability (a cognitive entanglement) as largely theoretical to a world where we confront this reality on a daily basis.

Fish and Chips, MEART and Silent Barrage, pioneering cybernetic organisms from the SymbioticA research Group

by Stuart Bunt

SymbioticA was originally founded to provide a research space where artists and scientists could engage in debate, where artists could learn and apply techniques of the biological sciences to their work.  In particular, to allow artists and others from the humanities to deal with living material and to interact with biological scientists from a position of strength, equality and mutual understanding.  It was hoped this would lead to creative friction at the interface between the life sciences and the humanities.

Fish and Chips was a pioneering project of SymbioticA using “wet ware” (functioning neural tissue from fish or rats) to power “hard ware” (a robotic arm designed by Phil Gamblen) involving founder members of SymbioticA.  Programmers, scientists, artists, engineers and philosophers were involved or asked to comment on the work. This and the later developments pioneered by Guy Ben-Ary, Phil Gamblen, and the Steve Potter lab in Atlanta have been widely exhibited Internationally.  As a neuroscientist, and past Scientific Director of SymbioticA I am particularly interested in the role of nervous tissue in these works. The ethics of its use, how it is comprehended by the audience, the difficulties of presenting and curating living tissue, its possible functionality and the implications for the future of the techno-scientific body.

For example, in “Fish and Chips” first exhibited at Ars Electronica, the “brain” was the eye of a goldfish attached to the visual centre of its brain.  The very title was meant to present viewers with an ethical paradox, to eat fish while at the same time worrying about the ethics of its use in a “machine”, however this clash was prevented by the organisers.  Fish were culled in secret.  We debated how much information to provide and kept it to a minimum, however many viewers imbued the system with more creativity than it had.  We debated whether it needed to be “real” – would the audience know given the complexity of the system?  These issues are common to many artworks involving living material.  I will discuss the wider implications of artists working with living material using these art works as exemplars.