Design + Creation Residence

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Presentation Title:

  • Design + Creation Residence

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Abstract:

  • DESIGN + CREATION RESIDENCE OBJECTIVE: The development of a hybrid biological-electronic system wherein variations in electrical potential from an array of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are translated into rhythmic, amplitude and frequency modulations in modular electronic and software-based sound synthesizers. We will also endeavor to take the research lab outdoors into urban space in order to engage citizens in conversations surrounding these technologies,

    Method
    The research will focus on three primary areas:
    (1) Exploration of various materials and design strategies for MFC architectures. Several different housings will be built and several exhibition and performance strategies will be explored. Sources such as local ponds, rivers and easily attainable organic matter such as compost, aquatic plants and wastewater will be explored for use as the electricity-generating component of the MFCs. This may include expeditions to local aquatic/wetland environments to construct ad-hoc MFCs “on-site” as an installation/performance.

    (2) The MFCs will be connected to a Eurorack-based modular synthesizer system and/or a customdesigned software synthesizer built in Max/MSP or PD so that the bioelectrical fluctuations of the MFCs can be used as modulation and trigger sources. This will entail building electronic circuits to amplify the electrical signals generated by the bacteria and software to translate the signals into control voltage (CV) sources appropriate for the synthesizers.

    (3) Use of machine-learning algorithms as a method of interpreting the shifting electrical patterns generated by the bacteria. We will investigate the use of pattern recognition/ classification to trigger synthesizer presets and CV gate signals and statistical regression to predict variations in electrical potential. If a comprehensive understanding of the bioelectrical patterns can be attained, it will be used to inform the development of a sonic compositional system that is dictated by these patterns. In essence, allowing the bacteria to “express” themselves sonically. In order to involve the public with our research, we will also construct a mobile laboratory using a small vendor cart or trailer, repurposed to serve as bioenergy construction and demonstration station. We will traverse the city, collecting organic matters for use in constructing simple diy MFC systems and performing interventions and demonstrations in public space.

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