[ISEA2011] Panel: Tagny Duff – The Human Incubator for Feeding Microbes

Panel Statement

Panel: BioARTCAMP: Laboratory Ecologies in the Wild West

Techno-sci­en­tific tools and de­vices are rou­tinely used to mimic and re­pro­duce con­di­tions of life. The in­cu­ba­tor is one such piece of tech­nol­ogy that re­pro­duces tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity needed to en­cour­age the growth of cell based or­gan­isms. Usu­ally such a piece of equip­ment- a sta­ble of sci­en­tific lab ecolo­gies- is used to in­cu­bate and fos­ter cell growth of mi­croor­gan­isms in a ster­ile and con­tained lab en­vi­ron­ment. The Human In­cu­ba­tor for Feed­ing Mi­crobes is a pro­ject reimag­in­ing the ma­te­ri­al­ity and func­tion of in­cu­ba­tion from a non-hu­man per­spec­tive  and out­side of the of­fi­cial lab­o­ra­tory con­text. The pro­ject em­pha­sizes the in­ter­re­la­tion and ex­change be­tween hu­mans and non-hu­mans via mi­cro­bial bio-re­me­di­a­tion of human waste ma­te­ri­als (like hair, dead skin cells, per­spi­ra­tion) and com­postable ma­te­r­ial (potato starch, corn­starch, agar, etc.). In this per­for­mance and site spe­cific in­stal­la­tion work, cus­tom made in­cu­ba­tors are worn on the human body in order to feed mi­crobes and com­mu­ni­cate with them through the process of de­com­po­si­tion, degra­da­tion and re­gen­er­a­tion of  waste ma­te­ri­als.

This paper will pre­sent key is­sues aris­ing from mak­ing, wear­ing and dis­pos­ing of hand­made portable biodegrad­able in­cu­ba­tors. The Human In­cu­ba­tor for Feed­ing Mi­crobes, done as part of Bioart­camp in the Banff Na­tional Park, Canada, will be the case study. How might the ma­te­ri­al­ity, func­tion and de­sign aes­thetic of techno-sci­en­tific equip­ment- specif­i­cally the in­cu­ba­tor-be al­tered by reimag­in­ing mi­cro­bial and non-hu­man-hu­man in­ter­ac­tions?

  • Tagny Duff lives and works in Mon­treal, Canada. Duff’s in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary art prac­tice spans bi­o­log­i­cal art, video, per­for­mance, net art and in­stal­la­tion works. Re­cent works in­clude Cry­obook Archives (2010)  ex­hib­ited at The Sci­ence Gallery as part of the ex­hi­bi­tion en­ti­tled Vis­ceral and Liv­ing Viral Tat­toos (2008). Video doc­u­men­ta­tion of Liv­ing Viral Tat­toos was screened at the Moscow Bi­en­nial (2009) and Na­tional Cen­tre for Con­tem­po­rary Art (2008) (Ke­lin­ingrad, Rus­sia) and IX Me­di­aFo­rum and Moscow In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (2008) as part of the group ex­hi­bi­tion Evo­lu­tion Haute Cou­ture, cu­rated by Dmitry Bu­la­tov.   Duff is As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor in the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Stud­ies De­part­ment at Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­sity and the founder of Flux­me­dia Re­search-Cre­ation Net­work.