As part of the Identifying Successful STARTS Methodologies project a number of case studies will be produced as a result of our ongoing research. Please find below the STARTS winner’s and honour mention’s we have selected to concentrate upon. Case studies will be added at a later date.
Jen Keane – This is grown.
Jen Keane’s project was motivated by a frustration with plastics and a visible disparity between scientific research and design manifestations around natural materials.
Taking an organism-driven approach to material design, the project began under the premise that a greater understanding of nature could help us not just replace the petrochemical based materials of today with more sustainable ones. Jen worked with scientists from Imperial college London to create a new form of textile called ‘microbial weaving’.
Our case study investigates the nature of the interdisciplinary working and collaborations between artists and scientists in this project, focused on biological alternatives to synthetic materials. Several interviews were carried out to create dialogue for later qualitative analysis; these conversations included reflections on the very nature of and relationships within the collaborative context and cognitive space formed that facilitated creation. For ease of interpretation and to gain a deep perception of the views of participants that reflect the nature of relationships in art/science collaborations a simple thematic analysis approach was chosen to interpret the data and begin to answer the research questions set by the project and develop a conceptual framework to better understand and represent the data. Coding allowed the development of three themes under which perceptions from interviewees could be grouped that reflected the nature of collaborative activity between artists and scientists. The three themes identified were; Emotions, Technology, and Knowledge. These reinforce each other and converge to create the transformative intersection where art and science meets and the collaboration occurs. This relationship is not simple and involves a quasi-state or epistemic super positionality that requires further investigation.
Library of Ourselves – BeAnotherLab
Library of Ourselves is an interdisciplinary and distributed project to create transformative encounters between communities in conflict. It was built using The Machine To Be Another (TMBA), a highly adaptable Creative Commons system that bridges cognitive science and virtual reality techniques to create empathic-driven experiences.
Scientific research of ’embodiment’ systems using VR has shown that inducing a perceptual illusion of inhabiting another person’s body has great potential in reducing implicit racial bias and promoting altruism. Library of Ourselves combines a novel embodiment system, an immersive archive, and a distributed research toolkit to allow users to exchange perspectives, bodies, and stories. It is designed as a highly scalable and accessible tool to foster and investigate empathy between groups.
BeAnotherLab are an interdisciplinary art collective whose main base is in Barcelona, Spain although the group are distributed worldwide (Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich, Sao Paulo, and New York). The nine members of the collective are from wide ranging backgrounds including Anthropology, Computer Science, Digital Arts, Cognitive Science and Conflict Resolution. Dr Denise Doyle visited the BeAnotherLab collective at their Hangar studio in October 2019, where she interviewed five of the nine members, and participated in a debriefing from two members of the Collective from their recent trip to Jordan where they were filming the stories of Syrian and Iraqi women refugees for a project based at the University of Birmingham, UK. The resultant immersive narratives will be added to the on-going Library of Ourselves archive. Dr Doyle went on to interview the remaining members of the Collective during the COVID-19 lockdown. Through the many interviews conducted, it became apparent that the most significant aspect of the approach of the group is their commitment to understanding embodied experience through the many fields that they inhabit. (Some have undertaken PhD level research in neuroscience to ‘validate’ their findings). Our case study further emphasises their shared belief in the ability to engender empathic response in others through immersive virtual reality technologies.
The Murder of Pavlos Fyssas – Forensic Architecture
Shortly after midnight on 18 September 2013, Pavlos Fyssas, a young Greek anti-fascist rapper, was murdered in his home neighbourhood of Keratsini, Athens. Both the killer and others who participated in the attack were members of the neo-Nazi organization Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn have committed acts of violence against migrants and political opponents ever since their formation in the 1980s, yet most of their crimes have gone unpunished as a result of the silent support among the ranks of the Greek police, aligned to their nationalist cause. Following the murder of Fyssas, a Greek citizen, the national government was finally forced to make a series of arrests. Sixty-nine members of Golden Dawn, including all of their fifteen parliamentarians, were brought to trial. Charges in the trial, relating to events as far back as 2008, allege that even while holding seats in the national parliament, Golden Dawn operated as a criminal organisation. Even as the ongoing trial threatens the existence of Golden Dawn as a political party, the Greek courts remain reluctant to investigate the role of the police in covering up these crimes.
Forensic Architecture are an interdisciplinary research agency, based at Goldsmiths, University of London, who use architectural techniques to investigate human rights violations and cases of state violence. Incorporating artists, photographers, videographers, sound engineers, and weapons experts, Jacob Badcock visited their studio in New Cross, South East London, to interview assistant director, Cristina Varvia, in January 2020. Taking their STARTS Prize nominated The Murder of Pavlos Fyssas as a point of departure, our case study focuses on Forensic Architecture’s ‘archaeological’ approach to media artefacts and the built environment, emphasising their ability to make otherwise imperceptible acts of violence perceptible – to reveal that which is hidden through the close analysis of materials. Following their own self-reflexive analysis, we understand Forensic Architecture’s practice as an ‘investigative aesthetics’ which brings art to bear on the production of legal-juridical truths. Going further, we identify how Forensic Architecture collapse binary art-historical distinctions between the aesthetic and the epistemological: – for Forensic Architecture, the artist, as much as the scientist, the mathematician, or the anthropologist, has a claim to truth.
The goal of our artistic-scientific research project trees: Rendering Ecophysiological Processes Audible, was to connect sounds that occur in trees with Ecophysiological processes and thus investigate and render perceptible processes in plants that are not noticeable to humans. The acoustic emissions of a tree in the Swiss Alps were recorded with special acoustic sensors, and all other non-auditory ecophysiological measurement data were sonified–that is, translated into
sounds and music. The recordings and sonified measurements were implemented in a number of different media art installations under the preamble “treelab“, which at the same time served as a research environment, in order to display and examine the temporal and spatial connections between plant sounds, physiological processes, and environmental conditions in an artisticscientific observation system.
Most of the sounds that occur in a plant arise due to drought stress. Thirsty plants make an inaudible noise; acoustic emissions from plants lead to conclusions on their state and on the environmental conditions.
In September 2019, Dr. Richard Glover flew to Zurich to interview TreeLab, made up of tree physiologist Roman Zweifel, and sound engineer Marcus Maeder. As TreeLab developed, the researchers realised that if they could make these stress-induced plant signals perceivable to humans, an abstract concept like climate change can be made tangible through an installation environment. Through qualitative analysis from interviews, this case study explores the different roles played by the collaborators, and the consequences for their own distinct academic fields. Maeder’s approach is underlined by his philosophy that artists and scientists meet on a ‘different plane’ to one inhabited by either party; this different plane best facilities cooperation by both researchers. The task for artists is to develop a common language with scientists through engaged study of their discipline, which can take considerable time – two to three years in the case of TreeLab. Zweiful acknowledged the deep interaction which arose from Maeder’s desire to understand the meaning behind the scientific data, rather than simply translating it as material to be employed in artistic work. Equally, Zweiful acknowledges the artistic realisation as a much more effective mode to facilitate heightened public understanding and impact of the urgent environmental data, in comparison to standardised journal publication routes. Maeder similarly recognises the importance of shareability of the installation experience, to prompt further discussion and exploration. The case study emphasises the shared understanding by both researchers, from very different fields, that for public presentation to bring about societal change, a transition to the emotional is necessary.
Ciutat Vella’s land-use plan
The project embodies a new way of making urban planning. Fueled by massive information (open data and big data) and complemented with qualitative data arising from citizen participation, the project applies novel methodologies of spatial analysis based on machine learning and artificial intelligence to inform, simulate, and draft a public policy that puts the focus on preserving liveability in cities. As a result of a two-year process, the plan elaborates new regulatory proposals that, in addition to protecting the characteristics plot by plot and providing a dynamic vision of this urban fabric, highlights the integration of productive activity in the city and its coexistence with the habitability needs of citizens. With a strong collaborative perspective the plan has forged a large consensus thanks to a participatory process (local entities, retailers and neighbours worked together in workshops, public events, interviews with selected actors and online participation through the City Council digital democracy platform Decidim.barcelona) and the political implication of the City Council, that co-authored the plan. From the citizens perspective, they were involved in a massive data collection process, empowering them to build data sovereignty structures and participate in decision-making at a local level. On the public bodies side, the project proposes a system both to inform and evaluate urban planning and policies at a European level -supplying a common ground of knowledge that can be exchanged and compared between cities.
Guilia Tomasello- Future Flora
Future Flora is a harvesting kit designed for women to treat and prevent vaginal infections. The human body is composed for the 90% of different microorganisms, most of which are beneficial to their host.
The work proposes alternatives to embrace biological remedies in our home. The intention behind Future Flora is to design a tool that will educate and enable women to take a more active role in their healthcare, prompting them to seek medical advice as necessary and ultimately break some of the taboos associated with urogynecology health. Designed to empower women and increase their self-care, becoming familiar with their own bodies, developing self-confidence, and becoming active patients able to seek healthcare professional advice. Tomasello opens the possibility of wearing microorganisms in the future. Taking care of her own health, the woman becomes a citizen scientist, establishing a first relation with her body and what is part of her living surroundings. Clothes and accessories become the ecosystem that balance the entire skin microflora.
SimCath- Fernando Bello, ICCESS & Salomé Bazin, Cellule studio
Making Sense – Citizen Sensing Toolkit (2018) / Making Sense Team