organism: making art with living systems

The idea of making art with living systems is not new; you might even consider a garden or a goldfish pond to be biological art. What is new is the degree of control over biological systems and materials contemporary technology offers us. Topics on the organism weblog include technical, practical, aesthetic, and ethical issues related to making art with living systems. Artists, scientists, engineers, students, and anyone else with an interest in this area are invited to contribute.

August 27, 2008

Graffiti for Butterflies

Filed under: artists & works — douglas @ 11:47 am

Directing monarch butterflies to urban food sources along migratory routes in North America

GFB uses images of milkweed flowers to broadcast the location of food sources to monarch butterflies. In the prototype at left, the graffiti is placed on a wall above an actual milkweed plant in New York City, signaling the presence of nectar to hungry monarchs in the vicinity.

Monarchs regularly pass through wide swathes of human settlement as they migrate each year from wintering sites in Mexico to summering grounds in the United States and Canada. GFB is the equivalent of a fast-food sign on a highway, advertising rest stops (waystations) to monarchs traveling through the area.

http://www.dziga.com/graffiti

August 12, 2008

PIG 05049, a conversation with Christien Meindertsma

Filed under: artists & works,books & articles,exhibitions — regine @ 2:11 am

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Christien Meindertsma is a designer with an investigative mind. She analyzes, surveys and in her latest project she went as far as dissecting a pig.

A few years ago, as she was graduating from the Design Academy Eindhoven, she bought for a few euros the 3267 items taken from the passengers who embark at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam during one week: spoons, nail clippers, golf tools, bottle openers, pipe wrench, pocket knives, one axe, combs, toy pistols, etc. She photographed and archived the collection in Checked Baggage, a book containing the pictures of all these ‘tools of supposed soldiers of skyjacking and terrorism.’ The book itself was not safe for air travel as it came packaged with one of the ‘prohibited items’.

Next, Meindertsma set her sight on sheep. She used the wool of one sheep to make a sweater, a pair of socks, a scarf and a pair of gloves. She then attached to each garment the identification number of the sheep that donated the wool.

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Christien Meindertsma has now filled a warehouse of pig products in the Rotterdam Kunsthal during an exhibition called Kunsthal Kookt (‘The Kunsthal cooks’). Most of these products would never grace the display of your local butcher. They are the result of her investigation on what happens to a pig after it has been slaughtered. Part of it ends up BBQ’d but what about the rest?

Over three years, the designer tracked the products made from parts or even tiny particles of pigs. Her quest led her to a tattoo artist, dentist, farmer and weapon specialist. She discovered that the skin, bones, meat, organs, blood, fat, brains, hoofs, hair and tail of the pig are used in no fewer than 187 products: shampoo, medicine, munitions, cardiac valves, matches, desserts and bubblegum, beer and lemonade, car paint and brake discs, pills, bread, etc.

After slaughter, bits and pieces of the Dutch pig travel around the world. Gelatin from its skin ends up in liquorices and gums, and even cheesecake and tiramisu. In the weapon industry the gelatin is used as conductor for bullets. Pork fat is one of the ingredients of, amongst others, anti-wrinkle cream and shampoo, information that producers are not too keen on admitting. The glue made from pig bones makes matches sturdier and porcelain is manufactured from its ashes. Protein from pig’s hair contributes to making bread soft. Every part of a pig is either eaten or processed. Should anything be left over, it is converted into green electric power. She documented her findings in the book PIG 05049 (amazon UK and USA).

If you understand a bit of dutch, here’s a video interview of the designer. If not, i’m afraid you’ll have to read the one we did via email:

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Portrait of Christien Meindertsma, courtesy of the designer

What is behind the title of your latest work, PIG 05049?

PIG 05049 is a book that shows 185 endproducts that are made of a single pig. They are catagorized under the chapters Skin, Bones, Muscles, Blood, Internal intestines, Fat and Other.

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You have filled a warehouse with pig-derived products in the Rotterdam Kunsthal for an exhibition which runs until September 28. How does the public react to the shocking news that there are traces of pigs in shampoos and bubblegums? Do you find them eager to change their buying habits?

They are curious and read all the products information. I expected more shock then there actually is. It is more surprise and curiosity. It would be impossible for consumers to find out which shampoos and gum actually have traces of pigs inside. I followed one pig and found all these products at the end of the line, but that doesn’t mean that – for instance- all shampoos carry pig traces inside.

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Image 100% mike

Tattoo parlor, dentist studio, workshop of a weapon specialist, etc. The research for this project led you to meet a wide range of people. Can you tell us about one of the most interesting/surprising/exciting encounter you made over those 3 years spent working on this project?

It was very interesting to find such a wide variety of products, places and people. Some were very exited about cooperating, others were very secretive. One of the most surprising products is a bullet. It is made in the USA, gelatine from the pig is used to transport gunpowder into the bullet smoothly. So the pig is not actually inside the bullet but it is used in the production process.

The strangest encounter was with a director of a company that makes heartvalves for human hearts out of pig hearts. A beautiful high- and at the same time lowtech product. He told me he didn’t want his product -pig’s heartvalves-to be associated with pigs.

Revealing the use of pig ingredients to make some beauty creams and even in some candies might jeopardize their marketing value, especially among some religious communities. How difficult was it to obtain precise information from the cosmetic and food industry about the presence of pig ingredients in their products? Did you encounter any resistance at some point?

I received most of my information from a company that is at the beginning of the chain. They make all the raw materials for producers, so they know what is made of their materials. I am very greatful for their cooperation, they were very open and sponsored me in knoledge without wanting anything back for it, which is special because their clients were not always that open.

Which lesson(s) do you hope that the public will draw from your research?

That we should know more about the products we consume and the materials they are made of. I think a simple interest in them, what they are made of, who makes it and how, would already be a great step forward.

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Image courtesy of the designer

I like the simple design of the PIG 05049 book. What is this yellow plastic thing stuck to its cover?

That is a duplicate of the eartag of a pig with number 05049 that the book is named after.

Are you a vegetarian? Or did your relationship to food changed since you started working on this project?

As a child I used to be. I eat some meat and fish now but not so much and when I cook it myself I try to buy good eco friendly meat.

I think I became more aware of ingredients in products generally, food as well as non-food. I started realy appreciating pure products with simple ingredients as well as complex products. For me as a designer i think i learned a lot.

What happened to These Flocks? Are you still working on the project? Selling some knitted garments?

I am currently working on new knitwear for Flocks. The large scale knits like the poufs and rugs are all made by hand in the Netherlands and for the smaller more fine pieces I started working with 3d knittingmachines. I like the contrast. The website is currently under construction.

New within flocks is the use of color. I added color as an ingredient to the products. Indigo, wauw, meekrap – all plants- and cochenille -lice- are added to the existing products creating bright blue, yellow, red and pink.

Farm Fountain

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — regine @ 2:03 am

Farm Fountain is a system for growing edible and ornamental fish and plants in a constructed, indoor ecosystem. Based on the concept of aquaponics, this hanging garden fountain uses a simple pond pump, along with gravity to flow the nutrients from fish waste through the plant roots. The plants and bacteria in the system serve to cleanse and purify the water for the fish.

This project is an experiment in local, sustainable agriculture and recycling. It utilizes 2-liter plastic soda bottles as planters and continuously recycles the water in the system to create a symbiotic relationship between edible plants, fish and humans. The work creates an indoor healthy environment that also provides oxygen and light to the humans working and moving through the space. The sound of water trickling through the plant containers creates a peaceful, relaxing waterfall. The Koi and Tilapia fish that are part of this project also provide a focus for relaxed viewing.

The plants we are currently growing include lettuces, cilantro, mint, basil, tomatoes, chives, parsley, mizuna, watercress and tatsoi. The Tilapia fish in this work are also edible and are a variety that have been farmed for thousands of years in the Nile delta.

Farm Fountain is a collaborative project by artists Ken Rinaldo and Amy Youngs. We hope you will be inspired to create one yourself. Please visit our illustrated “How-To” pages to see how we made our home version and join our free online forum to share your ideas.

Check out the live webcam! (6am to midnight EST)

Farm Fountain 4, the large-scale version of this project is currently on display at the Te Papa Museum in New Zealand until January 2009. The project has received a “Green Leaf Award from the Natural World Museum

August 5, 2008

WORLDWIDEWEGG

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — regine @ 3:14 pm

Last Saturday, Jaygo Bloom launched a new project called WORLDWIDEWEGG at the centre for contemporary arts in Glasgow. as part of ALT-W.

It’s a low budget breakfast bar controlled by the daily habits of a bunch of hens on Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh. Each time an egg gets laid a signal is sent to the web enabled toaster, this sets the coils in motion and returns the action of egg laying to the gallery goers as hot toast for consumption!

Besides, on the breakfast table is a peck controlled iTunes soundsystem, each peck on the piezo mic’ attached to the chicken feed bowl causes the ‘Cock Rock Disco’ playlist to skip forward a track – perpetual flutterings of chicken inspired songs!

Online the same egg laying response generates a single random number. After six numbers are generated eggs are laid a lottery ticket is purchased online, therefore returning back to its source a percentage of funds recieved for this project.

Image courtesy of the artist. Thanks Jaygo!

July 21, 2008

green posts at vvork

Filed under: artists & works — douglas @ 12:04 am

The vvork archives for July 2008 are full of plant posts:

http://www.vvork.com/?m=200807

June 16, 2008

Three Pieces (opening June 14 in Edinburgh)

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — douglas @ 6:23 pm

robot dulcimer

A new work by Found Electronics (Ziggy Campbell and Simon Kirby):

Appearing in the Palm House of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh from June 14th for at least two weeks, Three Pieces is a composition for plants, yangqin, bamboo robot and robotic chimes. It is designed as a collaboration between robots, traditional instruments, and living things. A traditional Chinese dulcimer is played by a robot with many bamboo fingers while the surrounding foliage hides an ensemble of robotic chimes. Despite being separate individuals, the robots communicate and perform together. The robot performers are conducted by all the living things in the Palm House. The moisture content of the soil changes slowly as the plants absorb water, while on a much faster timescale, the temperature changes in the building as animals, including humans, move about. The installation detects this living presence in the Palm House and the music changes accordingly. The robots react to humans, but their mood alters with the plants.


http://found-electronics.net/featured-project/three-pieces

June 14, 2008

Works by Guto Nóbrega

Filed under: artists & works — douglas @ 4:41 pm

Guto Nóbrega is a Brazilian artist and Ph.D. candidate at The Planetary Collegium programme at Plymouth University. He has made a number of works involving plants and other living organisms.

Equilibri

Equilibrium is part of an ecology of hybrid artefacts in development. It is a system in which a plant and an artificial mechanism share a mutual relationship. This hybrid system is composed of two small motors, solar cells, microchip, light sensors and a plant. The whole system is arranged in a form of a balance that is able to spin around its axes in a compass manner. The artificial system occupies one side of the balance and it is set to perform in a photovore (seeking light) behaviour by controlling two propellers which put the whole system to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise. A small plant is located on the other side of the balance so that when the balance rotates in its axes the plant is posited towards the light. In turn, along with the plant two solar cells absorb light and feed the artificial system.

Leaves System

Leaves System is an aesthetic experiment but also a methodological tool for practical investigation. It seeks to explore how is possible to integrate new digital technologies and natural system in order to highlight subjective aspects of communication and interaction. It is also a way of inquiring whether or not it is possible to draw with the invisible lines that connect organisms to one another.


http://www.narrativasdigitais.eba.ufrj.br/Portifolio/Research.html

June 8, 2008

The cat tower

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — regine @ 9:06 am

I guess this one is more the “making art for living systems” kind but the installation includes plants so here we go.

Animals, Tom Sach’s solo exhibition at Sperone Westwater in New York, includes a tower called “La Guardia,” was custom designed for the cat that slinks around Mr. Sachs’s studio. A litter box with revolving parts, to reduce cleaning tasks, is topped by a small McDonald’s that serves cat food; this rises to a Japanese Zen garden with a video of clouds and birds chirping, which graduates to a penthouse based on the control tower at La Guardia Airport, where the push of a paw produces catnip atomizing spray.

laguardai

Via the new york times.

May 26, 2008

Agliomania – 8 garlic bulbs as art objects

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — regine @ 5:39 am

AglioMania (GarlicMania) refers to TulipoMania that took place in early 17th century Netherlands. During that time, tulip bulbs were traded for enormous prices and eventually crashed, thus the term bubble economy. AglioMania re-enacts the maniac trading phenomena with garlic produced in Italy during the 6 weeks of the “Enterprise of Art” exhibition at Palazzo delle Arti Napoli in Naples.

agliomania8 garlic bulbs collected from local farmers are framed as art objects and put on display. Each garlic bulb with a specific name enters the bidding market where Aglio Mille (garlic 1000 Lire) is the currency. A bidding system is established for the web and the gallery. The public is issued Aglio Mille, encouraged by the money earning schemes, joins the bidding for the desirable aglio bulbs.

AglioMania takes the public on an illusionary market frenzy. At the end of the exhibition, the highest bidder gets the desirable garlic bulb. Ultimately, the get rich garlic schemes are smashed as truck loads of garlic enter the green market.
Until June 30, 2008 at PAN I Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, Italy.

Via networked_performance.

May 23, 2008

Andy Gracie: Autoinducer_Ph-1

Filed under: artists & works,exhibitions — douglas @ 5:51 pm

Autoinducer_Ph-1 (cross cultural chemistry) exploits a traditional rice cultivation technique from SE Asia where Azolla is grown in large quantities and used as an organic, nitrogen rich fertilizer in the rice paddies. In the installation this process is reworked in an overly complexified, industrial, laboratory style way as a reflection on western agricultural techniques, our modern relationships with nature and the networked, machinic nature of ecologies.

Featuring an assemblage of pond-like structures, electronics, laboratory and hydroponic equipment Autoinducer_Ph-1 probes into and interferes with the symbiotic relationship between the cyanobacteria Anabaena and the water fern Azolla. Notions of data and information systems inherent in the relationships between the organic protagonists of the installation, and how they may be augmented, are realised by a synthetic software-based bacteria that interacts with them in its assumed roles of part time symbiont and part time parasite. Video projections which display evolution of the GCS graphic environment, and highly magnified video of Anabaena cultured under a video microscope.

Outcomes of this complex relationship and its proximity to symbiotic or parasitic characteristics determine the behaviours of the robotic rice farming system that forms the physical bulk of the installation. The installation loops biological, electro-robotic and computing processes together in a literally fertile interaction where the “primal soup” aspect of the Anabaena and Azolla cultures, and fragility of the young rice shoots, contrast strikingly with the computer-generated artificial chemistry molecules of the GCS.

Andy says:

“If anyone happens to be passing through beautiful Ljubljana next week please drop in to the opening of ‘Autoinducer_Ph-1′ at the Kapelica gallery on Kersnikova 4 on the evening of 27th May. In the meantime you can actually see the proof that I work for a living by spying on me as I destroy my ageing legs and back installing the work. Go to kapelica.org and you’ll get the webcam of the gallery. A new image every 15 seconds.”

http://www.hostprods.net/autoinducer.html

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