BIOTRICITY, 2012. - ongoing, collaboration with the RIXC
Media: microbial fuel cells, electronics, wiring, video displays, eight channel spatial sound
Rasa Šmite, Raitis Šmits, Voldemārs Johansons
BIOTRICITY is an ongoing art and science research project, presented as a networked sound installation, exploring the interrelations between biology and computing – biological systems and electronic networks – information and energy – ecology and technology.
BIOTRICITY explores the new technologies of green energy generation (known as MFC – microbial fuel cell) from social, cultural and techno-ecological perspectives. This “bacteria battery” technology allows to extract electricity from living organisms – bacteria living in different types of water such as ponds, lakes or waste waters. The project consist of different stages – research (experiments with MFC), development (working on developing means for sonification and visualisation), and production (creating an art installation). The outcome is an art installation that is composed of several bacteria-fuel cells forming a mini version bio-power plant. Installation makes the process of “producing” electricity audible – it interprets electrical fluctuation signals through multi-channel sound structures. The installation is complimented with a microworld visible on a video screen. The other screen shows live webcam and data stream from out-door battery that is installed in the pond of rural Latvia. Along the sound, video images and live streams the installation offers an aesthetic way to reflect on relations between nature and technologies, biology and computing, biological systems and electronic networks.
Networked audio-visual installation
For the exhibition we use more then 10 self-built microbial fuel cells, each of which generate small voltage of electricity – 0,2-0,7 V. Connected together they create a micro bio-energy power station. By using micro-electronics, the signals from bacteria electricity generation are processed and interpreted into multiple channel sound structures. With sonification we also aim to explore interrelation between biology and computing. In order to make visible the micro-environment, where the bacteria live, we also have made a video from images taken with the electronic microscope. An important part of the installation is also the live webcam stream from remote location, where the bacteria battery is installed in an outdoor condition of a pond, and is connected in the network together with cells presented in the exhibition space.
Biotricity project, as audiovisual installation in different versions has been exhibited in Latvia (Arsenals exhibition hall exhibition Fields, LU Botanical garden exhibition “Skan II” etc.), and internationally (Copenhagen Alternative Art Fair Alt_Cph14, Vroclav WRO biennale, Ljubljana festival KIBLIX, Eindhoven Dutch Technology Week, Linz Ars Electronica center etc).
Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits, both are the key founders of RIXC – artist collective and new media cultural center, co-curator of Art+Communication festivals, and chief editors of Acoustic Space – peer-reviewed journal series. Through their art works, as well as festivals and publications they have been always introducing innovative themes such as internet radio (1998), locative media (2003), universe listening (2005), electromagnetic waves as material and medium in art (2006), spectral ecology (2007), art and renewable energy (2009), transbiotics (2010), techno-ecologies (2011), and more recently – art of resilience (2012). Their current activities include their artistic research project BIOTRICITY (since 2012), and curating of large-scale exhibition FIELDS (Riga, 2014).