Fading Boundaries

Fading Boundaries

The cross-section between the digital and physical world

Whilst sitting in the bus one day, I noticed someone sneezing on the screen of her phone due to a cold. During this time I was looking into the process and coding of a computer-virus, and wondered how much this actually differs from one and another. Thus the idea for Fading Boundaries was born.

During the timespan of around 8 months I’ve investigated the boundaries between both the digital and physical world, and how to unify them. After research and experimenting I ended up growing bacterial colonies from electronic devices, such as smartphones, laptops, tv’s etc., onto petri-dishes. Each dish was scanned in using a microscope. I made a little program that assigned codes/numbers to the shape and color-variations per pixel, basically turning each physical dish into electronic big data.

When I got all the data I made a few 3D models of humans with a growing pattern. Instead of using the ‘biological’ growth system, the big data was used as a guide. The numbers of the big data were assigned to points on the model, which made them grow individually while assigning the growth offset and color by itself. This caused the digital humans to be infected with the bacteria from the physical object. How long will it take before it goes the other way around?

If you’d like to the development progress and research, you can find it here.

The lab // During the exposition I had built a miniature lab to have a workspace and showcase my work at the same time. As part of the performance I was present in my lab-coat at all time to keep working on the project and to talk about the project and explain it to visitors. They could also take petridish samples from their own phones and tablets. This made it more tangible and close to home for most people. This resulted in a lot of very interesting conversations and questions.

The desk // Visitors could check out the books I’ve read about bio-engineering & bio-hacking and see data-results from my experiments. During the last month of my project, the ‘Zoo’ of computer-viruses I stored went rampage and wiped out all data from my Mac and my external hard-drives… oops. The few images that I could save were corrupt. The screen shows an animation of those images, accompanied by the sound that my Mac made when it crashed.

The cat // On the desk there was also a mutated cat in a jar. This cat came from an electronic waste dump in China. Due to the pollution by the acids and electrical components, the stray cats that are living there get mutated quite often. This example’s skull grew through his skin, partially extra limbs are growing and one leg did not grow at all. This was used as an example to explain to people what kind of mutation already is going on, and how my work relates to this.

The lightboxes // This is a selection of thirty petridishes containing bacteria-colonies and viruses sampled from electronical devices, like phones, Ipads, etc. All dishes were labeled with a number so people could see all steps and results in the data-log. The dishes were showcased on light-boxes to make sure the colours and patterns would pop-out. I would later refer to specific petridishes during explanations to make a link with the final result.

The data-log // The data-logbook showed detailed information on the showcased petridishes. Each dish had a observation log to see how the bacteria grew during a pre-determent timespan, what kind of changes would occur and how much data was eventually generated based on the algorithm. There were also samples of scanned images that were not used in the final result.

The prints // To make the prints pop out, and at the same time match them with the lab setting, they were printed on x-ray photo-plastic. The prints, 9 different versions in total, were mounted to a swap-able hanging system in front of a lightbox that was hanging from the wall. The visitors could swap out the prints themselves and study each image individually. You can find more of the final stills on the bottom of this post.

The petridishes 1/2 // These are the first 15 petridishes that were visible on the lightboxes from a top-down perspective. As you can see certain samples were quite gross and resulted in pretty big colonies, while others would remain very minimal. Different types of agar and nutrient-bases were used to get different results in growing patterns and growth rates.

The petridishes 2/2 // These are the second 15 petridishes that were visible on the lightboxes from a top-down perspective. In#47 the agar actually shrunk due to the colony in the core of the plate. I personally like #40 quite a bit, it almost looks like an eye with all the vain-y texture and subtle color-changes that are going on.

Final stills

Physical to digital

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