Thursday 28 July, 2022
Participants have the opportunity to explore a host of exhibitions relating to digital ecologies and reflect on them with practitioners.
Matthew Halpenny, Université de Montréal
The Open-Source Microbial Fuel Cell Project is an ongoing research-creation project towards the design of accessible microbial fuel cells (MFC), a technology that symbiotically harvests energy from microbial communities in mud and plant-soil ecologies. The project stems from an attempt to research and build MFCs in the author’s own interdisciplinary art practice. When it became apart there were little publicly available MFC resources, the project evolved from its origins as artistic research towards environmentally situated media installations to additionally document and distribute the author’s creation process for other artists and the general public. The Open-Source Microbial Fuel Cell Project decodes and pieces together fragmented resources and reforms them into a set of accessible resources focused on eliminating excessive scientific jargon and using commonly available materials. This paper details how MFCs differ from other sustainable energy technologies by creating a bridge between the digital and the non-human in a symbiotic rather than extractive means. To harvest energy, one must either care for the cells, much like a garden, or situate the cells inside the microbe’s natural environment, such as using direct swamp based MFCs. The cells not only exist as a digital ecology of microbes and circuitry, but often are used within remote sensor-communication equipment by ecologists to avoid the need for human disruption collecting environmental data. Centered around the project’s open documentation and creation of resources, this paper examines the theoretical and material intersection of how these MFCs are simultaneously a digital ecology and a vessel for digital data ecologies.
Matthew Halpenny is an interdisciplinary media artist from Montréal who works between the milieus of biology and technology. They examine the embodied material processes that form the technology we use daily while offering speculative open-source design solutions.
Michelle Lai Jingmin and John Carillo
What do you think of when you imagine a plant? How might our collective intelligences speak to each other? How might we form relations with plants? Phytomorphism enables the transmogrification of these relations by systematically deconstructing human understandings of ‘Nature’ and subsequently reconstructing them such that human participants become-plant, acquiring phytomorphic consciousness. Weaving in scientific research from plant signalling and communication, Phytomorphism introduces an immersive audio-visual experience through VR technologies, surfacing several conduits to speak with and alongside plants.
Michelle Lai Jingmin is an Eindhoven-based ecological designer and artist. Since 2016, she has been working as a creative freelancer, researcher and ecological practitioner with a strong interest in the natural world and their interconnections.
Through his work, John Carrillo seeks to obscure, or illuminate planes of existence. Through which, our awareness of space, and human-object relations are challenged and questioned. How our imaginations may be enhanced by adjusting our human perceptions of reality is a constant thread that runs through his projects.
“Érodé” is a composition made from geophonic recordings of water at Eagles Nest, a protected site including a tidal island in the Bunurong National Marine Park, Australia. Microphones were active in multiple positions to get the most listening perspectives, often placed beyond the reach of the human body. This geophony is reinterpreted through the application of treatments and transformations on the original materials, allowing the creation of an heterogenous repertoire of sound objects that allow listeners to immerse themselves in the imagined soundscape of the area.
Guillaume Malaret is a French sound artist, field recordist, composer and sound designer. Grounded in recording and electroacoustic composition, his field interpretations are intimately linked to his environment.
Joe Revans, independent designer and researcher
Rewilding is an approach to environmental restoration that seeks to repair ecosystem processes that have been disrupted by human activities. In recent years, rewilding has become an increasingly mainstream idea in the UK. However, due to the UK’s extreme levels of nature depletion and the novelty of rewilding, it is difficult to imagine what a significantly rewilded Britain would look like. There are simply too few examples of wild nature to inspire our collective imagination. The Wild Futures Working Group aims to address this gap using a transdisciplinary approach that borrows methods from the worlds of speculative design, design ethnography and the computational arts. The project is being developed over the course of a nine-month residency (October 2021 – June 2022) at Maple Farm, a rewilding initiative in Surrey, England. It will result in an environmental fiction film, After Wilding, that envisions what it would be like to visit a rewilded Maple Farm in twenty years’ time. The film’s storyworld and script are based on a thematic analysis of 19 interviews with Maple Farm community members. For the film’s visual component, custom software was created to visualise interviewees’ speculations using machine learning image synthesis and composite the generated images with present-day footage of the site. Part documentary, part fiction, the film aims to present a radical, but grounded, proposition for the future of British nature from the perspective of a real-world rewilding community in the hopes that it can be understood, debated and renegotiated by the wider public.
Joe Revans is a London-based designer and futures researcher recently graduated from the MA Material Futures programme at Central Saint Martins. His work explores environmental futures, socio-ecological design and the integration of more-than-human perspectives into design practices.
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