IntroSpection (2005)

Introspection enables people to interact with microorganisms and cells derived from their own body and those of others. It asks visitors to reflect on the place of humanity within the larger biosphere. The installation's status as hybrid scientific/medical enterprise and media/game asks questions about access to scientific and medical protocols and new worlds made accessible by science. The contradiction of interacting with these alien, unfamiliar life forms (which are nonetheless intimately connected with our bodies) focuses on the boundaries between self and non-self. The request of visitors to surrender cells or body fluids brings home the often unspoken intimacy of biological research.

The installation reflects on our culture’s increasing focus on the microbiological. Human traits, capabilities, and identities are searched for at the unseen cellular and genetic levels. What should we make of this trend? How should non-scientists participate? It is urgent that the public develop deep literacy with ...

Full Description

Introspection enables people to interact with microorganisms and cells derived from their own body and those of others. It asks visitors to reflect on the place of humanity within the larger biosphere. The installation's status as hybrid scientific/medical enterprise and media/game asks questions about access to scientific and medical protocols and new worlds made accessible by science. The contradiction of interacting with these alien, unfamiliar life forms (which are nonetheless intimately connected with our bodies) focuses on the boundaries between self and non-self. The request of visitors to surrender cells or body fluids brings home the often unspoken intimacy of biological research.

The installation reflects on our culture’s increasing focus on the microbiological. Human traits, capabilities, and identities are searched for at the unseen cellular and genetic levels. What should we make of this trend? How should non-scientists participate? It is urgent that the public develop deep literacy with microbiological tools and concepts. Emerging generations of networked, automated microscopes may usher in wider access just as the microcomputer did in its realm. This installation appropriates this emerging technology by reverse engineering it so it can become part of media art. Visitors are invited to play four ‘games’. 1. Explore 2. Mystery 3. Match 4. Blow-up

Explore: Visitors pick areas of their own cell sample for microscopic inspection by moving in the installation space. Motion detection creates a homunculus on screen whose movements parallel those of the visitor. The event seeks to demystify biological research methodology by asking visitors to engage in a mini-study of their own body as part of media art

Mystery - Where Did This Come From? Visitors try to identify what place in their cell sample is the origin of a blown up mystery image. The installation invites viewers to contemplate the micro world and to reflect on a biological era that must work at this unseen level relying on instrumentation for access.

Match: A FBI wanted poster from the future replaces fingerprints with images of cell samples from a randomly selected prior visitor. The viewer is challenged to identify which of six previous viewer portraits is the person who gave the samples. The event asks viewers to reflect on the changing nature of identity when so much cultural attention is focused on the microbiological level. With successful identification, visitors are rewarded with lights flashing in the environment and a sample of the prior visitor's recording of an answer to questions about things on the inside - such as "what is inside of you?" "how do you know what is inside of someone else?.

Blow up: Visitors can pick one area of their cell sample for detailed examination. Movements and gestures in the space can bring access to increasing levels of magnification. More details are seen but is any more known?

Process: Introspection asks viewers to take a cell sample from their own mouth and then transfer it to a microscope slide. The slide is then submitted to Nikon's automated Coolscope which allows telemicrscopy control for the computer orchestrating the media event. They are also asked to record a short voice sample reflecting on the insides of things. Video portraits are captured.

Viewers interact via motion detection which tracks their motion in the play area. A game controller indicates choices made. The database of cell samples, voices, and portraits becomes the basis of various animated displays.

Concept Maps: How to think about these organisms inside? Are they part of us, invaders, or helpers? One animated event poses these concept maps as a provocation:

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