Session 8: Fleming, Markov Chains, Lore and 3D Printing

We started by going through Dianne’s homework:

  1. Keep thinking on question for dissertation
  2. What is the installation? Bioinformatics of the Biome?
  3. Speak to the Wellcome trust collection what do they have on the biome? What apparatus? Even just the glassware collection.
  4. Contact the Science Museum – about their work on the Biome.
  5. Meet with William Latham and Frederic Laymarie at Goldsmiths.
  6. Make contact with the Bioinformatics team at Imperial.

During the break, I’d sent Dianne the following image, taken from Rod Judkin‘s book, “The Art of Creative Thinking“:

Specifically, that Alexander Fleming‘s discovery of penicillin was the result of his desire to make paintings with bacteria.

I suggested that the the idea of scientific discovery enabled by artistic desire would be an interesting one for her dissertation. She said that she’d already been looking at the career of Joe Davis and I suggested she look at both Robert Rauchenberg‘s founding of Experiments in Art and Technology, as well as Robert Irwin‘s work with LACMA’s Art and Technology group. I also suggested she speak to the other Computational Art’s MFA tutor, Helen Pritchard, to see if she had more reference and thoughts around this area.

We then started discussing how the human biome is data related – how to “disembody” data, pun intended! Dianne referenced Donna Haraway’s work – specifically her idea of “making kin with the aliens inside”. We talked about how life has been understood through science, and how our understanding of life is seen through a scientific viewpoint, specifically referencing the Human Microbiome project. Dianne is interested in the computing around the project,
even the language used between bioscience and computing, the relation between life and computation and looking at it all from a materialist standpoint. The idea of a human being an assemblage of fractured stuff.

Dianne went on to reference Samantha Frost and her book Biocultural Creatures and the relation between matter and energy. Jayson suggested looking at the book Decoding Reality by Vlatko Vedral. I was particularly interested in the idea of Destruction ab Toto or Nothing from Something:

The information basis for creation ex nihilo. According to John von Neumann, starting trivially from an empty set of numbers an infinite sequence of numbers can bootstrap their way out. An empty set creates the number 1 by observing an empty set within itself which is enough of a basis for distinguishability. It creates the number 2 by observing an empty set within the second empty set and the number 1, and so on. Vedral sees this not as creation but as data compression, as every event of a reality breaks the symmetry of the pre-existing formlessness. Science is the process of describing a large amount of observed phenomena in a compressed programmatic way to predict future outcomes, and in this process of data compression science creates new information by eliminating all contrary possibilities to explain those phenomena.

Dianne had also been looking at DNA as a way of storing data, I said that it was important to situate her work within the body and with scientists.

Dianne stated that she wanted her installation to be about applying scientific methods to make art. For example, the Shotgun sequencing technique for DNA. I related this to cut up technique – but she stated that she’d been researching Markov Chains, which are widely used in many applications.

I suggested to focus on one method and concentrate on that, and where it could be applied. Dianne stated that she didn’t want to make a feitished set of scientific apparatus, more something relating to a data centric approach to bioinformatics and the digital/organic mix of that. I repeated that it was still important to relate this all to the body.

This meant that her previous research on glassware was no longer relevant, but she did reference the human genome books at the Wellcome Collection.

She hadn’t found anything more on the biome at the Science Museum, or had any further contact with William Latham.

Dianne attended a workshop with the artist Anna Dumitriu at Imperial and met a few scientists there. They were working on the medicine side of things, though she did make contact with a postdoc at Glasgow university who is interested in dialogue.

I set the following homework:

  1. Continue to work on dissertation with Helen Pritchard
  2. Research Markov Chain’s specifically for use within her exhibition
  3. Send me her proposal for her dissertation and the bibliography for it

We then moved on to Jayson’s homework from the previous session:

  1. Make a crystal radio.
  2. Research Germanium.
  3. Consider your new mythology – around undersea wrecks? Flooded dumps? Mining in the future?
  4. 3D print a support structure to grow crystals on.
  5. Meet a crystal healer / do an esoteric walking tour
  6. Think again about the analogue/digital mix of your installation. Situate your practise in your own life history and memories.

Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to get his crystal radio kit working, I suggested an alternative kit from Amazon.

It turned out that Germanium has many different uses. He couldn’t grow it in the way that he had for other chemicals, it is formed geologically and also used in dubious “Health Bracelets“. Quackery!

In the break he went on an esoteric walking tour of Covent Garden. Watkins was super new agey, but the Atlantis bookshop was much better. He visited the basement exhibition of tools, silver bullets and even a mermaid skeleton! The shopkeeper was dismissive of crystal healing, but suggested looking at astro archeology. He found two books of interest:

  1. A Little History of Astro-Archaeology
  2. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones

We went on to talk about his new mythology. Jayson has been spending alot of his time writing and is almost at a first draft of his dissertation. He’s using the approach of “Insect Media” by Jussi Parikka as a basis for his writing around the development of development of computers in relation to crystals.

His mythology is based around the idea that crystals are spreading everywhere (inspired by the “The Crystal World” by JG Ballard). I suggested the idea of future AI’s using people as structures for growing crystals or the idea of data creation as crystal growth. Jayson also referenced the classic nanomachine trope of Grey Goo.

Jayson found a page relating to gemstone myth and folklore. He’s trying to find someone with a research background in the area. He’s very interested in crystal gazing, Mayan crystalmancy, magic in Europe and also found this dissertation on “Cunning Folk and Wizards“.

Next Jayson showed his experiments with 3D printing support structures to grow crystals on:

This took about a day to grow. He’s going to experiment with adding lighting, LED’s and lasers to the structures. I suggested growing a 3D disco ball! Interestingly, they can be dissolved and regrown at will.

Next we talked about the analogue/digital mix of the final installation – he’s very excited about the use of the 3D printed lattice but needs to work on the mythology more. Are these made by future AI’s? Do they emerge from electronic dumps? I also suggested having a live tank so people could see the crystals growing.

I set the following homework:

  1. Experiment with lasers, LEDs and other electronics in the crystal growth structures.
  2. Read the Curious Lore Of Precious Stones.
  3. Think more about the overall look of the exhibition.
  4. Send me his proposal for her dissertation and the bibliography for it

Unfortunately, Jules was unable to make it, but she updated me on her Javascript work, especially around matter.js and voice synthesis.


Session 7: Stop Motion, More Crystals and Gut Flora

We started the session with Jullianne’s homework from the previous session:

  1. Set up a Twitter account for the project
  2. Keep pushing on gathering content
  3. Speak to the technical support team about likely projector for her final show
  4. Make video/static documentation of code as it is
  5. Draw out the interface as she sees it – paper prototype it!

She created a Twitter account for the project: @sharemodernlove. On the content side of things she reached out to Tinder Nightmares and LastMessageRecieved, and posted on her blog about it. She emailed the technical support team, but I suggested meeting them in person as they are so busy. She posted some documentation of her code in its current state:

We discussed building the installation on the web in p5.js rather than in openFrameworks, which has quite a steep learning curve.

I found a series of tutorials from the amazing Coding Train on physics simulation in p5.js:

In addition I suggested using .json files to store conversations and use this tutorial to load it into p5.js.

I set the following homework:

  1. Gather more content, dependent on Tumblr responses.
  2. Make a prototype with:
    1. p5.js
    2. Data files in json for conversations
    3. Physics based chains of conversations, similar to this Matter.js example.
    4. Voice synthesis with p5.js-speech.
    5. iPad swipes via osc using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  3. Keep chasing the technical team for projector resolution
  4. Set up your own GitHub.

Jayson was next in the session and we started by reviewing his homework from the previous session:

  1. Watch Silent Running
  2. Reach out to Mike Rumsey
  3. What computing problems can crystals solve?
  4. Speak to theo about computing people
  5. Take a crystal healing session
  6. Reach out to Andy Lomas

He watched Silent Running, but didn’t cry! He emailed Mike Rumsey, who was predictably very busy – but Jayson is trying to set up a time to meet with him. This conversation brought up the subject of crystals formed as a result of human activity. Jayson referenced Drexciya:

Drexciya, which eschewed media attention and its attendant focus on personality, developed an afrofuturist myth. The group revealed in the sleeve notes to their 1997 album The Quest that “Drexciya” was an underwater country populated by the unborn children of pregnant African women who were thrown off of slave ships; the babies had adapted to breathe underwater in their mothers’ wombs.

We seized upon this idea of creating ones own myths – the idea of minerals forming around a shipwreck – like a stomach bug eating the dead body of it’s host. Jayson referenced Hopi Native Americans and their use of crystals during ceremonies – to be able to see new things and also to deflect light. I said to not be afraid of making a beautiful space – imagine a network of reflected beams. Jayson decided to write about it – I suggested making a map of his myth.

The main computing application of crystals was to use as oscillators to allow for timing within the computer. He showed two very dry Department of Defense videos on the subject. I suggested some more research into the applications of oscillators – what is the computational relationship?

Jayson spoke to Theo, and unfortunately he didn’t have any further contacts for him. I suggested looking at crystal radios, as a reference to something that I had done in my youth. I then remembered the image of the first transistor:

Which used a crystal of Germanium – a perfect computational reference!

We moved on to a discussion of the previous article around the Anthropocene, particularly around the forming of crystals on the great barrier reef – in the future could sea level rises cause electronic dumps to be flooded to form new crystal structures? Jayson stated that he’s going to print some 3D shapes as forms to grow crystals on.

Jayson hasn’t been for his crystal healing session as yet, he is going to do the walking tour. He posted on several forums for a lower cost alternative to a full crystal healing session. He’s going to wait to reach out to Andy Lomas until he’s surer of what his installation is going to be. I discovered a link about crystals being used to enable quantum computing.

I set the following homework:

  1. Make a crystal radio.
  2. Research Germanium.
  3. Consider your new mythology – around undersea wrecks? Flooded dumps? Mining in the future?
  4. 3D print a support structure to grow crystals on.
  5. Meet a crystal healer / do an esoteric walking tour
  6. Think again about the analogue/digital mix of your installation. Situate your practise in your own life history and memories.

Dianne was last to have her work discussed in the session. Her homework from the previous session was as follows:

  1. Ask mum best place in London for research
  2. Biohacking lab, can they help with construction
  3. Make contact with the best place – what would they advise
  4. Plan exhibition more – micro / macro / explanation
  5. Speak to the Wellcome trust
  6. Get glassware catalogues from mum – or the websites for gear
  7. Speak to William Latham at Goldsmiths
  8. Speak to other researchers at Goldsmiths
  9. Research biome simulation

After speaking to her mum, she was recommended Imperial College and Kings College as places in London doing Microbiome research. Jeremy Nicholson was one person that she highlit, as well as Tim Spector at Kings.

Further away from London we found the Oxford Interdisciplinary Microbiome Project, unfortunately she missed their recent meeting, but it looked to be a good resource. Her mother also suggested Glen Gibson who know’s her personally – his work is more around diet and nutrition, but he is well connected.

The Biohack lab will help with advice but it’s much more of a do it yourself kind of place.

She felt she needed to develop her core questions further before approaching people. Quorum sensing was an area that looked interesting – how bacteria communicate with each other by forming a biofilm.

Dianne is focusing on her dissertation at the moment – as she will be marked on it. This written work will form the core of the question(s) and theme(s) she wants to explore in her exhibition – which she will not be marked on.

She has visited them, but she needs a larger group of people to get funding – I suggested using them as a resource for glassware and other historical artefacts.

She found this source for Agar, which would have to be ordered through a lab – but she could make dyed Agar with regular nutrient Agar and food colourings. Her mother suggested experimenting with various dyes – certain bacteria will tend to certain colours.

She reached out to William Latham, after finding two of his papers that were relevant:

He suggested meeting after the end of term and also suggested bringing Frederic Laymarie into the conversation too. He linked to his Mutator VR project.

Some recent projects from Frederic:

  • FoldSynth: An interactive platform for the study of proteins and other molecular strands (joint work with Imperial College/Bioinformatics)
  • Eco-a-Life: Ecosystems in Virtual Worlds (joint work with Portuguese artist/programmer Rui Antunes)

It looks like he could be a good contact for an introduction to the Bioinformatics team at Imperial – who state on their website that they are keen to:

Develop new collaborative projects within and outside Imperial, particularly those that are multi-disciplinary.

Dianne said she’s also interested in bioinformatics – computation is the lens through which we view the biome.

She emailed Lisa Blackman, she replied with the following:

I just edited a special issue of Body and Society called The New Biologies exploring some of these issues. I would recommend Hannah Landecker‘s work who contributes to the issue. You might also find the work of Samantha Frost of interest and particularly her new book Biocultural Creatures.

Dianne ordered the book and found some great resources from looking at Hannah Landecker.

We then moved on to her research around simulation.

Pink Bacteria Dance by kynd.

Wanderers: Living Mushtari by The Mediated Matter group at MIT.

RGB Petri by Jeremy Awon.

AADRL Spyropoulos Design Lab research.

We also found some good biohacking  resources:

We returned to the central question of her work – what is it? Dianne said she was exploring what it means to be human. We came back to the thought of alien life seeing humans as hosts for the biome. If you take two humans their DNA will be 99.9% identical, but their biomes will be wildly different. In terms of DNA, humans are 98% pig and 80% banana! We also discussed brain/biome interaction and what the Bioinformatics team is researching in that area.

Dianne referenced Simon Sublime, an anonymous Artist/Scientist, particularly his methods of exhibiting his work.

Finally I suggested looking at the simulation of mitosis on the fantastic Coding Train.

Perhaps Dianne could simulate all Gut Flora?

Diane Homework:

  1. Keep thinking on question for dissertation
  2. What is the installation? Bioinformatics of the Biome?
  3. Speak to the Wellcome trust collection what do they have on the biome? What apparatus? Even just the glassware collection.
  4. Contact the Science Museum – about their work on the Biome.
  5. Meet with William Latham and Frederic Laymarie at Goldsmiths.
  6. Make contact with the Bioinformatics team at Imperial.

Session 6: Insights into the Gut Biome, Modern Love Tales and Crystals

We started the session by going over Dianne’s homework:

  1. Her top ten insights into the gut biome
  2. Can she source Agar in large quantities?
  3. What existing microscopy equipment can she get access to at Goldsmiths?

She supplied the following insights:

  1. “Recent studies demonstrate that gut microbes directly alter neurotransmitter levels, which may enable them to communicate with neurons.”
  2. Scientists have observes that the gut microbiota interact with the central nervous system…mental health and  even neurological development might be shaped by the composition and behaviour of these bacteria.
  3. The human gut microbiome is made up of organisms belonging to over 30 different genera and as many as 500 separate bacterial species or phenotypes, most being from the Firmicutes and the Bacteroides.
  4. Bacteria are our ancestors, “every living thing that exists now, or has ever lived is bacterial.”
  5. The human is a walking ecosystem.
  6. There are ten times as many bacterial cells as human cells in the body.
  7. It is impossible to study the entire gut microbiome as when extracted from the body as lot of the bacterial species die.
  8. 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract.
  9. Fecal transplantation is being researched and developed to treat disease and obesity etc.
  10. Bacteria invented all the basic metabolic processes, including photosynthesis and chemical conversion that every other life form remains utterly dependent on.
  11. The wide adoption of antibiotics, rigorous hygiene and processed diets id thought to have cut down the genetic diversity of micro biomes in the developed world.

We then moved on to discussing how much agar she could source. After some research she realised that it’s not possible to use agar if you want to do microscopy – as you need to use a slide in order for that to work – and under-light the sample.

I asked what the speed/lifespan was normally – she’s done previous experiments which had a lifespan of 24/48 hours, especially if she avoids copper lined dishes, which is a natural anti-bacterial.

The conversation then moved onto organ on a chip discussions – could she find a gut on a chip? She referenced the Wyss Institute at Havard. I said it reminded me of Tobie Kerridge’s BioJewellery project.

We discussed her sourcing glassware to contain her gut biome – she suggested speaking to the BioHackingLab to find where they source from – I also suggested speaking to her mum (who is a micro-biologist) to find out the best places to collaborate with in London – there must be people in London working on gut biome / brain interaction. We did a quick search on the Goldsmiths site via Google, which yielded some promising results.

Finally she raised concerns that there isn’t enough computing in her project – I said to keep it in mind, but there is plenty of work around biological simulation on computers – from Conway’s Game of Life to more recent Microbiome Simulations.

I set the following homework:

  1. Ask mum best place in London for research
  2. Biohacking lab, can they help with construction
  3. Make contact with the best place – what would they advise
  4. Plan exhibition more – micro / macro / explanation
  5. Speak to the Wellcome trust
  6. Get glassware catalogues from mum – or the websites for gear
  7. Speak to William Latham at Goldsmiths
  8. Speak to other researchers at Goldsmiths
  9. Research biome simulation

Next it was Julianne’s turn. Her homework from the last session was as follows:

  1. What is the screen resolution for your projection? So we can think about text scale and spacing.
  2. Investigate voice synthesis
  3. Think about the flower metaphor for conversations – beautiful at first, but terrifying conversations
  4. Interface – draw it out create a stop motion animation
  5. Think about how to campaign for more content

Since our last session she created a Tumblr for the project, as well as an email address for submissions. I advised her to set up a Twitter account in addition. She’s going to create a poster for the project as soon as everything is in place – I emphasised how important it was to keep up the momentum on the project. She doesn’t know the screen resolution of her projection as yet, I advised her to talk to the technical team at Goldsmiths to find out which projector she’s likely to be able to access – it’s essential to allow her to think about her text resolution which will impact readability dramatically.

Julianne shared Romantimatic, an app that reminds you to be romantic, we then moved on to a discussion about using voice synthesis to speak the content that she is collecting – she said she’s not opposed to it, just unsure of how to implement – I demonstrated the voice synthesiser in OSX, and how to get it to read any piece of text.

We then moved on to a discussion about the flower metaphor – she thought about it but was more envisioning a bubble effect, with multiple camera angles and using the flower idea for connections between conversations. She’s keen not to create just a long chain of conversations.

I shared ofxBox2D for openFrameworks by Todd Vanderlin, a 2D Newtonian physics simulator:

I showed, a repository of addons for openFrameworks. Together we picked out several addons that might be useful for her project:

I said the most important thing was to get to a technically complete prototype as soon as possible – and to document those early prototypes, but the most important thing being the creation of a paper prototype. I advised her to sketch it out as soon as possible – using Keynote from Apple with simple stop motion animation via photographs.

I set the following homework:

  1. Set up a Twitter account for the project
  2. Keep pushing on gathering content
  3. Speak to the technical support team about likely projector for her final show
  4. Make video/static documentation of code as it is
  5. Draw out the interface as she sees it – paper prototype it!

The last person in the session was Jayson, who had the following homework:

  1. Watch Silent Running
  2. What is the personal aspect of this installation? How is it unique to you? Why could have it only have been made by you?
  3. Why does it exist?

Unfortunately, he hadn’t managed to watch Silent Running, so we moved on to the personal aspect of the work. He suggested having a screen to explain the piece – I suggested just making a normal poster so that he could concentrate his setup time on the installation itself. We talked about making crystal growth interactive, using electricity, hydrochloric acid and tin, which can be done in real time:

Jayson felt it didn’t look enough like what people think of as a crystal, so we searched for other crystal growing methods. He shared an aluminium sulphate crystal that he had already grown at home.




I suggested trying to find a mineralogist, gemologist or chemist. We found Mike Rumsey at the Natural History Museum. Jayson said that he’s going to experiment with a moving microscope that he’s found at Goldsmiths Digital Fabrication lab.

We moved on to a discussion of computation and how it relates to this project – I thought simulating crystal growth digitally was an interesting area – how does this relate to Cybernetics? What problems could be solved by this simulation? Computing the shortest route in a maze? How else can they be used for computation?

We found a paper on Crystal Voronoi Diagrams, which led me to reference Scott Snibbe’s Boundary Functions installation:

I advised Jayson to speak to Theo Papatheodorou about other people working in this area at Goldsmiths, or in London. We discussed crystal formation as a kind of non conscious self organisation.

Jayson demonstrated a crystal renderer based on a shader that he found on ShaderToy, as well as an additive growth demo. We found a demonstration of a slime mold that can solve mazes:

We discussed doing a 3D print of crystal growth with a real time simulation alongside. In terms of real life activities we found a shop that could give him a crystal healing session, a spiritual shop walking tour of London and a statement from the British Museum on their crystal skull.

I set the following homework:

  1. Watch Silent Running
  2. Reach out to Mike Rumsey
  3. What computing problems can crystals solve?
  4. Speak to theo about computing people
  5. Take a crystal healing session
  6. Reach out to Andy Lomas

Session 5: Paper prototypes, Interviews and Individual Tasks

We started by discussing Jayson’s recent work. Since the last tutorial, he’d been to visit Susan Stepney in Cambridge. He was particularly interested in her because of her academic work around Non-Standard Computation, as well as her interest in Science Fiction:

Reality is a crutch for those who can’t cope with Science Fiction

They had a wide ranging discussion about the Computational Arts from Jayson’s point of view – using computing and computational thinking to inspire, reflect and challenge art. Susan was particularly interested in how artists could visualise complexity and emergence in new ways. They discussed her recent work – particularly around allowing people to control a feedback loop and see it in action. She supplied a series of complexity theory links for him to research – mainly around Jim Crutchfield’s work.

Seizure by Roger Hiorns

This thinking on complexity led Jayson back to cellular automata, emergence and crystals – as an an example of an emergent structure. Following up on these areas, Jayson visited the Natural History Museum crystal and gem aka Mineralogy collection. After buying ten kilograms of Magnesium Sulphate, he started investigating growing his own crystals, and thinking about 3D printing a lattice to support it. I referenced Roger Hiorn’s “Seizure” .

Jayson’s paper mockup

Jayson presented the paper mockup of his graduating show. From right, a glass tank for growing crystals, the largest crystal in the central spot and on the left a computer to display a digital screen simulation of crystal growth.

Andy Lomas, Aggregation 9

I referenced Andy Lomas’s work around digital Aggregation, as well as Kimchi and Chips Line Segments Space and Lit Tree projects. The Lit Tree project produced discussions around blending the analogue and the digital – especially users being able to change the growth of the tree by highlighting different parts of the plant with their hands in real time.

Could people “mine” for digital rocks when they visit Jayson’s installation? We discussed how we could make the installation more autobiographical – which prompted Jayson to relate a memory of growing up in Australia – playing in the back garden and digging up Copper there. We talked about using a microscope to allow visitors to view the analogue (grown) crystal in real time.

Jayson discussed “The Crystal World” by J.G. Ballard:

The novel tells the story of a physician trying to make his way deep into the jungle to a secluded leprosy treatment facility. While trying to make it to his destination, his chaotic path leads him to try to come to terms with an apocalyptic phenomenon in the jungle that crystallises everything it touches.

We discussed him making a self portrait – but with crystals replacing his eyes. How can he accelerate the process? We talked about seeing crystals as computation – or as a metaphor for computation.

I referenced the MONIAC liquid simulator of the British Economy:

As well as Arcologies (self contained environments), which led to me screening the trailer for Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull:

I set Jayson the homework of watching Silent Running as well considering the why of his installation.

Moving onto Julianne’s work, we began by discussing the various people that she has reached out to on the project – Alison Wade responded, but unfortunately she’s currently in India. Julianne posted her questions for Alison on her blog:

  • Why paintings as opposed to other mediums?
  • How were you able to turn your heartache into art?
  • How did you go about picking these phrases instead of other parts of the messages?
  • What is your take on the way technology is affecting love?
  • Have you ever been ghosted? If so, how can that be portrayed through art in a way that these messages have been portrayed?
  • Was it hard to look over these messages? Did that affect your ability to create your work? Did it drive you?
  • Did you meet any of these ex’s online?
  • Do you think the nature of these messages would have changed if you had?
  • Was creating this series therapeutic?
  • What was your thought process/process for this piece?
  • Why do you think people gravitated towards this series? It seems as it it cultivated a lot of press.
  • The cult: the beginning of this project came after, she hadn’t been contacted
  • What advice would you give modern love with regard to what you’ve discovered about modern relationships?
  • What advice would you give artists today that are interested in your same subject?
  • Breakups can be quite debilitating. How would you advise young artists that are feeling crippled by their own heartache?

Next Julianne shared her cardboard mockup of her exhibition:

I.e. a central projection of the conversations that she’s been gathering from friends from social networks (Tinder and Bumble) – with a computer on the right to allow people to add their own content. She’s been getting screen grabs and then transcribing the content manually. I advised against her allowing people to add content live at the installation – it’s a minefield of people either trolling or a time sink in terms of coding to live functionality.

We discussed the moment that she was most interested in the relationships – the inflection point when people decide to get closer or fall apart – I asked if the installation was a kind of Memento mori – i.e. reminding people that everything ends.

We talked about the projected text itself breaking up at the point of breaking up. I posed the question of what the interface would allow people to navigate her curated dataset in a natural way – we quickly moved away from Kinect or computer vision based gestural interfaces and zero’d in on using a version of the Tinder swipe left or right as a way of selecting – a fitting echo.

I referenced Listening Post again – especially the voice synthesis as a way of communicating text content in a multimedia fashion:

I went on to reference the visualisation methods used for several projects from Andreas Muller – Wind, SwimmingMessageSystem and Hana:

Finally, we discussed 40 Days of Dating from Sagmeister and Walsh as a good reference for visualising the history of a relationship.

We focussed on the flower metaphor for a relationship – growing and branching and either blooming or decaying away. I set the following homework for Julianne:

  1. What is the screen resolution of your projection going to be? This will impact on your type sizing dramatically, as well as the relative scale of other parts of your interface.
  2. Investigate voice synthesis
  3. Explore the flower metaphor
  4. Paper prototype your projection interface, make a stop motion animation of it
  5. Plan your campaign to get more content

Finally, we moved onto Diane’s work. We started by discussing her trip to Transmediale 2017, where amongst other things she managed to have a conversation with Martin Howse. One of the most interesting parts for Diane was how he positions himself – he’s not making art about science but rather how you artistically interface with these scientific things.  How far you go into it, how you can shift it, you are not the scientist. He looks at medieval alchemy to investigate digital technology, trying to redo ancient experiments – it’s not important for them to “work”. He’s looking at the chemicals used in modern computer:

…you take these materials that are used in modern computing and then try to process them through these alchemical techniques. Critical connections start to emerge…

For example, cyanide is used to process gold, cyanide killed Turing. He is interested in the toxicity of things and where software executes. I mentioned that it sounds like he is on a Quixotic quest – it’s a way of investigating modern technology in ancient ways – pre scientific method almost. Diane said that he had no formal scientific training, did a lot of work with computing, was at Goldsmiths at the beginning of his career. Diane stated that life seemed to be more about death in old times, now future is shiny and heavenly – this brought
up Howes’s most recent bacterial work – he’s been investigating a gold mine and the run off feeding bacteria. Finally Diane discussed his practise in general – Howse likes the process of making the exhibition about the studio experiments, re making it for the gallery – for example working with poetry generating worms and then hiding them in the gallery. His method of translating from studio to gallery context.

We then moved on to discuss Diane’s proposed exhibition, which can be seen above. She intends it to be an intimate, enclosed space, darkly lit.  The large bean like object on the table at the rear is a large scale glass vessel containing her own gut bacteria in culture (aka an anaerobic fermentation cell), with a large strip light adjacent – strobing randomly. She aims to monitor the fermentation cell in some real time method, and have that output to a screen on the floor – which can be seen at the bottom right of the maquette. As the gut cells are anerobic, they must be sealed against our atmosphere. Diane went on to discuss how she’d keep the cells alive – it would smell awful and have to be “fed” constantly. I said it reminded me of a terrarium.

Diane has been looking at the latest research on the gut biome – particularly around biome/brain communication. I said I thought this was a very rich area to communicate – but what will she be able to actually measure? pH? What is the output going to be? How will this screen on the floor function? Diane said that she was interested in the idea of symobiosis – and also that visiting aliens might view us as merely mosts for our gut bacteria – rather than an independent organism. I challenged her on the idea of her being the host for her bacteria – could the exhibition be about that? Her gut as her partner? Her brain affecting her gut and her gut affecting her brain? Could we measure the activity of the bacteria and use that to generate a story? I referenced Memo Atken’s recent work around generation of texts using neural networks. Could the gut be generating her thoughts? Diane stated quickly that she doesn’t want it to be a self portrait – I asked if it could be autobiographical – about her relationship with her mother and her mother’s relationship with her and her gut bacteria. She’s very keen to allow people to interface with the biome in real time – and educate people that we don’t actually eat food, we eat the byproducts of food. I asked her if she could be the mother, and the biome her baby? I referenced the following project:

Would it be possible to do a similar scale installation with her own gut bacteria? Could we allow visitors to “fly” around the landscape using a mounted microscope?

I left Diane with the following three questions:

  1. Her top ten insights into the gut biome
  2. Can she source Agar in large quantities?
  3. What existing microscopy equipment can she get access to at Goldsmiths?

Session 4: Interviews, Why and Paper Prototyping again

Jayson is going to interview Susan Stepney in Cambridge on Monday 23rd January. He’s interested in her work on Heterotic computing, the idea of combining several different models of computing into a whole.

On her page on Science Fiction she had the following quote:

I never fully understood [the label of ‘escapist’] till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, ‘What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers.

C. S. Lewis, “On Science Fiction”

Susan gave a talk at Goldsmiths, but I’ve been unable to find it, here are two other talks that she gave recently:

I referenced Joscha Bach‘s talk at the recent 33c3 conference in Berlin, especially when he spoke about Conway’s Game of Life (at around 13m35s):

His various talks over the past few years can be found here.

We discussed the idea of really specialising, really focusing in, I suggested looking at the Win Without Pitching manifesto. I asked Jayson what he was aiming for, he discussed thinking about a collaboration with Susan, trying to show a series of different methods of computing, all linking together, but leaning towards writing. I said that it had to be something – what about a series of Cellular Automata, but each using a different method of computation? Mostly important was the why. Why was he taking this path? What autobiographical reason was there? What is the story around this work? How are people going to be introduced to it?

I asked Diane and Julianne why they were doing art in the first place? Diane spoke about wanting to share the feeling of discovery that she had at various moments. Julianne said that she wanted to tell stories.

I referenced Pollock’s quote on Clyfford Still:

“Clyfford Still makes the rest of us look academic.”

I discussed the overload that I felt at the recent Abstract Impressionism show at the Royal Academy, but also the relief of going into the Still room.

We then went on to discuss different methods of showing work – I referenced Helen Marten’s assemblages, and her work with other craftspeople to manufacture objects to her specification.

Dianne has been trying to get in contact with Martin Howse, who is interested in the materiality of computing – i.e. the materials that make computers. Dianne referenced the Earth Boot project:

Where Richard builds a probe that allows a computer to attempt to boot from the earth itself:

Earth as operating system(OS).
earthboot boots from the earth.
earthboot returns vampiric technology to the earth.
earthboot enables almost any computer to boot straight from the earth, sidestepping dirty mining actions, and the expensive refining and doping of raw minerals; thus avoiding environmentally wasteful
production techniques for the construction of data bearing devices
such as hard drives or USB memory sticks
Instead, earthboot boots straight from the earth itself, exploring the
being-substrate of contemporary digital technology; the material basis of 21st century computation.

Diane talked about being interested in this unique approach to computation. I again asked why, and referenced the Why Bird Stop from Playdays:

I encouraged everyone to be Why Birds.

Dianne talked about her recent research into bacteria – inspired by Richard’s use of “mucky” scientific processes, outside of the lab. She spoke about her mother’s career as a microbiologist and that she herself had even appeared in text books after her mother conducting tests on her. Jayson referenced Henrietta Lacks‘ immortal cells and I suggested looking at “The Cabaret of Plants” by Richard Mabey that concludes with a chapter on plant networks in the Wood Wide Web.

We then looked at Break Down by Michael Landy, and discussed the story of him stacking individual sheets of toilet paper while he was at Goldsmiths – told in the documentary “The Last Art Film” by Jake Auerbach.

I remembered a quote from his tutor Michael Craig-Martin that, uniquely, he could remember every single one of Michael’s projects whilst he was at college.

I suggested that Dianne needed to zero in on something and focus upon it. Dianne responded by talking about her interested in Homeostasis as a process and being interested in making a virtual gut, as well as the beauty of Phages, which brought up a trio of references from previous work by other artists, Artist’s Shit by Piero Manzoni Cloaca by Wim Delvoye and Still Life by Sam Taylor-Johnson.

Julianne had had a response from Seth Wulsin about an interview, so she’s going to email him asking about why he makes his work as well as enquiring about the transformation from a conceptual idea to something tangible. She felt that transformation is where she struggles most in her process. Recently Julianne has been looking at the subject of Love in technology, and the effect of technology on how people meet, relate and break up. She’s been asking her friends for access to their Tinder records – all their words and exchanges. Many participants talked about their embarrassment at handing over the information. Julianne is looking at how she could use the Microsoft Kinect to as an interface to the anonymised data that she has curated.

I referenced two Instagram users: TinderNightmares and TextsFromYourEx.

In terms of how to think about the presentation of the data set, I referenced two projects, We Feel Fine by Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris as well asListening Post by Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen.

We found a great article about the project 10 years on, as well as discussion the idea of movements for the data and how to bring the human aspect back into the work. That sparked a reference to Tender by  Marcello Gomez Maureira:

Jayson referenced Cuddlr, which led to a discussion of ELIZA bots as well as more recent developments. Finally, we discussed Deepmind’s recent advances in voice synthesis.

I set the following two pieces of homework, both due to be presented at Session 5:

  • Exhibit your interview – the journey of your conversation, even if you fail, preferably 30 minutes video or interview
  • Build a paper prototype of your installation – even if it’s just a straw man

Session 3: Parallel Worlds Conference, Golden Eggs and Interviews in 2017

Session 3 was conducted during the lunch break of the Parallel Worlds conference at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The schedule of the day was as follows:

11:00 – 12:35 Session 1 – Brave New Worlds
Simon Parkin (Author and Journalist)
Kareem Ettouney (Media Molecule)
Pol Clarissou and Héloïse Lozano (Klondike)

12:35 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 14:40 Session 2 – Playing With History
Holly Nielsen – Session Chair
Simon Mann (Creative Assembly)
Meg Jayanth (Writer and Game Maker)

14:40 – 15:50 Session 3 – The Realities of Virtual Reality
Kristian Volsing – Session Chair
Laura Dilloway (Guerrilla Games)
Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn (Tale of Tales)

15:50 Break

16:15 – 17:30 Session 4 – Augmenting Reality
Marie Foulston – Session Chair
Holly Gramazio (Matheson Marcault)
Keiichi Matsuda (Critical Design)

While all the presentations and discussions were interesting, I personally found Pol Clarissou and Héloïse Lozano (Klondike) and Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn (Tale of Tales) work and discussions most interesting. Klondike had an interesting collective approach to their work – allowing individuals to make contributions with no centralised control. The demonstration of Fishbones (about the last moments of the players life while drowning) was both harrowing and beautiful. Tale of Tales were inspirational for their ambition, determination and level of research. I can’t wait to experience Cathedral in the Clouds in person.

Over lunch I had a chance to catch up with Jayson, Julianne and Diane. While no one completed their paper prototyping task, it seemed that everyone had made progress on locating their Golden Eggs as well as their Heroes or Heroines to interview over the holiday break.

Diane delivered her homework from session 1, concentrating on the bill of materials of mobile phones – mainly thinking about what kind of objects could be made from the various different elements that make up a mobile phone, selecting based on arts and crafts that are associated with the country of origin. For example, a Nkondi idol from Congo, but made from Cobalt, a material used in batteries:

Sculpture by unknown artist(s) Public Domain, Link
Sculpture by unknown artist(s) Public Domain, Link

She identified the following three possible heroes:

  1. Ralf Baeker (also one of Jayson’s)
  2. Martin Howse
  3. Jus­si Parik­ka

Luckily she ended up choosing New Ma­te­ri­al­ism and Non-Hu­man­isa­tion, an In­ter­view with Jus­si Parik­ka by Michael Di­eter as her golden egg – i.e. an element from their journey down the rabbit hole of their research that they would like to surface and share with their audience. She stated the following uses of her egg:

It is more of an interview than a paper that has a lot of in depth information which has been extremely useful in guiding further research covering the following key themes:

New Materialism
German Media Theory
The nonhuman
“Dirty Matter”

Jayson sent me the following egg, which he also posted on his blog:

Many-body correlations

At the moment there is a gap between quantum physics which can explain the very small and relativity and classical physics which describe things at a larger scale. The many-body proposition is that the larger effects of physics such as the force of magnetism emerges from the quantum behaviour of particles. We cannot observe quantum behaviour such as entanglement at real world scales but many observable effects such as magnetism are caused by the overall entanglement of particles. One real example of this is that birds use the quantum entanglement of electrons in their eyes so that they can navigate over huge distances during migrations.

Julianne selected a paper by Hans Bjelkhagen and Jill Cook: “Colour holography of the oldest known work of art from Wales“:

The human contact with this is holography’s unique ability to be used in a gallery setting for a purpose other than art. I felt this piece was more relevant because holography can be used in a variety of ways but I thought it was interesting to use it as a way of replicating a piece of art. It’s a bit meta in a way. I thought this contrasted well with its use in art. I feel someone would care because it shows that holography can be a tool as well as art. Almost simultaneously, if we chose to see it that way. I care because it opened my eyes to the many uses to holography and its many uses in a gallery.

I set the following two pieces of homework, both due to be presented at Session 4:

  • Have a good break
  • Try to interview your chosen hero
  • Exhibit your interview – the journey of your conversation, even if you fail, preferably 30 minutes video or interview


Session 2: How to go deeper, A billion dollar budget and hero selection with Jayson and Julianne

We started by reviewing John Cleese on creativity:

Then went through the homework from the last tutorial:

  1. Describe how to go deeper in your chosen area of practise. Beyond the surface. How can you make new human contact in your area?
  2. Make a paper-based mockup of your project if you had $1 Billion in funding.
  3. A person who is alive now who could be your hero/heroine within your chosen area of practise.

Jayson started by describing some of the discussions he’d had with the other associate lecturer on the MFA course, Helen Pritchard, around computing research in the UK:

I referenced Stephen Wolfram and his work on cellular automata, especially in relation to Andy Adamatzky’s work – but also his determination to publish A New Kind of Science himself – using the proceeds from Mathematica to allow him to do that to his specifications.

I also referenced Einstein’s quote, after discussing Rule 30:

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.

Or another way:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

We discussed the idea of taking a simple thing and then (to paraphrase Ruairi Glynn):

Repeat until beautiful

Which we agreed was unsatisfactory. Finally we discussed the magical Wyvern Bindery as an example of a business using a craft that gets deeper the further you go.

Jayson stated that he thought Deep Learning was interesting, as well as light based computing (on a macro rather than photonic scale). I challenged him to use light based computing to explain Deep Learning techniques visually and interactively. I repeated the challenge was to take a complex idea and make engaging without making it banal – to go down the rabbit hole and bring up a golden egg – i.e. not to stay in the hole!

Julianne stated her area of interest was Holography, and particularly its history. We discussed how commonly Pepper’s Ghost was inaccurately described as a hologram.

She went on to reference two artists:

Even though they weren’t strictly holograms, Julianne spoke about a feeling:

…like a strange intelligence…

When she observed either artists work. I spoke about the potential of computational art is to make feedback loops rather than the observer pattern of other practises. Computational art can be different politically to the capitalist tendency to subsume and devour any new forms of expression and incorporate them into its money making, novelty seeking regime. That resistance is possible via computational work.

I referenced Mark Rothko’s taking back of his commission for the Four Seasons hotel and gifting the some of the work to the Tate Modern in the UK – but specifying the light level for the work’s exhibition. I referenced the light levels to encourage Jayson and Julianne to think about the light levels and level of explanation that they provide for their exhibition at the end of the MFA course – sometimes a dark space can be a feature rather than a bug, but how do they deal with it in the most effective way?

Jayson said that if he had a billion dollar budget for his work, he’d make an orbiting system of lasers – I responded with a why? What function would this make, artistic or otherwise. I referenced using lasers as air pollution meters (or making cheaper alternatives) and also the Greenwich Meridian laser installation.


Julianne spoke about making an improved heart rate monitor, and scaling it’s use to more than 100,000 people. I suggested using a mesh network to make that possible, as more conventional networking would quickly be overcome by that many people in proximity. Julianne also discussed making some large scale suspended Pepper’s Ghost illusions – we reviewed Madonna’s performance from 2006 and noted the smart placement of an artificial crowd of actors to obscure the lower part of the screen and ensure that the real audience didn’t get too close.


I then went on to reference non-contact methods of measuring pulse, especially the work at MIT:

Including sound recovery:

Julianne and Jayson both selected people to be their hero/heroine within your chosen area of practise:


We continued by reviewing Durrell Bishop’s design for an answering machine from the previous session, and concluded by watching Every Frame a Painting‘s documentaries on Chuck Jones and Jackie Chan:

I concluded by issuing the following tasks:

  • Find an egg and present it at lunchtime.
  • What is the human contact with the egg, what’s the use of it?
  • Why would someone care? Why do you care as author?

In the new year:

  • Interview your hero!

Session 1: Meeting Diane, Jayson and Jules, references we discussed and things to work on

Last week I did my first session as part of my new lectureship at Goldsmiths as part of the MFA Computational Arts course. After enrolling at the university with the help of Dr. Rose Hepworth, I sat down with my students: Diane Edwards, Jayson Haebich and Julianne Rahimi to discuss their work and plans for the rest of this year, working towards their final show.

After we introduced ourselves, we started by discussing their individual projects for the recent group show, Metasis:

We began by watching and discussing the following references:


Agnes Martin: “To progress in life you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind.”

That two of the most interesting things about computers were their ability to use (pseudo)randomness and their realtime interaction capability.

Two books by Lawrence Weschler:

CS183, the startup course taught by the (in)famous Peter Thiel at Stanford.

Loren Carpenter‘s interaction experiment at SIGGRAPH ‘91 and the work of Adam Curtis.

The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron from August 1995.

Things to be worked on:

  1. Describe how to go deeper in your chosen area of practise. Beyond the surface. How can you make new human contact in your area?
  2. Make a paper-based mockup of your project if you had $1 Billion in funding.
  3. A person who is alive now who could be your hero/heroine within your chosen area of practise.

Finally, I showed the following image for what my reaction to their graduating shows should be:

Neil Armstrong immediately post moonwalk.
Neil Armstrong immediately post moonwalk.