Health, Bones, Teeth, Shells and biomineralisation

December 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This post is one of several exploring the research and creative processes Giles and I have undertaken for our project Lifestreams, an Art+Tech collaboration with industry partner, Philips R&D in Cambridge as part of Anglia Ruskin University’s Visualise programme.

What I did not yet know – and have been discovering – is just incredible!

Our explorations for Lifestreams initiated further research into bio–mineralisation in animals such as bones and seas-hells. It has opened my eyes – even more widely – into the utter inventiveness of Nature.

I studied architecture and spend several years in design research working on the analysis of morphology and dynamics at urban and architectural scale; e.g. how streets and public spaces and their features are organised and how people move through them – so, naturally, I have an ongoing fascination with patterns large and small, both man made and natural, as inspiration and reference for design ideas.

From this basis and with previous personal explorations into biomimetics many years ago (screen sculpture), I thought that it would be good to connect the idea of lifecharms and our shell concepts with the actual processes of bio–mineralisation as they occur in living systems.

To do this, I would need to have a better understanding of the real thing. Extraordinarily the last 30 years or so can really be seen as a new dawn of human discovery of the nano-scale in nature: Many scientists have been uncovering the most amazing natural phenomena of biological fabrication, self-assembly and material composition at the micro-scale.

Knowledge and research into bio–mineralisation has been of huge area of interest in biophysics, chemistry, medical and biological science. It has opened up new routes in areas such as tissue engineering for bone healing, design and production of prosthetics (i.e. limbs etc) and insights into nano-technologies and materials. For instance, this has helped in identifying bio-ceramics for bone scaffolds that could be used in medical procedures. Research into bio-mineralisation has prompted many innovations and holds a further promise in others fields well beyond medical sciences.

So setting out with virtually no understanding of bio-mineralisation I have come to learn that most living systems – ourselves included – are in fact expert at producing hard mineral deposits by growing them in crystal form. Organisms mix living tissue structures with the creation of a variety of crystalline substructures in very deliberate (and often quite subtly different) ways.

These structures of interlacing soft tissues and crystals of different configurations act as composites which are employed within our bodies to do different things; so you could say that ‘growing’ is more than just about purely organic matter but incorporates and embraces the growing and connecting of crystalline structures in our bodies all the time. We effectively grow our own bio-material composites: we have a variety of patterns in our different tissues that make these crystals assemble in very particular structural ways to – for example – construct bones that act as structural internal support, exoskeletons, teeth, sea-shells, glass-spines, beaks, etc.

Glass Sponge Anchoring Fiber...

The mineral/ crystalline deposits that animals and plants can form vary incredibly and – to my great surprise – have even produced such strange objects such as up to 1 meter long glass rods (spicules)

Venus' Flower Basket (Euplectella aspergillum)
(capable of transmitting light similar to a glass fiber) in certain species of glass sponges

JeremyShaw1
and even metal–composite teeth in molluscs!

Growth really encompasses quite complex interactions within cellular tissues where deeply integrated biological, chemical and physical processes result in layers of both living tissue and hard mineral deposits.

Human and animal bones, animal teeth and seashells alike are chemical compositions that are produced by cell tissue acting as templates and scaffolds. These provide the structure along which biologically controlled mineral deposits are formed. As well as the effect of many different chemical compositions, the patterning of these varies greatly depending on the functions they fulfil and what stresses they are under.

One extraordinary type of bio-mineral composite can be found in the teeth of chitons, a type of mollusc that even incorporates iron; in particular an iron oxide called magnetite which together with the organic components make them three times harder than human teeth.

So what good is this to our project research? Well, we are now exploring these phenomena to design a sculptural piece that will use aspects of this bio-mineral composite growth approach in nature. Our experiments are on the way so watch this space!

Storyweir at Bridport Arts Centre

October 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Yesterday we delivered a series of research drawings and video work made in collaboration with Gary Stewart and Stefan Keuppers to Bridport Arts Centre for their exhibition of a selection of work from  ExLab2012. Gary and I have been working on a new two screen audio & video work inspired by conversations about the experience of time and memory we had with the  Cultural Geographers from Exeter University we’ve been collaborating with this summer for our  Storyweir commission  at Hive Beach. Hive Beach is a continually shifting strip of shingle between the land and sea where the endless cycles of sun, tide and waves cause changes larger than we can imagine, but which are also felt by humans on a daily basis.

The new  video at BAC is a new piece combining video shot at Hive Beach with maps, scans of the seabed and archival material.  It features footage of several people whose activities bring them into contact with different cycles of life and histories of the area including a fossil hunter, an archaeologist, a member of Coastwatch and Bridport Wild Swimmers. Data on wave height, wave period and wave direction data gathered from the Channel Coastal Observatory beuy at West Bay is being used to control and modulate the ambient soundtrack that accompanies the voices of people who live, work and play on the coast.

You can see it at BAC from 13 October to 23 November.

 

Shell drawings

September 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This post is one of several exploring the research and creative processes Giles and I have undertaken for our project Lifestreams, an Art+Tech collaboration with industry partner, Philips R&D in Cambridge as part of Anglia Ruskin University’s Visualise programme.

I have talked in a previous post on lifecharms to shells about talismanic, engaging and tangible transfigurations of lifestyle and health data in the form of sea shells. I now  needed to explore the real thing. Off I went on another little spree of discovery both on-line and the real world, picking up a variety of ‘snails’ trails if you will.

I had been making some initial sketches of shells whilst looking at some of the mathematical models that have been around for shells (more of this in a later post) and got deeper into the strange and wonderful world of  shell forms to pick p ideas for forms and processes that I could draw on in the making of our own shells.

Aside from producing a large haul of images from various  on-line searches I wanted to make sure I would see a broad variety of the ‘real thing’. So being in London I went on to do take some pictures of ancient and contemporary shells in the wonderful and inspiring  Natural History Museum within its fossil and invertebrate collections.

From these I made a lot of sketches for our life-streams shells so that I could get a deeper taste and sense of the kind of shell shape variations that exist. To me these sketches helped me to gain a clearer more visual understanding of some of the various archetypes and key differences in different shell structures that I came across. It got me to think about routes for the shell modelling process I have been evolving alongside on the computer and the 3d printers.

I had looked at both ancient fossils which had lost any of their external pigmentation as well as contemporary shells that still retained all their wonderful colour and detail. I am continuously amazed at the range and expressiveness of shapes and colours pigmentation of shells that are out there.

 

From lifecharm to shell

September 19, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

This post is one of several exploring the research and creative processes Giles and I have undertaken for our project Lifestreams, an Art+Tech collaboration with industry partner, Philips R&D in Cambridge as part of Anglia Ruskin University’s Visualise programme.

From its beginning our collaboration with Philips R&D had a focus on lifestyle and health as the two key subject areas so they have formed an integral part of our dialogue and explorations. We’ve spent time in our discussions making and reflecting on the cross-connections between the two; how they intersect and influence each other. As our discussions evolved, we became more interested in some of the challenges for expressing and documenting personal and collective lifestyle choices visibly or invisibly affecting personal health and quality of life.

Stimulating personal motivation for change or reinforcement of positive activities through new means of reflection emerged as goal worth exploring further. Our primary purpose has been driven by thinking of ways and means to make lifestyle choices visible as a means for reflection and possible behaviour change.

We debated what the possible scale and scope of factors affecting our lifestyles were that could be points of reflection; what the nature is of the need for both individuals and groups to see and reflect on the impact of their own and collective choices on health, well-being and quality of life. Our enquiry ranged from evolving ways to make visible and re-enforce positive patterns to  ways of making bigger changes to negative patterns. Our aim is to be able to engage people both through individual and collective reflection and debate.

For instance, what could be vehicles for change that have broad reach spanning young and old without requiring great depth of knowledge to ‘read’ complex information? What could be more emotive, accessible, tangible and shareable? That could indeed inspire a visceral and instinctual form of personal and public reflection? What would form could this take?

Our response to these questions was to take totemic objects as emotive points of reference – iconic and tactile tools for ongoing reflection. We began planning to evolve talismans of self-health, personal pieces that could be carried around on a keyring or as jewelery to remind ourselves of what matters to us. The might be like the charms of old, bracelets embellished with objects, tracing key events and people in our lives but extended to become markers for health and quality of life.

From these ideas of the charm we searched for physical forms that could act as personal objects attached to life, as symbols that are already in the public mind. We arrived at the seashell.

Lifecharm Shells Redux

September 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Our collaborator at Philips R&D in Cambridge, David Walker, was generous enough to have some of the Lifecharm shells fabbed in a range of more exotic materials than our initial prototypes using Shapeways (a 3D printing firm spun-out of Royal Philips Electronics). The materials used range from metal/silver, ceramic and frosted and transparent glass.

Many thanks also to Dipak Mistry, our collaborator on Visualise Lifestreams at Arts & Business Cambridge who dropped them by the studio this morning.

Storyweir – last few days to see

September 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Our installation on Hive Beach in Dorset, Storyweir, finishes on Sunday 9th September. Here are some photos taken by photographer Pete Millson. From October 13th we will also be participating in an exhibition about the ExLab commissions in Bridport Arts Centre’s Allsop Gallery.

Presenting the Lifecharm shells

August 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This morning we are off to Cambridge for our final meeting with our collaboration partners at Philips R&D, where we will be presenting the lifecharm shells we have generated from our health data and talking about where we will be taking the project next.

Video clip of Storyweir Performance at Hive Beach

August 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 


A short video clip from the Storyweir performance at Hive Beach, Dorset on Friday 3rd August 2012. Video projections by Proboscis (Gary Stewart & Alice Angus) with live cello by Matthew Benjamin.

3rd generation of 3D printed Shells for Visualise

August 2, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Our third round of shells fresh out of fabrication is here!

I am excited that we now have shells that are more organic and life-like coming through. To drive this additional complexity I’ve been experimenting with mixing the combinations of data and exploring how these generate more ‘organic’ forms as they are fed into different parameters of the growth grammar.

In my last post I described how I’ve developed a bespoke shell model by programming in JAVA with growth grammars which start out with mathematical principles. These project a spiral onto the surface of a cone in 3D for the primary growth curve. Then I begin to tweak and subvert the surface shape as it grows, adjusting the rhythms and patterning of the data to add a degree of interpretation.

This is very interpretive and not hard science; it is not classic data-visualisation or information graphics. I take sets of health and lifestyle data and make deliberate decisions in how I interpret what kind of ‘expression’ they generate. It is highly designed and crafted process which I am evolving to achieve both an aesthetic outcome, but also one where the data plays a key role that may not be transparent or simply ‘readable’ like a graph, but rather becomes emotive.

This is important and different in that we are trying to produce a sense of meaning that is not read through classic symbols but rather through a tactile and visual experience. The tangible form of the shells embodies rhythm, resonance or dissonance; attraction or repulsion.

What we are attempting is not just a ‘transduction’ of health data into physical form, but a transformation of how we develop relationships with that data and what it means for us. The data is captured and transfigured into the physical form of the shells – producing something which is magical, transformative and which cannot be easily read but is heavy with the potential for meaning. The shells become more like talismans than just static instantiations of data.

This is very different to a technique that just takes data and processes it into a visual or physical form. It is not about numbers but about a model of generating shells that are qualitative, meaning producing and change making. It is about how a person could pick up a shell and begin to read their own meanings into it, knowing that it is generated from their own health data. Knowing that the subtle but strange variations in each shell indicate something to be explored in our lifestyles and behaviours.

This third generation of shells are moving further towards acquiring a ‘life’ of their own, becoming objects of meaning in the world. They are shaped by ‘lived constraints’ in the growth model and are getting expressions that go beyond pure mathematics.

I’m now working on a fourth generation of shells, this time using data posted on the internet using social media.

 

Newsletter July 2012

July 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Its been over a year since we sent out our last newsletter – not that we haven’t been busy, in fact we’ve been absorbed in a whole range of projects and activities :

Storyweir at Exlab, Hive Beach, Dorset
We have been commissioned by Exlab to create a new project at Hive Beach, Dorset as part of the Cultural Olympiad. The work opens on Saturday 28th July and will remain on site until 9th September. We have 3 days of free talks and 2 nighttime events (projections with live cello) on Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th August – all welcome.
http://proboscis.org.uk/tag/storyweir/

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This October sees the launch of our new monthly publication – each month we will crowdsource, print and post out an eBook to subscribers created and shared on http://bookleteer.com sharing the most beautiful, experimental, thought-provoking and inspirational eBooks people have created to inspire and provoke others into creating more of their own.
SUBSCRIBE HEREhttp://bookleteer.com/blog/2012/07/introducing-the-periodical/

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We’re also introducing a whole range of new features to http://bookleteer.com this year – public sharing, library pages as well as some exciting new developments later this year. Follow our progress here :
http://bookleteer.com/blog/category/updates-improvements/

We’ve also dropped the minimum print run for our Short Run printing service to just 25 copies per eBook and the prices for printing A6 eBooks have dropped between 30-50%. Check the prices with our estimator tool here:
http://bookleteer.com/blog/ppod/

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Proboscis have been collaborating with Royal Holloway’s Information Security Group (as part of the their EPSRC/ESRC/TSB research project Vome – http://www.vome.org.uk) to work with a local community in Pallion, Sunderland to create a sustainable knowledge and support network for local people to help each other cope and deal with benefit changes. We have developed a set of simple tools and processes to assist this “Ideas Exchange” – co-designed with the local community and are helping them integrate and adopt them into their ways of getting things done.
http://proboscis.org.uk/tag/pallion/

This Autumn we will be releasing a “Neighbourhood Ideas Exchange” package with versions of the tools that any community will be able to adopt and adapt for their own uses. Look out for announcements in September/October.

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Visualise Lifestreams
Proboscis has been commissioned by Futurecity and Arts&Business Cambridge to collaborate with Philips R&D in Cambridge as part of Anglia Ruskin University’s Visualise Public Art programme. We are exploring new forms for motivating people to incorporate health monitoring into their lifestyles by linking personal health data to systems that create tangible outputs. Starting with 3D printed ‘shells’ whose growth and shape is determined by data sets collected from ourselves, we plan to move on to feeding data to affect the growth of crystals and eventually towards ‘growing’ a shell organically through tissue engineering.
http://proboscis.org.uk/tag/lifestreams/

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Recent Publications 


Professor Starling’s Thetford-London-Oxford Expedition
by Lisa Hirmer, Andrew Hunter, Josephine Mills, Leila Armstrong, Giles Lane and Hazem Tagiuri
Download Free : http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=2587
Buy a limited edition set :  http://proboscis.org.uk/store.html#profstarling


Material Conditions
by Active Ingredient, Desperate Optimists, Jane Prophet, Janet Owen Driggs & Jules Rochielle, Karla Brunet, London Fieldworks, Ruth Maclennan, Sarah Butler
Download Free : http://diffusion.org.uk/?cat=1043
Buy a limited edition set : http://proboscis.org.uk/store.html#materialconditions


City As Material : London
Contributions by Tim Wright, Simon Pope, Ben Eastop & Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino
Download Free : http://diffusion.org.uk/?cat=976
Buy a limited edition set : http://proboscis.org.uk/store.html#cityasmaterial1

Storyweir at Hive Beach, Dorset

July 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

2nd generation of 3D printed Shells for Visualise

July 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

I have just come back from the Digital Manufacturing Centre 3D printing lab at UCL where we just had our second round of shells made for us.

This time around you can see shells which are beginning to have some life (or data to be exact) put in to them. They are ‘grown’ by using the health data we have previously collected from the body sensors and data logger which we are beginning to use to evolve different types, shapes and sizes of shell.

We captured the initial data over a week back in May which consisted of blood pressure, step counts, length of sleep, body temperature, exposure to air pollution and alcohol intake. These were gathered to provide a range of values we could use  to make the shells change the way they are evolved over time.

These different dimensions of data are used in our growth model as parameters that influence where and how much the shell grows and in which particular way. Each set of data values contribute to determining how much it grows, how smooth or jagged the surfaces are and whether or not there are other outgrowths. All together this results in a very personalised and specific shape that is unique to each data set.

We are planning to fabricate two further sets of shells, one with more extensive data sets informing the shell growth pattern, and the second experimenting with different data sources. More posts to come!

Our growth model as mentioned before is using variants of ‘parametric design’ via L-Systems and Growth Grammars. Here is a very quick explanation of what these do in principle:

Parametric Design
In a parametric design different numerical values – called parameters – are put into a set of related mathematical formulas or rules. These are able to generate variations of shapes or objects based on different input values. It is for example possible to create a parametric definition of a basic chair that  when combining the height and leg length of a person – can generate a chair with proportions that make it comfortable for that person to sit on. So a parametric design in this case captures the idea of a chair that can be made to fit different bodies – i.e. how many legs the chair has, the way the legs are connected to the seat area, the seat sitting area and the height position of the backrest.

L-Systems
These were invented by a man called Aristid Lindenmayer and are type of formal language that uses sequences of letters that define how something grows over several time periods. They can for example express how a tree expands from its trunk into branches and then into leaves or how a flower’s petals are arranged.

Growth Grammars
These are more complicated variations on L-Systems that have a richer set of features that can be used to describe growth models such as plant models. Growth Grammars are used in not just modelling the structure of plants i.e. how it is put together and its parts but also how it functions and its parts interact with each other.

1st generation of 3D printed Shells for Visualise

July 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

 

After what has been a broad exploratory research and foraging phase into shell morphology and modelling systems for our Visualise project, I have just picked up the first round of 3d printed shells which we had done at the Digital Manufacturing Centre @  UCL. Thanks to Martin and Richard for their assistance with the 3d printing process!

What you see here is a twist on classic plain formula driven generative shells that you may have seen before. We are experimenting with ways of adapting shell formation of our 3d shells based on data capture we have started in previous experiments in lifestyle and health data monitoring. I have been looking into a variety of generative modelling systems anywhere from those originating in the CAD world to those for plant modelling in the bio and agricultural sciences.

Now I have settled on using a growth grammar platform called XL (it builds on ideas of l-systems but with much more flexibility and dynamic rewriting of growth rules). The XL grammar is interesting as its been developed for plant morphological and systemic modelling, allowing the generative growth rules to be switched based on time variant environmental factors throughout growth cycles.

This offers some exciting possibilities of mimicking real-world feedback patterns of environmental constraints on living entities such as plants or other living systems giving rise to different possible ‘expressions’ based on the ‘quality of life’ over time they experience in their environment (e.g. through droughts, wet seasons, sparse or rich nutrition, pollution factors, over-shading, etc.).

The shells you see here are a variations of an evolving shell model that can be infused with our previous and ongoing environmental and personal data capture data sets (e.g. with readings such as daily step-count, blood pressure, sleep pattern regularity) to determine the evolving form.

Look out for further variations on these shells shortly!

Dialogues at the Tideline

June 15, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

At the start of our commission Storyweir (part of the art science project Exlab) the brief was to work with earth scientists (as well as local people) but when we heard cultural geographer Dr Ian Cook (Associate Professor of Geography in the College of Life & Environmental Sciences at University of Exeter) speak at the Exlab induction day/symposium we were instantly inspired by his highly collaborative approach to his research work; we wanted to try and collaborate and to bring Cultural Geography into the project. Ian’s project followthethings.com  demonstrates his co-creative approach to social engagement and cross disciplinary working (with academics, students, filmmakers, artists, journalists and others). It felt like a natural link with our work and was very exciting to find at the Exlab event.  I had read an essay Follow the Thing: Papaya way back in 2004 and I remember at the time thinking that I’d like to work with geographers who take this approach but I hadn’t realised until very recently that Ian was the author of that paper.

A windy walk to the end of Bridport Harbour with Ian and artist Gary Stewart who works with us at Proboscis resulted in a Ian offering to introduce us to some of his colleagues Geographies of Creativity and Knowledge Research Group, University of Exeter. Ian introduced us to three colleagues who each brought different strands of thinking to the project; Dr John Wylie (Associate Professor of Cultural Geography and Director of Postgraduate Research in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences) who has opened up our thinking on time and being in the landscape; as well as the ‘intertwining of self and the landscape’ coupled with how we move and walk in the landscape and visualise it through photographs and images; Dr Nicola Thomas (Senior Lecturer in Human Geography in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences) has brought her exploration of craft and communities and the traces of history and memory bound up in skills, crafts and the evidence of them; and Rose Ferraby (PHD Researcher in the Department of Geography) who has an undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MFA in Illustration brought both an archaeologists eye to our reading of the land at Hive Beach and her ideas about how abstract ideas can be communicated visually.

An initial audio skype conversation left us very excited at the blend of academic discussion and rigour with a deeply creative and poetic approach. Following that we all spent a windy early January day outside on Hive, Burton and Cogden beach and a creative media ‘mash up’ day at PVA medialab (in Bridport) which saw us coming together with drawings, audio, video, data and other media. In all these we have found a shared interest in the social and cultural effects of the way the local community engages with its environment and the exploration of human and deep time. Looking at the sediments of Burton Cliffs and their fossil layer we discussed the evanescent nature of time and timelessness and the relationship between deep geological time and human time – particularly how he perspective of time is different depending on the prism through which history is viewed (fossils were once cited as evidence of the Deluge). In that sense history (perhaps also time) is not experienced as single linear narrative but constantly in flux.
 
Finding a lost welly trapped in the shingle mud brought up the notion of the Anthropocene (a unit of geological time that marks the moment when human activity is resulting in a visible impact on the ecosystems and geology).

Walking the beach and then above on the cliffs to the caravan site sparked conversations on the transience of nostalgia and memory, the way the beach (which is such an elemental place) triggers memories and affects our experience of time. The beach reconnects us to patterns and emotions that are long lasting and outside of the pattern of daily life.

This is not a large budget, long term research project so we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Ian, Nicola, John and Rose it is a very exciting process and these interconnected conversations are influencing the questions we ask in public activities and the form, materials and content of the work. Through the dialogues we have focused an initial interest in the relationship between deep time and human time into how it is reflected in the ongoing dynamic processes and transitory human life at play on the geology of the coast. In that ephemeral space of flux between the land and sea the continual cycles of sun, tide and sea affect changes larger than we can imagine but also are felt by humans on a daily basis.

Shells for our Visualise commission

May 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

shell math

Some math of seashells

In one of our current (and I feel, pretty exciting) commissioned projects that is part of the Visualise Programme, we are looking at new ways of making accessible interpretations and translations of information in a physical series of objects instead of another classic information visualization.

Various Shell Shapes

Although there are many beautiful data visualisation examples out there, the big challenge they often face is that they are very frequently inaccessible to larger audiences. We are really interested in finding ways of creating something very emotive and tactile, giving a more intuitive insightful access to understanding content such as personal health information which really matters to people. We want to overcome it often being hard to decipher with current approaches and tools without being a health expert.

Gobos & Domes

Some interesting ideas are swirling around and en route I could reconnect with some ‘old friends’ that I got to know while still an architecture student many years ago: I have been revisiting D’Arcy Thompson‘s On Growth and Form and his in depth study of shell formation as an inspiration of how we might produce our own little evolving artefacts out of re-interpreted data spaces.

We have just been in the process of carrying out our own personal health data-capture with some off-the shelf kit (e.g. pedometer, blood-pressure, temperature) as well as environmental sensing via a couple of custom build Arduino data-loggers; the results of which we are now using for  sketching out a variety of generative models for our new artefacts.

Watch this space for our first sketches of growing data!

Visualising with Philips R&D

May 11, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Back in February Proboscis was commissioned by Andy Robinson of Futurecity, with the assistance of Dipak Mistry of Arts & Business Cambridge, to undertake an Art+Tech collaboration with a local industry partner in Cambridge as part of Anglia Ruskin University’s Visualise programme. This strand seeks to engage “leading Cambridge technology companies to collaborate with contemporary artists on the creative use of technology in public life.”

Over the past few months Stefan and I have been meeting with David Walker and Steffen Reymann of Philips R&D (based in the Cambridge Science Park) to establish a creative dialogue. The initial topics for our creative exploration were suggested by Philips based on research subjects being explored in their lab – Near Field Communications and health monitoring technologies. Our discussions quickly began to revolve around personal motivations for monitoring health and lifestyle –

  • Why do people routinely lose abandon using health monitoring technologies?
  • What might inspire new habits that actively involve monitoring?
  • How could we create delightful ways for people to make connections between personal data and Quality of Life?
  • How could we rethink the nature of data collection away from the purely rational towards the realm of the numinous and speculative?

Our initial thinking suggested that perhaps the problem with data collection is that it is often too crude and reductive – trying to make impossibly simple connections between phenomena in a complex system. Data visualisations are often barely more than pretty graphs – but our lives, our environments and the ways we live are so much more than that. How might we make tangible souvenirs from the data generated by our bodies and habits that could help us discern the longer term, harder to perceive patterns?

As our discussions have continued we have begun to explore how we might generate talismanic objects – lifecharms – from personal monitoring data using 3D fabbing. Things which could act as everyday reminders about patterns the data suggests, which are at once both formed of the data and yet do not offer literal readings of the data. Objects which are allusive, interpretative and perceptible, but still mysterious. What would it feel like to have an object in one’s pocket that was generated from data gleaned from one’s own body and behaviours? How might this help us maintain a peripheral awareness of the things we eat, how much we exercise, our general state of happiness and perceive the subtle changes and shifts over time?

Stefan is writing elsewhere how we have been inspired by shells – excretions produced by creatures that tell (in a non-literal way) the story of the creature’s life – what minerals it ingested, what environmental factors affected it. For the lifecharms we’re experimenting with using personal data to drive 3D morphogenetic algorithms that can generate unique shell-like forms which we’ll then render into tangible souvenirs.

As a more macro counterpoint to the micro of the personal lifecharms we have also been considering how local public health data could be translated into forms which could be experienced as a group in a  public setting – we’re investigating making a ‘fly eye’ geodesic dome with a light source to throw light upon the patterns in the data.

We’ll be continuing our discussions with Philips for another 3 months or so, gathering some test data (from ourselves) then making some prototypes and maquettes of our ideas for an event in Cambridge in the Autumn where we’ll present our work.

Lerrets, seine nets and mackerel

April 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Alongside the films I posted from Pathe News in yesterday’s Storyweir update I found this one of Mackerel Fishing in West Dorset in the 1940’s

It looks like its somewhere along Chesil Bank near Burton Bradstock. The boat is a traditional Lerret which I think was unique to Lyme Bay. Boat builder Gail McGarva recently created a new Lerret for the Lerret Project an initiative to celebrate the fishing heritage of the area.  There is a lot more about the history of fishing off Hive Beach on the Burton Bradstock Village website including some audio describing local fishing methods and the recollections and fascinating film of Cynthia Stevens net making – her hands move faster than you would have thought possible. So fundamental was fishing that boats were blessed and garlands created and carried to the beach to bless the harvest of the sea. Garland day continues in the nearby Village of Abbotsbury.

There are few Lerrets left seine net fishing off the beach these days. I heard of how shoals of mackerel would often come right into the shore of the sleeply banking shingle beaches but its not seen often now. There is a film of the “now rare sight of mackerel shoaling just off the beach in 1987″ on the Burton Bradstock village site. I was talking to a local fisherman who supplies Hive Beach Cafe and he recalled there being fishing boats all up the coast between Burton and West Bay. Several people also recall there being thousands of herring gulls nesting in the cliffs – which now have gone. No-one seemed to know why, maybe because there is very little seine net fishing directly from the beach, so not much for the Gulls to scavenge, maybe its another reason.

A catch up on Exlab

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

We recently had a chance to meet everybody in the Exploratory Laboratory 2 project on the Jurassic Coast when we all got together at the main briefing event down in Bridport. We caught up with our partners, Julie Penfold  of pva MediaLab, Polly Gifford of Bridport Arts Centre,  Graham Waffen of Hive Beach Cafe and Caroline of the National Trust, and got to meet our science collaborators, fellow artists and hosting organisations.

The Exlab commissioned artists got together with the Exlab earth scientists, human geographers, production teams and hosts to have a round-robin set of presentations which all got us clued up about themes,  the teams and how they were linking with individual commissions.  It was exciting to make new connections outside and across our disciplines and see very different points of view and approaches in our various practices.

On the second day of our trip we kicked off our local research for our own Storyweir exploring the relationship between people and the geology.

We got a better grasp the lay of the physical geology and land around the Hive Beach cafe area at Burton Bradstock, explored stretches of the landscape and the beach between Burton Bradstock and Bridport and started with a ‘deep dive’ into the local archives discovering many nuggets of  local history and relations to this site that is rich in both the geological history of the mid Jurassic (with rich deposits of fossils in parts of the cliffs)  and the social history, myths, folklore, industry (rope and net making), farming and mackerel fishing.

 

Into Deep Time on the Jurassic Coast

November 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

After reading about the Jurassic Coast several years ago I’m really excited that we now have the chance to work there on a new commission at Hive Beach and Burton Bradstock, for our project Storyweir. Its been commissioned by PVA medialab and Bridport Arts Centre working with Hive Beach Cafe and the National Trust as part of ExLab 2012.

The commission will be developed over the next few months as we research and collaborate with geographers, earth scientists, the cafe and communities on the coast at Hive Beach and around the village of Burton Bradstock. We’ll be exploring how the human story of the Jurassic coast and the physical geography influence each other. The final works will be staged on the coast during the 2012 Olympic/Paralympic sailing events.

We will be popping up on Hive Beach with a temporary lab to work with local communities recording stories of amateur geology, scientific fact, folklore and tall tales alongside looking at scientific data and mapping of erosion, gathering local sounds and working with geologists and cultural geographers.

Hive Beach runs along the other-wordly Bridport Sands cliffs where it is possible to see Jurassic Strata and where there is a thin upper layer of  limestone, the Inferior Oolite which is rich in fossils such as ammonites, belemnites, shells and sponges. Its a place both steeped in ancient geological time and is a rich mix of more recent physical and social history, folklore, scientific knowledge (amateur and professional) and contemporary stories.

First Fabric Designs

May 10, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

The fabric I designed is back from being digitally printed at Forest Digital. I’ve worked with this kind of printing once before and I like the option to print very short lengths and the fact that there is probably less pollution created due to using ink instead of the chemical materials and water of traditional printing.  The fabric is off to fashion designer Mrs Jones this week and we will be showing the final garments as part of Day + Gluckman’s show in Collyer Bristow Gallery Fifties Fashion and Emerging Feminism later this month. The fabric is inspired by stories of the 50s told to me by a group of Lancastrian’s I met earlier this year for As it Comes.

As It Comes; stories, sketches and stitches

January 14, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

In August 2010 I was commissioned, by Mid Pennine Arts and Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, to create a work about Lancaster’s independent traders,  As It Comes. Building on my previous work about markets and traders I worked with historian Michael Winstanley and artist Caroline Maclennan to research the trading history of the city and to meet local people, shop keepers and traders.

I’ve been developing my use of drawing as a way to research the character of a place and to create a space for conversation; on my visits I began to draw in traders’ places of work, where we would talk about craft and knowledge; communities and friendships and the relationships they have with commodities, food, and people.

What’s inspired me is their skills, care and connection to local communities and suppliers; whether selling fabric, tailoring a suit, fitting a floor, repairing tools, advising on paint, gutting fish or butchering meat. Though I saw many tools of the trade, its not the physical things that people mention most but knowledge, ability to talk to people, honesty and trust.

I spent time with traders to have conversations, collect audio interviews, make drawings and take photographs which have inspired new works combining traditional embroidery with drawing and digital printing on fabric. Lancashire was once famous for cotton manufacturing. Embroidering in cotton seemed appropriate to capture fragments of conversations about intangible skills, experiential knowledge, an uncertain future and the unique relationships these traders have with their customers.

The project was commissioned to investigate the trading history of Lancaster as well as to use some of the empty shop units in town so some of the work is currently in the windows of 18 New Street until the end of Jan 2011 where after it is planned move to another home.

Mid Penine Arts are offering to post free copies of the Project Publication to the first 20 people to share their thoughts on the project. If you’ve seen the work in Lancaster or been have following  the project online it would be great to hear your thoughts. You can post in response to this, or alternatively go to:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8CXMDV3

There are two publications and a special set of StoryCubes printed using bookleteer.com – you can download the print and make up version, or get in touch if you would like a specially printed version.

You can download print and make up versions of the project publication and StoryCubes here:

As It Comes by Alice Angus

A Lancaster Sketchbook by Caroline Maclennan

As It Comes StoryCubes

Trading drawings, tea and mince pies

December 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment 


My time in Lancaster on As It Comes is drawing to a close this weekend with our final event this Saturday when we’ll be hosting a stall at the Vintage and Handmade Market at Storey Gallery in Lancaster from 11am until 6pm. Instead of a financial exchange for one of my drawings (with a brew, mince pie and piece of cake), I’ll be asking for your memories about independent shops. So bring me a memory and we will provide a drawing and some tasty refreshments. Directions are here.

At 1pm I’ll also be doing an informal talk about the work and weather permitting we will walk down to the hangings in 18 New Street and talk about Lancaster’s independent traders. You’ll also be able to pick up the set of storycubes and the project publication.

This week we had Caroline Maclennan in the studio using bookleteer to create a download-print and make sketchbook of documentation of As It Comes. We’ve been lucky to have Caroline as a placement on the project and she has also been documenting its progress. You can download her book here:

As It Comes

November 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

For the past few weeks I’ve been heading up and down from Lancaster working on As It Comes. It was commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts and Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce and is inspired by both the heritage and future of local traders and shopkeepers.

I have been interviewing and drawing with some of Lancaster’s current shopkeepers and traders to understand more about their businesses and talk about; craft and knowledge; communities and friendships; and the relationship with commodities, food, and people that is different from chains and supermarkets.

The project is continuing my work on markets and shops exploring the people and communities they engender.  I’ve been continually inspired by the skills, crafts and care of traders I’ve met in Lancaster – whether selling fabric, repairing tools or butchering meat. The As It Comes blog is recording some of the thoughts and conversations as the project continues.

Next week I am hanging some large scale work in New Street that combines traditional embroidery with drawing and digital printing on fabric, inspired by these conversations, the history of trade, development of textile technologies and history of cotton weaving in the area.

On the 4th December I’ll be leading a walk around of Lancaster talking about some of the issues raised by the project and thinking about the future of independent traders and town centers. NEF (New Economics Foundation) have published a follow up to their 2005 Clone Town report, entitled Re-imaging the High Street: Escape From Clone Town Britain which supports the need for independent traders; and the Transition Town movement – among others is gathering pace – so I am wondering what we want the new ecology of the high street to be? If you believe that supermarkets and large chains are unsustainable environmentally and socially, but we need some of what they offer, what new retail ecology might we build in the future?

Out to sea Seaside

July 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Alice has been invited by Revolutionary Arts in Worthing to create a new series of works inspired by Worthing Pier for Worthing Pier Day on the 12 Sept 2010 and the Made in Worthing Festival 17 – 19 Sept 2010. This is currently involving her in  blustery days filming from a kayak, drawing on and under the pier, talking to people on the pier, wading on the beach, falling over the groynes and tripping over the shingle and researching history in an effort to understand the allure (and engineering) of the pier, the seaside and this particular aspect of the British seafaring relationship to water. The project links to Alice’s ongoing body of work At The Waters Edge, about our human relationship to water, land and traditional knowledge of water.

Rijeka with Dodolab

July 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Dodolab with the Rijeka Puppet Theatre

In June Alice Angus joined our partners Dodolab in Rijeka Croatia to join in the lab’s activities and public events and to research a new video installation and series of works on paper about Rijeka City Market, its place in the community and its many traders.

Dodolab have been working in Rijeka in 2009 and 2010 with the city authorities and local groups to explore perceptions of Rijeka, collaboratively examining ideas about the city and its future, thinking about resilience and sustainability. Alice worked with Lea Perinic to speak with market traders traders about the market and some of the issues facing it and observe the flows and uses of the market space through the day and at night. The market is contained in three large art nouveau halls and the streets between them, the fish market building features reliefs by Venetian sculptor Urbano Bottasso. There are buildings dedicated to fish and meat with traders selling all kinds of produce including fruit, vegetables, dairy, bread, nuts, dried fruit, honey, flowers and clothes. The resulting work will be a series of works on paper, some publications and an installation that will be shown in Rijeka City Market, as well as in the UK, to spark new discussions on the value and future of traditional markets.

DodoLab were working with a number of people and organisations in the community including Hartera Music Festival, Rijeka City Puppet Theatre and artist Tomislav Brajnovic on a number of site and locally specific projects including surveys, poster campaigns and performances.

Dodolab is a dynamic and experimental project exploring issues of  resilience in places undergoing change and urban regeneration. The lab creates performances, artworks, interventions, events and education projects through an engagement with sites and communities.

Pictures of the market and Dodolabs activities in Rijeka can be seen here.

You can see images of Dodolabs work in Rijeka here.

Dodolab’s website.

A series of publications have been created by Dodolab using bookleteer.com Proboscis’ free self publishing system.  They are available here.

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