Symposium. Practices, Processes and Materials: Re-configuring practice as research in a post-digital age.

I (Phaedra) will be speaking about this project on Thursday, 1 June, 2017 as part of the symposium “Practices, Processes, and Materials: Reconfiguring practice as research in a post-digital age”.  The symposium will take place at Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK. CPBRA Symposium 1st June 2017

Andrew Burn and Thoughts

On Thursday we met with Andrew Burn and chatted about his work with play. He just started a big project working with the Opie archive of play at Bodleian Libraries, digitizing and cataloging the archive and creating a VR play environment so folks can play early games. Our talk meandered from art to play to science and back, a lovely conversation. Talking about implants, Andrew wondered whether you could view the visitor as an implant in some of my interactive works, for example the Healing Series and Deep Wounds.

This is definitely food for thought, and a possible way forward. I’ve also been thinking about implants as a way to alter our perception of reality, perhaps with smart-contact lenses and hearing d devices that filter what you see. Time to get out the sketchbook and start fleshing out these ideas.


On Wednesday Phaedra organized a workshop at the Royal Free Hospital with about a dozen people (unfortunately I don’t remember everyone’s names).

Sound artist Hardi Kurda started out talking about his Diagnosis Machine, where he uses an EKG as a musical instrument. It brought me back to sitting with loved ones in hospital rooms and the harsh sounds and appearances of the surrounding body monitors. Many were attached through various invasive technologies—IV’s, venous ports, catheters—making visible and amplifying their internal workings.

Gavin Jell got up to talk about his work with biomaterials. As with yesterday’s kickoff meeting, we spent a lot of time talking about what temporary implant could mean. If glasses are a prosthetic, are contact lenses an implant? If an implant is designed to be replaced by human cells (as with bone scaffolding), is it temporary. Gavin felt that permanent vs biodegradable might be a more useful distinction than permanent vs temporary. He showed slides of some advances in implants, but we didn’t get much of chance to learn about them, so he referred me to a book by David Williams, and seemed open to follow-up questions if I have them.

Then Tom Tlalim, another sound artist who is currently in residence at Victoria and Albert Museum, talked about his project there, co-designing sound art with people who have cochlear implants. We learned a lot about these devices, how they might sound, how they’ve improved, the controversy in the deaf community surrounding their use, and Tom’s process. I’m eager to see what he comes up with.

Finally, Marilena Loizidou, gave us a tour of the labs. They are very similar to the labs at Harvard Medical School where I was in residence—postdocs, chemicals, centrifuges, microscopes, incubators, etc.—but they also have oscilloscopes and 3d printers. Nat and I got a chance to talk at length with Marilena about her work with Lipid drug-delivery systems, gold nanoparticles, and 3d tumors. Cool stuff.

Kickoff Meeting

Natalie and I arrived in London on Tuesday for the kickoff meeting with Phaedra. We first discussed what is included and not included in the term temporary implant. Does temporary mean the implant can be removed (which includes pretty much everything), is designed to be removed (like dental braces), is biodegradable (like sutures), or …? Does implant only include things inserted into the body (like pacemakers), or does it include things interfacing between the body and the world (like catheters and other ports), and/or things placed on the body (like contact lenses)? Can we include drugs as temporary implants? Many drugs, and drug delivery systems, are so heavily engineered that they may qualify as tiny machines. The answers to these questions, and more importantly, the avenues we wish to pursue, will hopefully become clearer as we learn more.

We spent some time looking at various body mods, including fingertip magnets and North Sense. I don’t find these particularly interesting. They feel gimmicky, the idea of having a body mod seeming more important than any functionality it provides. We also talked about cochlear implants, birth control, joint replacement, and other examples of things that might be temporary implants. In reference to body modification, we discussed the potential of CRISPR (see this paper, for an example).

Phaedra also showed us around the UCL Knowledge Lab and introduced us to some of the folks there.