The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired this Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

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Suzanne Lee / Biocouture

My guest will be designer and researcher Suzanne Lee. Suzanne is the Founder of BIOCOUTURE, the first 'living materials' design consultancy. Suzanne is also a TED Senior fellow and a Launch innovator 2013 (Launch being an initiative that supports innovative works likely to contribute to a sustainable future.) For a number of years now, Suzanne has been investigating sustainable bio-materials. The last time i met her, she was cultivating bacteria into sugary green tea and harvesting thick layers of cellulose which, once dried looked like delicate, translucid leather that she then used to make her own garments.

Suzanne's work has now taken an even more ambitious dimension as she is building an open innovation resource to enable collaboration within the global biological materials community.

The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 30 October at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud.
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On Saturday i went all the way to the Stanley Picker Gallery , that's in Kingston and Kingston is in zone 6! I had never ventured beyond zone 3 before. Apart from the endless Piccadilly line trips from Finsbury Park to Heathrow airport and back, of course. But i'd travel the globe for a good show about sound art. And Sound Matters: Exploring Sound Through Forms is not only very good: it is impeccably curated (there isn't one weak work and each piece is acoustically insulated from the neighbouring ones), seducing and has a clear and simple concept as it explores the physicality of sound by looking at the connections between contemporary craft practice and sound art.

The added bonus for me are that i've discovered a couple of interesting artists and designers.

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Keith Harrison, Lucie Rie vs Grindcore (detail), 2012. Photo: Jaret Schiller


Keith Harrison performing Lucie Rie vs Grindcore, 2013

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Keith Harrison, Lucie Rie vs Grindcore (detail), 2012. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

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Keith Harrison, Lucie Rie vs Grindcore (installation view), 2012. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

Performance ceramicist (surely this term exists, right?) Keith Harrison noticed that potter Lucie Rie had the same Roberts radio in her studio as he uses in his own studio. His other sources of inspiration were her potter's wheel and her use of manganese slip. Lucie Rie vs Grindcore are two potter's wheels customized to become a set of turntables which Harrison then connected to two transistor radios. A grindcore metal record is played on one deck, a raw clay one covered with a layer of manganese is played on the other deck.

The resulting sound might or might not be to everybody's taste but visually, the installation and performance (at least the one i saw in the video) are stunning.

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Ismini Samanidou & Scanner, Weave Waves, Map (detail) 2013. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

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Sound Matters (installation view). Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

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Ismini Samanidou & Scanner, Weave Waves, Map (detail) 2013. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

Textile designer Ismini Samanidou collaborated with sound artist Scanner to explore a shared interest in mapping, the physicality of code as well as in the visual and technical similarities between the softwares they both use. The larger of the two Weave Waves textiles they created visualize the artists' own breath. The recording of their breathing was processed through a software and the data was then translated it into a digital jacquard weave design. The other, smaller piece used a software to map the loudest areas of London and Manchester. The details of the fabric structure and the interpretations of the cities can be explored through magnifying devices. Meanwhile, the soundscapes, recorded on the locations, also become audible.

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Owl Project, 9 Volt Speaker, 2011. Photo: Nick Moss

The Owl Project's 9 Volt Sound System is a large horn speaker system that you can attach to your device (preferably the Logpad or any Owl Project instruments) via the audio jack slot.

The wooden horn uses the geometry of the hendecahedral (that's 11 sides) horn shape to naturally and spectacularly amplify sound. The shape of the horn is designed using vector maths and Owl Project's bespoke software, Bevelator78.4˚, to calculate the cutting angle between horn planes.

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Owl Project, Sound Lathe (detail), 2011. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council


Owl Project, Sound Lathe

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Sound Matters (installation view) Centre: Owl Project, Sound Lathe, 2011. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

Owl Project had another work in the show: the rather ingenious Sound Lathe, an instrument based on a traditional green wood turning pole lathe that explores the relationship between the crafting of physical objects and the shaping of sound. During the performances, the movements are turned into electronic music. 8 sensors rest on the turning spindles and translate its changing profile shape into data which is then converted into sounds. At the end of each live demonstration, a unique wooden object is produced that will preserve a memory of the performance.

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Studio Weave, Polyphony (installation view), 2013. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

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Studio Weave, Polyphony (in production at AB3 Workshops London), 2013. Courtesy Studio Weave

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Studio Weave, Polyphony (view from inside the 'ear'), 2013

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Sound Matters (installation view). Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

Studio Weave's Polyphony functions as a large compound ear that separates, abstracts and re-organizes the sounds coming from multiple directions through listening horns. I was alone in the very quiet gallery so i didn't really get a good feel of the installation. However, i'm glad the exhibition gave me the opportunity to discover the works of Studio Weave. Do check out their portfolio, it's an impressive one.

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Yuri Suzuki, Prepared Turntable, 2008. Yhoto: Mio Yamada

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Dominic Wilcox, Sounds of Making in East London, 2012. Courtesy the Artist

Sounds of Making in East London is a 10″ vinyl record that celebrates the work of the 21 of the many skilled makers who live and work in East London. The record captures sounds as diverse as the clatter of lyric poet John Hegley's typewriter, the chopping of garlic in a Michelin star restaurant, the tap of rock 'n' roll cobbler Terry de Havilland's hammer and the sound of a bell being tuned in Britains oldest manufacturer.

Wilcox later asked Yuri Suzuki to create a new sound work inspired by Sounds of Making in East London. The young artist selected a few tracks and mixed them. The resulting record was pressed with loop grooves (the tracks continuously repeat) which allows various points of the record to be played simultaneously on Suzuki's Prepared Turntable, a device that allows music to be played by 5 tone arms with individual controls. The ensemble creates an overall soundscape that further interprets the energy of East London's makers.

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Cathy Lane, Tweed (installation view), 2011. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Crafts Council

The voices and sounds in Tweed were recorded in the Outer Hebrides, remote islands off the North west coast of Scotland. The first voice, of weaver Catherine Campbell, was recorded in her weaving shed and shop in Plocrapool, on the east coast of Harris. The next voice was recorded in a weaving shed near Callinish on Lewis in 1998 as the weaver was demonstrating how to work on the Hattersley loom (used to produce Harris Tweed since 1919.) In the background are voices and mechanical sounds from a mill at Shawbost as it was about to be sold.

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Max Eastley, Landscape, 2012. Photo: Nick Moss

Max Eastley's steel and canvas sculpture is covered in tiny metal fragments animated by a motor fitted with magnets. The ongoing movement generates a subtle, quiet sound. Landscape was originally created to be installed within a Georgian fireplace, as an echo to the 18th century practice of placing a landscape-painted screen in the fireplace during Summer.

The gallery guide is online.

Sound Matters: Exploring Sound Through Forms, a Crafts Council Touring Exhibition, is at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston until 23 Nov 2013.

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Image courtesy of Near Now

On Monday i was in Nottingham to 1. spy on Near Now, a new commissioning* programme part of the Broadway art center. 2. attend the launch of a new musical tool called Ototo.

Near Now's mission is to work closely with designers and artists to develop and produce innovative works that explores creativity and technology in a playful, yet critical, way. Ototo is one of their first commissions and it was designed by Yuri Suzuki and Mark McKeague from Dentaku. (In case you were wondering, the name of this design and invention studio comes from the Japanese version of Kraftwerk's song "Taschenrechner" / "Pocket Calculator".)

Unsurprisingly (because we all know that these two never do anything remotely dull), the designers came up with a brilliant work: an experimental PCB based synthesiser that allows you to combine sensors, inputs and touchpads and easily create your own electronic musical instrument. You can make a drum kit out of some saucepans or an origami that sings when touched. Ototo is designed to let anyone unpack a kit and interact with sound however they want to, no soldering or coding required.

Ototo means "Little Brother" in japanese and indeed little brotherly characters are appearing all over the synthetizer, indicating the role of sensor inputs, speakers, headphone outputs, buttons, holes and other functional elements.

Ottoto is a small kit easy to customise. In fact, it was designed for children and for anyone who's afraid of touching electronics. You don't need to code, just to plug and you're good to go and experiment with physical computing without even realizing it.

After the presentation, we got to play with the Ototo instruments created a few days before during a workshop organized by Near Now. The instruments used oranges, plastic cups half filled with water, old knives, computer fan, paper coffee cups, pans and bits of cardboard of all sizes.

The plan is to release Ototo before Christmas. At a very affordable price.

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Image courtesy of Near Now

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Image courtesy of Near Now

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Image courtesy of Near Now

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Image courtesy of Near Now

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Image courtesy of Near Now

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Image courtesy of Near Now

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Image courtesy of Near Now

*Near Now is currently offering "artists, designers, writers, ecologists, technologists, policy specialists, architects, cultural geographers and food scientists" the opportunity to do Internet of Growing Things, to develop new work focused on food and future agri-cultures.

The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired this Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

My guest tomorrow will be Sitraka Rakatoniaina and Andrew Friend who will be talking about the aesthetics of scientific experiments but also about the human capabilities in sensing future events. They've explored this slightly debatable topic with a series of experiments inspired by the experimental evidence for the existence of physiological precognition, depicted the Sensing the Future paper written by Daryl J. Bem a social psychologist and professor emeritus at Cornell University.

Andrew Friend and Sitraka Rakotoniaina, Prophecy Program, 2013

One of the experiments in the designers' Prophecy Program project consists in perching an individual on an ultra-elevated chair where they will act as seismograph and predict earthquakes, exploring accuracy and specificity of psi and experience in landscape. A second one is an 'autonomous biological drone' which, inspired by bioenergetic capabilities of plants to sense humans intentions, would operate overhead monitoring human activity and emotions below. The last one is the working prototype of a 'Pre-cognition test rig' which acts as a big Russian roulette that fires at individuals while sensors pick up any body sign that they are indeed sensing the upcoming shoot.

As you can guess, this episode is neither typical nor tedious. Sitraka and Andrew's work, however, is far less fanciful than it might seem at first sight.

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Pre-cognition test rig. Photo Andrew Friend and Sitraka Rakotoniaina

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Test subject wearing the gears before firing the precognition test-rig

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Balloon triggers

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Autonomous biological drone

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Model of the Tower for predicting Earthquakes

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Prophecy Program - in front of the elephant door

The show will be aired this Wednesday 18th of September at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am (I know...) If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud.

Fully Booked: Ink on Paper: Design and Concepts for New Publications. Edited by Robert Klanten, Matthias Hübner, Andrew Losowsky.

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Available on amazon USA and UK.

Publisher Gestalten writes: Fully Booked: Ink on Paper is a showcase of innovative books and other print products at the vanguard of a new era for printed publications--one that is likely to be the most exciting in their entire history.

This book is structured into five chapters that each represent a key role that print plays today: The Storyteller, The Showmaster, The Teacher, The Businessman, and The Collector. From personal projects with the smallest print runs to premium artist books or brand publications, the selection of work presented here celebrates the tactile experience. Featuring innovative printing and binding techniques as well as radical editorial and design concepts, this work explores the distinctiveness of design, materials, workmanship, and production methods--and pushes their limits.

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Mr Arkadin, published by HarperCollins Publishers. Design and Hand-lettering by Adam Johnson

The text on the cover of Ink on Paper is actually the beginning of the introductory essay. It looks at the old paper vs pixel debate through a rather unexpected scenario: what would our life be if the internet had come before print? The arrival of print would be applauded because its materiality suddenly gives information greater value and because it provides readers with a sense of privacy, an ownership of the book or magazine or poster we've just bought, a chance to focus on a text without being distracted by hyperlinks, etc.

The text is witty and ironic. The authors having no intention to pick a side or declare that one way to rely information and communicate ideas is better than its antecedent. Or its successor.

Instead, the authors celebrate the creativity of the designers and artists who enjoy experimenting with the materiality of book.

Ink on Paper is chaptered according to the 'personalities' of books: The Storyteller looks at fiction books. The Showmaster present the efforts of artists and designers who attempt to reinvent the printed book. The Teacher is all about guide books and other 'instructive' publications. The Businessman demonstrates that annual reports and corporate catalogues do not have to be soporific. Finally, The Collector explores publications from the art world (that one was a bit of a disappointment.)

Ink on Paper is my favourite Gestalten publication so far. Probably because i wasn't expecting to have that much fun with a book about books.

Demonstration:

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Classic Shorts published by HarperPerennial. Repackaged short story series.by Adam Johnson

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Eric Ku, P.W.Y.W, 2009 (self-published)

P.W.Y.W (Pay What You Want) book is a instructional manual for money exchanges. Peel off a barcode and attach it to goods to adjust prices at will.

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Mortadella. Author: Christoph Hänsli. Design concept: Cornel Windlin and Nazareno Crea. Published by Edition Patrick Frey, 2008

Christoph Hänsli painted 166 slices of a whole cut Mortadella. Front and back. The 332 paintings are reproduced in the book.

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TGIF, Amnesty International Hong Kong Annual Report, 2010

TGIF turned Amnesty International Hong Kong Annual Report into a file folder. Different cases and activities were grouped and sent to donators.

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Korefe, The Real Cookbook. Published by Gerstenberg Verlag, 2012

Made out of 100% fresh pasta, the book can be read, filled with ingredients, cooked and eaten.

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Toko, Long Story Made in China, 2011. Self-published

As part of China's 2012, year of the Dragon celebrations, Toko created a 4,716 page book that charts the story of the Chinese Dragon and celebrates every Dragon year since it's supposed origins in 2697 BCE. 'Long' as in the Chinese word for Dragon (Long story / Dragon story).

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Korefe, Death's Messengers / Die Boten des Todes, 2007. Published by Brüder Grimm-Gesellschaft

Death's Messengers / Die Boten des Todes is a new interpretation and presentation of one of the Brothers Grimm's fairytales.

The book is split into an English and a German version. The front and back covers are rubber stamps, which can be used to stamp the title. Inside the book, the designers worked with rubber stamps and printing systems. Each of the 5,236 characters was typeset by hand.


Martin Kovacovsky and Marius Hügli, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 2010. Self-initiated

Based on the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kovacovsky and Hügli created a book that offers additional multimedia content when combined with a screen. Rather than merely placing 3D models on top of the book pages, they tried to find unusual ways to combine the analog and the digital content. Jekyll and Hyde is a collection of applications developed through a series of experiments and design studies.

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Master Pieces. Concept and design by Jungundwenig and Mathias Reynoird, 2012. Self-published

A compilation of paintings and sketches found online, in amateur art forums.

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"TheWomanDestroyed","Adieux","AVeryEasyDeath," Peter Mendelsund, 2012. Published by Pantheon Books

Views inside the book:

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Related story: Book review: Post-Digital Print - the Mutation of Publishing Since 1894.

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The Weather Underground -also called the Weathermen- were a 1970s American radical left organization characterized by positions that included the opposition to the Vietnam War, the achievement of a classless world, a marked sympathy for the radical Black Panthers, etc. Their strategies included active recruitment in schools and violent militancy.

The Weather Underground inspired The New Weathermen, a fictional group of activists at the center of David Benque's investigation into the interrelationship between ideology and science. The New Weathermen are equally dissatisfied with the state of the world but the focus of their demands is climate crises rather than capitalism and racial privileges. Their weapon is not the bomb but Synthetic Biology.

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The Weather Underground

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Image Ars Electronica Center

Their ideas to achieve radical environmental change are neither the ones of the Bio-Conservatives who argue for a curbing of consumption, a return to an unadulterated Nature and are suspicious of new technologies. Nor are they the ideas of the Techno-Progressives who enthusiastically embrace progress, and see technological and scientific developments as the solution to modern problems.

Instead, The New Weathermen are looking into possible alternatives for the relationship between environmentalism and science. Among these are the DIYBIO or Biopunk movements and the campaign for open access to science, as well as efficient, headless and cell-based networks of activists such as Anonymous.

Challenging the borders between activism and crime, The New Weathermen's actions aim to disrupt the status quo and propagate an ambitious vision for the greater good. Deliberately radical and ambiguous, they provide a starting point for discussion about our existing beliefs and ideologies.

The whole ethos of the New Weathermen is based on the idea of the symbiosis (see the PDF of their manifesto):
- Parasitic behaviour will not be tolerated. Their actions target people, corporations and practices that use and abuse of nature for their sole benefit without ever giving anything in return (e.g. chopping down forests.)
- There is no untouched Nature to go back to. Only forward.
- Abort the precautionary principle. Because we can never be sure that anything is going to be 100% safe.
- Abolish intellectual property on plants and genes by biotech corporations (such as the world's most evil one.)
- Conserve all species and genomes. Create as many new ones as possible.

The New Weathermen's ambitions are represented in their testing rigs and small scale experiments that reflect much more radical ambitions and are designed to make people aware of the group's larger mission. Their plans are slightly delusional (some are very seducing though.) Here are 3 of them:

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#PIRATE POLLEN CLUB - Wind Dispersion Tunnel - Copyrighted gene removal in proprietary golf-course grasses

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Image courtesy David Benque

The first one is The Pirate Pollen Club which targets the perfectly manicured lawn of the suburbs and golf courses. The New Weathermen would use Open Source GMO weed able to remove the gene responsible for the grass resistance to herbicide and ultimately outcompete it.

The action makes use of TALENs Transcription activator-like effector nuclease which uses enzymes for genome editing in situ, cutting DNA strands at a specific sequence when they are introduced into cells.

The scheme reminded me of Heath Bunting's SuperWeed Kit, a DIY kit capable of producing a genetically mutant superweed, designed to be resistant to current herbicides and thus threaten corporate GMO monoculture.

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#PalmOPS #BIOLULZ - Palm Oil Non-Digester - Lipase inhibitors prevent palm oil from being digested

And now for my favourite plan: PalmOPS, an oil press that zeroes in on the increasing use of palm oil in the food and biofuel industries. Although the rush to palm oil is motivated by the necessity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the irony -as Greenpeace writes- is that the effort could make things worse because the growth of the palm industry is often accompanied by deforestation, displacement (without compensation nor consultation) of indigenous people occupying the land, loss of natural habitats for endangered species such as the orangutan and Sumatran tiger, increased greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

The New Weathermen's oil press inserts a lypase inhibitor in the kernel of the palm fruit that will make it impossible for you body to digest the oil.

PalmOPS is inspired by the inky caps, common mushrooms that are edible but become poisonous when consumed with alcohol. Inky caps contain coprine, a chemical which blocks the action of the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde in the body, leading to violent hangover symptoms. Coprine was studied by scientists who wanted to use it to make alcoholics averse to drinking.

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#BIOCCUPY DIESEL - Diesel Bug Test Rig - Optimisation of microbial contaminations in diesel fuel tanks

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Image courtesy David Benque

Finally, Bioccupy Diesel, attempts to sabotage fossil fuel. The project was inspired by an existing bacteria responsible for the diesel bug that creates a biofilm that separates oil from water and and creates waste. Over time, the (existing) bug is responsible for a sediment which forms in the tank. These build-ups will not pass through the filters of the car and can eventually damage the vehicle.

New Weathermen would optimize the bacteria using synthetic biology. The modified bacteria would then contaminate car after car through petrol stations. To be effective, the infection would have to start with just one petrol station. All the cars refueling there would become infected.

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Image courtesy David Benque

The New Weathermen was developed within Blueprints for the Unknown, a series of projects and activities that uses design to explore the implications of Synthetic Biology for society.

The New Weathermen is exhibited until 1 August 2014 at Ars Electronica in Linz as part of the Project Genesis exhibition.

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