Introspection enables people to interact with microorganisms and cells derived from their own body in a non-invasive way. The contradiction of interacting with these alien, unfamiliar life forms (which are nonetheless intimately connected with our bodies) focuses on the boundaries between self and non-self and the cultural interest in bio-identification.? Reflecting on animal experimentation and the relationships between species, the Protozoa Games interactive installations allow humans and live protozoa to compete in a pinball-like environment mediated by digital microscope and motion tracking technologies.? If time allows, other projects in physical computing will also be discussed.
Introspection enables people to interact with microorganisms and cells derived from their own body and those of others. It asks visitors to reflect on the place of humanity within the larger biosphere. The installation’s status as hybrid scientific/medical enterprise and media/game asks questions about access to scientific and medical protocols and new worlds made accessible by science. The contradiction of interacting with these alien, unfamiliar life forms (which are nonetheless intimately connected with our bodies) focuses on the boundaries between self and non-self. The request of visitors to surrender cells or body fluids brings home the often unspoken intimacy of biological research. It was shown in the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon.
The installation reflects on our culture’s increasing focus on the microbiological. Human traits, capabilities, and identities are searched for at the unseen cellular and genetic levels. What should we make of this trend? How should non-scientists participate? It is urgent that the public develop deep literacy with microbiological tools and concepts. Emerging generations of networked, automated microscopes may usher in wider access just as the microcomputer did in its realm. This installation appropriates this emerging technology by reverse engineering it so it can become part of media art. Visitors are invited to play four ‘games’. 1. Explore 2. Mystery 3. Match 4. Blow-up
Explore: Visitors pick areas of their own cell sample for microscopic inspection by moving in the installation space. Motion detection creates a homunculus on screen whose movements parallel those of the visitor. The event seeks to demystify biological research methodology by asking visitors to engage in a mini-study of their own body as part of media art
Mystery: Where Did This Come From? Visitors try to identify what place in their cell sample is the origin of a blown up mystery image. The installation invites viewers to contemplate the micro world and to reflect on a biological era that must work at this unseen level relying on instrumentation for access.
Match: A FBI wanted poster from the future replaces fingerprints with images of cell samples from a randomly selected prior visitor. The viewer is challenged to identify which of six previous viewer portraits is the person who gave the samples. The event asks viewers to reflect on the changing nature of identity when so much cultural attention is focused on the microbiological level. With successful identification, visitors are rewarded with lights flashing in the environment and a sample of the prior visitor’s recording of an answer to questions about things on the inside – such as “what is inside of you?” “how do you know what is inside of someone else?
Blow up: Visitors can pick one area of their cell sample for detailed examination. Movements and gestures in the space can bring access to increasing levels of magnification. More details are seen but is any more known?
- Stephen Wilson, USA, San Francisco State University. userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson