mycocene multiplexer

Mycocene, 2018 bio-kinetic sculpture
duration: 1-2 weeks

Mycocene is a room sized installation consisting of reanimated electronic waste sculptures and a live cell culture, all occupying a shared dimly lit space. Mycocene uses a juxtaposition of bio-art and electronic (kinetic) sculpture to critique our relation to technology, one that largely ignores the ecological impact technology has on the Earth. Using a mixture of reclaimed electronic waste and the fungal-esque organism slime mold, Mycocene acts as a hybrid between the living and the technological world.

The room of Mycocene contains five electronic waste sculptures all separated but in communication with the slime mold. The slime mold is centered in the room, bathed by a spotlight of green light that emanates to the remainder of the room. The e-waste sculptures, positioned around the cell container are separated by dimly lit, relying on the green glow of the slime mold to outline their components. Each of them are actuated by an electronic pulse modelled off the live growth and movement of the slime mold. The two are intertwined, creating a living atmosphere permeated by the sound of motors spinning, cameras zooming, hard drives spinning. The atmosphere is disharmonious, yet organic. The soundscape solely relies on the physically audible (non-curated) actuations of the sculptures. As they jolt to life, the biological pulses of the slime mold can be heard in the rhythms of the sound echoing through the space. Moving around the dim channels between sculptures, decaying security cameras start to scan, the frame of a human body emerges onto a CRT screen buried under wires. Another pulse triggers a melody punctuated by noise and static, as a magnetic tape crawls along the walls. Surrounded by electronic waste, the singular slime mold culture orchestrates an evolving performance, using the sculptures as its means of communication with the world.

>  EXHIBITIONS

Elektra XX (solo exhibit) @ OBORO, Montreal QC
June 2019

MIAN – International Marketplace for Digital Art @ Centre Phi, Montreal QC
June 2019

Behavioral Matter @ Centre Pompidou, Paris FR
January 2019

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Multiplexer, 2020


Multiplexer is a real-time, durational audio-visual performance that isolates the performer inside an enclosed box surrounded with heavy sheets of transparent vinyl. On each side of the box, video cameras watch as the performer acts as an operator, tirelessly connecting and disconnecting cables from the interior control panel. These connexions trigger clips of synthesized and sampled machine sounds, lighting effects and video streams, all modulating in real-time to the performers physical symptoms of exhaustion. Wearing an artificial skin embedded with heat, humidity, and motion sensors, data is translated into systems of distortion, detuning, and echoes, affecting the audiovisual landscape as they slowly shift and decay with the performer.

>  DESCRIPTION
 

In this durational piece, the body acts on and is acted upon by its environment. From within a human-scale structure— a hybrid between a server farm and a greenhouse — the primary action is the performer’s control of the lighting and sound through the use of a custom multiplexer panel. Meanwhile, infrared lamps inject heat into the system, acting as concrete metaphors for the thermal exhaust generated by intense data computation. In this way, the performance investigates the impact of heat on a biomechanical system. This individual, confined, labors endlessly within a network.

Changes in the performer’s body state are monitored and mediated in real time by heart-rate, sweat, and temperature sensors. These sensors are embedded into a custom-made latex suit that communicates wirelessly outside the performance enclosue to modulate the audio and video streams. A second layer is added ontop of the performer, its transparent vinyl acting as an intimate greenhouse for the performers biometrics. The biometric feed is monitored and triggers four cameras within the space to alter their perception of the performer. Each camera feed is is fed into a large projection mapped against the rear wall of the performance environemnt. As labor is enacted on the system they switch on/off and their fields scan in higher resolution, sending data to a maching vision AI which constructs their identity. Just as human labor is tracked on the internet via trackers sold off to the highest bidder, the identity of the performer becomes more concrete as their labor accumulates. Within this arrangement of perpetual thermal exchange, the performer’s energy is extracted and injected into the system.

Heat as a medium has theoretical, political, material and environmental implications. In thermodynamics, heat reveals the qualitative aspect of molecules energy in matter. But heat is often considered as the undesired waste generated by a system. Heat is now controversial. Within this framework, Multiplexer establishes a speculative context that challenges human digital behaviors and their collateral effects on the biological and geological. Multiplexer represents our modern information system in which individuals and machines are mutually dependent and running towards the exhaustion of both human and nature.

“The creation of this raw material [heat] is a sign of the ongoing formation of a new commodity, that of computation traffic. Traffic as a commodity emerged after the Dotcom crash, as a result of the process of the reconfiguration of the web portals and the search engine market. This reconfiguration implied that it was no longer as valuable to provide content to users as to increase and keep the flow of visitors, a move that led to search engines becoming outright winners. The traffic commodity was further developed by internet server providers and data centre operators that were able to aggregate and organise information about these flows and sell it to third parties.” - Julia Velkova (2016)

The network protocols that govern these systems are technical but cannot exist without socio-cultural roots. Humans define protocols. We gather and discuss protocols that govern the internet before they are passed and adopted. This brings us to the concept of humans as synapses - the relationships between two points in a network. They are wholly immaterial, devoid of tangibility but rich in meaning. It is not enough to say a network is the sum of its material parts (fiber optics, ethernet , etc). What makes a network so powerful is the interrelation between nodes and the power dynamics that come along with such relations. We are the ones that thread together political, cultural, religious, and the social. We create a necessity of relation within networks. Networks cannot exist without human relative labor.

* Multiplexer was created in collaboration with Jeremy Michael Segal

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somme

somme is the interdisciplinary arts collective formed between the artists Sam Bourgault, Owen Coolidge, Matthew Halpenny, Matthew Salaciak, and Emma Forgues. The collective’s work explores topics such as the systemic relations between nature and technology, surveillance networks, and the invisiblity of digital labor through experimental audio-visual performances and installations. somme formed in 2018 as a method of combining their collective backgrounds in the sciences (biology & engineering) and the visual arts (sculpture, AV work, & performance art). somme has exhibited at the ELEKTRA XX - International Digital Art Festival (2019) and the International Marketplace for Digital Art (MIAN) (2019) with their bio-art installation Mycocene. Mycocene was also presented at the Centre Pompidou as part of the Behavioral Matter conference (March 2019), ISEA - Sentience (2020), and selected for the Oboro New Media Creation Grant Caisse Desjardins Residency (June 2019). somme is currently working under the support of Le Conseil des Arts de Montréal Collective Project Grant (2020).

sam bourgault   |   website  |   cv

Sam Bourgault (Montreal) owns a bachelor in Physics Engineering (2015) and one in Computation Arts (2019). Embedding coding, video, sound and electronics, her practice involves constant back and forth between art and science and explores how technology impacts and shape the social and individual experience one has with machines and algorithms. Her work has been exhibited at Ars Electronica Campus Exhibition (Linz, 2018), Mutek Festival (2017), Livart for Nuit Blanche (2019), Art Matters (2018), and the VAV gallery (2018). Bourgault has also performed at RIPA (2019), OFFTA (2019), Induction (2019), VAULT (2018), LIP (2018), Algorave (2018), and InnerEchoes (2018, 2017).

owen coolidge   |   website  |   cv

Owen Coolidge is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice includes design, photography, and new media art. Common throughout all his work is the critique of human exceptionalism. Originally from Los Angeles, he has exhibited at art festivals, galleries, and conferences in Montreal (dis)Connect (2018), CUJAH: Art History Conferences (2018), VAV Gallery (2018), Articule (2018), has received the Milieux Undergraduate Fellowship (2017), and his work has been presented at the Behavioral Matter Conference at the Centre Pompidou (2019). He attends Concordia University and is a research assistant to Chris Salter.

matthew halpenny   |   website  |   cv

Matthew Halpenny is an interdisciplinary media artist and researcher from Montréal, QC. Their work seeks to deconstruct the relations between the concepts of human and "nature", often manifesting through the themes of emergent systems, milieus, socio-political ecologies, and techno-geographies. They've given talks & lectures at the International Marketplace for Digital Art (MIAN) (2019), ISEA2020 (2020), HTMelles (2020), and Concordia University (2020). Their work has been shown at Art Matters (2018), Elektra XX (2019), Le Centre Pompidou (2021), and milieuXbauhaus (2019) where they participated in a residency. They are currently working as a research assistant for Thierry Bardini at Université de Montréal and Halpenny's research is in press at Hyphen Magazine (2021).

matthew salaciak   |   cv

Matthew Salaciak (Montreal) is an electronic musician and interdisciplinary artist. Stemming from a curiosity to understand how things work, his interests are aimed at electronics, models of computation and their interactions with the physical world. Furthering this, he has recently been interested in the relationships between analog and digital interfaces at the software and hardware level. His work as an artist and musician is guided by such research questions. His electronic music performances are developed solely by the interaction with analog electronics.

emma forgues   |   website  |   cv

Emma Forgues is a new media artist based in Montreal. She has showcased her work in multiple galleries and festivals in Montreal including MUTEK (2017), Arts Matters (2018), Eastern Bloc (2018), Livart (2019), RIPA (2019) and OFFTA (2019) and more. Forgues has been given awards and residencies including the Public Choice Award at Mutek Next Era Competition (2017); a residency at LA SERRE - Vous Etes Ici (2018); and her works iO and Mycocene were presented in March 2019 by the artist Alice Jarry at the Behavioral Matter Conference at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) as part of The Fabric of the Living exhibition.