A few months ago, the Waag Society in Amsterdam teamed up with the Netherlands Genomics Initiative and the Centre for Society and Genomics to launch the Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award which invited emerging artists and designers to submit projects involving the exploration of Life Sciences. The works selected were to be developed together with the country’s most prestigious genomics centres.
You might have heard of similar initiatives in the USA or in the UK but mainland Europe doesn’t have such a strong tradition of setting up collaboration between research centers and artists/designers. Hopefully, the DA4GA award will pave the way for more partnerships of the kind both in The Netherlands and in the rest of Europe.
The winning projects were revealed last month: a bullet proof skin, an ecological bioreactor and an opera performed by mutated worms. The winning proposals will be exhibited from mid-June until the end of December 2011 but the curious blogger in me wanted to have a sneak peak of the 3 projects before they go on show. In the coming days i’m going to dedicate several posts on the winning works as well as on the award itself. And i’m opening the series with the Microscopic Opera!
source:text by Regine on we make money not art
“I didn’t have any experience in this field. When I started working on this project I read Denis Noble’s book The Music of Life, which I can recommend to anyone, to become a little bit more familiar with systems biology and genetics. For me as well as for the scientist from NCSB brainstorming on this project together was very interesting. I thought it would be a lot more difficult, but it turned out to work great.
In my project I’m using common research tools, but instead of using them for scientific research I use them to create an art piece.
With this project I try to research the artistic value of some research tools, and shine a new light on them. On the other hand I’m also fascinated by the worms, who have no idea of the world above them. We are like gods to these little lab worms, following them from their first cell division to their death, manipulating their bodies and mutating their DNA. Are we really like gods, or are we like the worms, unaware of the things above us in a different dimension, the biggest thing becoming the tiniest.
I’ve started expermenting with the worms and doing some programming. I’ve also done a lot of discussing with the Netherlands Consortium for Systems Biology team, mostly consulting me on technical issues, but I’ll also be working some more in their lab, which I’m very looking forward to. ”
” “We must storm the citadels of enlightenment. The means are at hand”
A rotating cyllinder lamp-like device, which produced a stroboscopic light. You would see beautiful patterns, shapes and colours, while looking at this device with your eyes closed. Even full hallucinations have been reported. The trippy experience provided by the dreammachine fascinated the two beat-generation artists immensly, as well as a wide range of other artists and performers, mainly in psychedelic circles.
The effect produced by the dreammachine, however was not something new. In fact it has fascinated people since the begin of time. Flickering lights and repeated sounds have always been important for spiritual rituals, to induce a trance like state. Shamans, prophets and ordinary people used the effect as an aid for meditation and expanding their conciousness.
The first time this happened, according to one theory, was when a shaman stood under a tree, when a flickering shadow fell on him, created by the leaves slowly moving the wind. When he looked up and closed his eyes the flickering of the shadows gave him a visionary and spiritual experience. This could be the reason why trees take a really important place in all religions worldwide.
There are also stories about prophets, Nostradamus for example, waving their hands in front of their closed eyes, while looking at the sun. This would give them the ability to vision the future. The first scientist to report it was the great Jan Purkinje, 200 years ago, when he was still a child. He found out that, by looking at the sun with his eyes closed, and waving his hands in front of his eyes, ‘beautiful figures’ would appear, which gradually became more intricate.It doesn’t really matter what method you use, be it a device, your hands or a natural source, in the end the effect stays the same. The only difference is that modern day devices give us more control over the flicker and intensity. That’s why the dreammachine was such a revolutionary device, as it made it a lot easier to experience the effect.
Brion Gysin and scientist Ian Sommerville created the dreamachine after reading William Grey Walter’s book, “The Living Brain”. Walter, a neurophysiologist, was a pioneer in research of brainwave activity. In this book he describes his experiments with stroboscopic light. He found that flicker-induced hallucinatory experiences of his test subjects seemed to be as broad and dynamic as anything experienced in the medical case histories. As suggested by himself, this effect is caused not by properties of the light itself, or by the eye, but are a product of the brain.
One theory is that the flickering is interfering with the brain’s visual cortex, attempting to deal with intermittent signal. It’s hard not to wonder if the patterns you see perhaps offer a glimpse of our own brain activity, something beyond our own senses. In my performance I also make use of the flicker effect, but I have more control over it. In my performance, the audience wears white plastic masks, this way they look into a ganzfeld, a totally white field during the performance. In my set up, I use beamers, projecting light on the audience’s masks, completely immersing them in the light and colors of the projection.
I play an 8 minute live composition, based on the varying effects of different frequencies of flicker, colour, binaural beats and sound.During the performance every spectator will see something different, varying patterns and colours, created within their own brains. ”