[-empyre-] (no subject)

Tyler Fox tylersfox at gmail.com
Mon Oct 16 04:51:35 AEDT 2017

Dear Norie,

Thanks for the great connections to both the Algae Opera and your own
microbiotic grumblings.

I have read about the Algae Opera, and would really love to see it live. I
think reframing our own autonomic processes of breathing and digesting as
collaborative endeavors is a powerful move (production of our oxygen is
obviously reliant on other actors, and so too is our digestion). I don't
think I've successfully been able to do this in my work yet, but it is
always on my mind.


On Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 6:41 PM, Norie Neumark <norie5 at mac.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello Tyler and everyone
> What a great post, Tyler, and wonderful to hear about your work. Perhaps
> you know about the algae opera by Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta?  (
> http://www.burtonnitta.co.uk/algaeopera.html). I haven’t seen it myself
> but read about it and accessed it online and was enchanted. Again,
> apologies for being lazy (if this is really bad net etiquette, let me
> know!) as I just put in an excerpt about the work from my *Voicetracks*
> book:
>   Breath also connects us to the place through which it resonates and the others
> in that place and in the shared medium of air. It not only connects people,
> intersubjectively, it also connects people to animals and things,  voicing
> the connections between breath and the natural environment. I listen to
> this in *The Algae Opera* of artists BurtonNitta (Michael Burton and Michiko
> Nitta), for example, which literally breathes life into the natural environment,
> giving voice to the relationship between human breath and plant life on
> our planet. In this work, it is an opera singer’s copious voiced breath
> that literally breathes life into algae. Masked in a specially designed piece
> of biotechnology, an algae headdress, the opera singer, the algae, the audience
> and I (watching documentation) form a strange relationship, a curious
> assemblage. The carbon dioxide in her breath feeds the algae, which later
> will be fed to the audience, so that they can literally “taste her song.”
>  In *The Algae Opera*, the head mask, attached to tubing which channels
> the breath to an algae tank, is a strange mixture of a Greek mask, a
> persona, and a beautiful lunglike filigree that looks like a seahorse.
> The singer feels part sea creature herself as she intones her algae
> opera. I listen to the voice as medium here, life-giving medium, medium
> for life. Meanwhile the other sense of medium merges into the undertones
> as, medium-like, the singer crosses an ether and connects me to another
> life form. And when the audience eats the algae, I sense that that they
> are actually ingesting the singer’s voice. In an odd way, the work makes
> me think about John Baldessari’s 1972 video of teaching a plant the
> alphabet. As far as I know (I wonder if anyone ever followed up with
> those plants?), that work was more humorous and conceptual than literal,
> in contrast to the literal relationships between plant life and voice
> that animate works made after the new materialist turn. And it is with
> new materialist ears that I encounter *The Algae **Opera *as it provokes
> a listening to breath between the human and nonhuman— opening an
> awareness of the vibrancy of breath and the productiveness of its
> connections. It voices and breathes life into a sense of intersubjectivity
> beyond the human.
>  Speaking of Whitehead and fermentation and guts, your post set thinking
> about my amazing acupuncturist, Mattie Sempert, who is a Whitehead scholar
> (part of the Sense Lab in Montreal) and essayist as well as acupuncturist —
> she is writing a book of essays about the entanglement of all of these.
> Anyway, her “twirling fingers” as she feels my gut to sense where to needle
> are in-touch with the life that my gut tspeak to her – attuning her to
> what’s happening throughout my whole body(/mind). It’s an amazing
> collaboration and as the needles start to work, my stomach gurgles
> appreciation and joy.
> best
> Norie
> www.out-of-sync.com
> <https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/oDLrBgc315WNF8?domain=out-of-sync.com>
> workingworms.net
> <https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/AG1dBvT0YaEbiE?domain=workingworms.net>
> unlikely.net.au
> <https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/38LEBkSqmERMtY?domain=unlikely.net.au>
> On 13 Oct 2017, at 5:19 AM, Tyler Fox <tylersfox at gmail.com> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello everyone,
> First, I also want to send my best wishes to April and Matt. I have
> friends and family in the same area, some who had to flee in the
> middle of the night with nothing more than pajamas and their cat
> (which, at least, is a thin silver lining). I am saddened for all,
> humans and nonhumans, dealing with such devastation.
> I would like to thank Margaretha for inviting me as a guest to this
> week. Also thanks to everyone for the wonderful posts with much to
> consider (terroirism, affection, enlivenment, grieving and resistance
> thereof, turtles and other turtles, listening, learning, and
> communicating with nonhuman collaborators…the list goes on). Just.
> Wow.
> As Margaretha’s introduction suggests, I am interested in feeling
> alongside nonhumans, and in the two projects described below I attempt
> to create experiences that can be shared, in ephemeral and limited
> ways to be sure, but shared nonetheless between humans and nonhumans.
> I believe that feeling alongside nonhumans is a powerful counterpoint
> to thinking alongside of nonhumans and can help situate perspective in
> important ways.
> Biolesce is a series of interactive sculptures made with
> bioluminescent algae, or dinoflagellates. When physically moved the
> algae emits a bright flash of light. I incorporate biosensors for
> human audience that trigger motors that move the algae causing a
> bioluminescent response. For instance, one iteration used three
> ‘stations’ comprised of a bottle of seawater and algae embedded with
> motors connected to a heartbeat sensor in each. The human audience
> members placed their finger on the sensor, and then the algae lit up
> in in time to their pulse. I tried to make an intimate experience
> between human and algae, featuring different embodied processes.
> After vowing to never again work with something that requires complete
> darkness (more on this in a moment) I turned my attention to another
> embodied process: fermentation. Fermentum, a project that always seems
> to be in progress, uses sensors to track the fermentation process of
> kimchi and sauerkraut and then sonify the data. I like to say that
> it’s allowing the kimchi to sing, but more accurately it’s a
> soundtrack of bacterial individuation and environmental change. My
> goal is to create a sonic experience that allows a human audience to
> hear an ongoing, embodied process (bacteria changing their
> environment) and to recognize it as a rich individuation between
> bacteria and milieu. It is far from complete, and I’m currently
> working on collaborating with a lab to identify probiotic strains in
> my ferments as a basis for a more complex soundtrack.
> Both projects are predicated on the philosophies of Alfred North
> Whitehead and Gilbert Simondon. Thinkers who have helped me understand
> experience as a non-cognitive aspect of the world, open to all
> entities (bacteria, single-celled algae, and Arduino
> microcontrollers). They have also helped me understand experience as a
> unfolding process, tied to a nexus of sensations, or prehensions,
> (Whitehead) between individual and milieu (Simondon). Simondon claims
> that individuals and milieus are co-emergent, he writes of them as
> dyads, and that the world must be understood not from the point of
> view of individuals, but through the processes of individuation, from
> which individuals and milieus emerge. Thus, interactive works based on
> biological processes, such as fermentation, are moments to experience
> an ongoing individuation, perhaps this is an enlivenment of a
> biological process through technical means. That’s a gross
> oversimplification of the contributions of both of these thinkers, but
> hopefully enough to stress an emphasis on experience and feeling.
> Feeling is key.
> I have returned to the dark, so to speak, as I and another faculty
> member are leading a research-through-design project with a small
> number of undergraduates. We will collectively build a bioluminescent
> ‘display’ and the students will work in small teams to create
> visualizations for the bespoke display. I’m now teaching in an
> engineering students, and my practice is both intriguing and
> bewildering to many of the students, but just last night we had a deep
> conversation about the limits of quantification (important when making
> a display that will be inexact!), and the concepts of abstraction and
> representation in the context of ambient displays. It was deeply
> gratifying when a student commented at the end of our hour-long
> conversation that it felt like we were in a philosophy class. We then
> went on to make seawater and propagate algae for our display. When
> finished with our prototype, the students will come up with design
> proposals for bioluminescent interactions and technologies, to use
> their experience to dream of a different future. It’s my first step at
> pushing them toward a speculative design practice. I hope they too
> will come to understand feeling alongside nonhumans as key to their
> futures.
> Thanks for having me-
> tyler
> Documentation of both projects can be found at my website:
> www.tylersfox.com
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