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MEART - "The semi living artist"

SymbioticA Research Group in collaboration
with The Steve Potter Lab
(Douglas Bakkum, Guy Ben-Ary, Dr. Stuart Bunt,
Oron Catts, Phil Gamblen, Steve M. Potter,
Ian Sweetman, Ionat Zurr)

MEART - The Semi Living Artist is a geographically detached, bio-cybernetic project exploring aspects of creativity and artistry in the age of biological technologies and the future possibilities of creating semi living entities. It investigates our abilities and intentions in dealing with the emergence of a new class of beings (whose production may lie far in the future) that may be sentient, creative and unpredictable. Meart takes the basic components of the brain (isolated neurons) attaches them to a mechanical body through the mediation of a digital processing engine to attempt and create an entity that will seemingly evolve, learn and become conditioned to express its growth experiences through "art activity". The combined elements of unpredictability and "temperament" with the ability to learn and adapt, creates an artistic entity that is both dependent, and independent, from its creator and its creator's intentions.

MEART is assembled from:

"Wetware" - cultured neurons from embryonic rat cortex grown over the Multi Electrode Array
"Hardware" - the robotic (drawing) arm
"Software" - that interfaces between the wetware and the hardware
We will set up MEART's Brain - the living neural cultures - in Steve Potter's lab (Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta). Steve is applying different technologies to study dissociated cultures of hundreds or thousands of mammalian neurons. In his lab a multi channel neural recording from MEART's brain will be performed. The data sets, extracted from the living neurons, will be processed in two locations - Atlanta & in the Eyebeam Gallery. The outcome will be used to control the drawing arm and to stimulate the neurons as feedback. A series of experiments will be performed in order to explore the relationships between the input/stimulation to the neuronal culture and the output/drawings. For example, a web cam will capture portraits of some of the viewers within the gallery space. This image will be then and the progress of the drawing will be converted into a "stimulation blue print" and will be used to stimulate the neurons.

Douglas Bakkum (Steve Potter's Lab)
Born in USA, lived in Slovakia and France. Received a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering which provided insight into the workings of the physical world, but he is now interested in the workings of the mind and its perception of the physical world. Currently a doctoral student in the Bioengineering Department at Georgia Tech under the guidance of Steve Potter. Interested in embodying cultured neurons with robots to study the importance of environment in the processes of neural networks.

Guy Ben Ary (SymbioticA Research Group)
Biological Artist. Born in USA (1967), lived in Israel and Australia. Currently living and working in WA. Artist is residence in SymbioticA - The art & science collaborative lab (since 2000). Manager of the Image Analysis and Acquisition Facility (IAAF), Department of Anatomy and Human Biology, UWA. Specialising in light microscopy, biological and digital imaging. Member of the Tissue Culture & Art Project (joined in 1999). Trained in programming, web development & Law (LLB).

Oron Catts (SymbioticA Research Group)
Tissue engineer artist. Born in Finland, lived in Israel and Australia. Co-Founder and Artistic Director of SymbioticA - The Art & Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at The School of Anatomy & Human Biology, University of Western Australia. Founder of the Tissue Culture and Art Project (1996). Research fellow at The Tissue Engineering & Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (2000-2001). Trained in product design, and specialized in the future interaction of design and biological derived technologies.

Phil Gamblen (SymbioticA Research Group)
Born in the UK in 1964. Migrated to Canada in 1966. Trained and worked as a gem cutter in the 1980's. Resettled in WA in 1991 after two years of travel. Graduated from Claremont School of Art in 1996 and Curtin University of Technology in 1998 with an Honours Degree in Fine Art, majoring in sculpture. Current artworks utilize motion and light to investigate technological aspects of today's culture, the overlap of art and science and the re-use of obsolete and discarded materials.

Steve M. Potter (Steve Potter's Lab)
is the product of an artistic mother and a scientific father, who fostered both creativity and curiosity. As a result, he is perhaps more interested in the aesthetics and presentation of scientific data than most scientists, eager to make it interesting for the general public. He got his undergraduate degree in biochemistry at the Univ. of California, San Diego, and his PhD in neurobiology at the Univ. of California, Irvine. He worked as a postdoctoral scientist 8 years at the California Institute of Technology, developing tools to study living neuronal networks. He is now a professor of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Dr. Stuart Bunt (SymbioticA Research Group)
Co-founder of SymbioticA, the first art and biology lab situated in a science department. Have consulted and lectured on the nexus between Art/Science and Technology, exhibited in Ars Electronica and collaborated or helped produce a number of biotech art pieces revolving around emergent technologies in the biosciences. Background in science and the arts (Director/co-founder SymbioticA). Senator at the University of Western Australia, chief executive biomedical software spin off company, Paradigm Diagnostics,and founder of the Image Acquisition and Analysis Facility, UWA.

Ian Sweetman (SymbioticA Research Group)
Through an eclectic and undistinguished career Iain Sweetman is uniquely unqualified in, but has at one time or another earned a living from; photography, bacteriology, pulmonary physiology, bass playing, record production, sound engineering, neurobiologly, forensic anthropology, maths, applied computer science, network administration, artificial intelligence, strange art projects involving fish and robots and, tentatively, haptics . He still does not know what he wants to do with his life, but if he ever gets paid what he thinks the world owes him, travelling around the world with a bicycle, a tent and a credit card is a strong possibility.

Ionat Zurr (SymbioticA Research Group)
Wet Biology art practitioner. Born in England, lived in Israel and Australia. Artist in residence in SymbioticA - The Art & Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at The School of Anatomy & Human Biology, University of Western Australia. Co-Founder of the Tissue Culture and Art Project. Research fellow at The Tissue Engineering & Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School(2000-2001) Studied photography and media studies, specializing in biological and digital imaging, as well as video production.

Acknowledgements: Support for MEART was provided by SymbioticA: the Art & Science Collaborative Research Lab and ArtsWA in association with the lotteries Commission.

All materials on this website copyright 2000-2022 douglas irving repetto and the individual artists.