GUY BEN-ARY, PHILIP GAMBLEN AND STEVE POTTER

Silent Barrage

source: vidafundaciontelefonica

Silent Barrage has a “biological brain” that telematically connects with its “body” in a way that is familiar to humans: the brain processes sense data that it receives, and then brain and body formulate expressions through movement and mark making. But this familiarity is hidden within a sophisticated conceptual and scientific framework that is gradually decoded by the viewer. The brain consists of a neural network of embryonic rat neurons, growing in a Petri dish in a lab in Atlanta, Georgia, which exhibits the uncontrolled activity of nerve tissue that is typical of cultured nerve cells. This neural network is connected to neural interfacing electrodes that write to and read from the neurons. The thirty-six robotic pole-shaped objects of the body, meanwhile, live in whatever exhibition space is their temporary home. They have sensors that detect the presence of viewers who come in. It is from this environment that data is transmitted over the Internet, to be read by the electrodes and thus to stimulate, train or calm parts of the brain, depending on which area of the neuronal net has been addressed. The robots’ behaviours then reflect what the neurons send out – mechanical rings around the poles move to various heights and inscribe the paper that encases them – closing a loop of dispersed activity. Silent Barrage is unique as a interactive art work in that it integrates the functioning of living neural tissue in its processes. It radically complicates the way that we understand correlations between biological micro-components and macro activities of motion, sensory perception and interpretation.
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source: ounae

Una cosa es la inteligencia artificial, donde mediante un sofisticado trabajo en programación y mecánica se intenta emular de forma autónoma los comportamientos de un ser vivo. Y otra cosa, muy distinta, es Silent Barrage [Bombardeo silencioso], una obra de arte interactiva desarrollada por un equipo de artistas liderado por Guy Ben-Ary, Philip Gamblen y Steve Potter, entre otros, donde una serie de robots responden a los estímulos de un cerebro biológico, un cerebro de verdad. Esta pieza es un punto de encuentro entre la neurobiología y el arte, lo cual la convierte en un hallazgo creativo que modifica las nociones convencionales de percepción sensorial y su relación entre microcomponentes biológicos y microactividades cinéticas.
Silent Barrage, robots con cerebro biológico | Silent Barrage red neuronal Guy Ben Ary cerebro El cerebro biológico consiste en una red de neuronas de embriones de rata cultivadas en placa de Petri. Los estímulos que recibe del entorno afectan directamente al tejido nervioso de las neuronas, esa actividad frenética genera información que decodifica el cuerpo de la obra: treinta y seis postes robóticos, conectados al cerebro por vía telemática, que expresan en marcas y dibujos los impulsos que reciben. El cerebro fue desarrollado en un laboratorio de Atlanta, Georgia. El cuerpo fue diseñado en los talleres de los artistas. El ensamble de ambas partes conforma esta impresionante obra artística, de las pocas en el mundo que integran en el proceso interactivo la actividad de un tejido neuronal vivo.
Silent Barrage, robots con cerebro biológico | Silent Barrage red neuronal Guy Ben Ary cerebro El funcionamiento de Silent Barrage se vale de un trabajo científico y conceptual que abre el marco interpretativo hasta límites nunca antes alcanzados; esta pieza es una expresión determinante sobre cómo puede pensarse la conexión entre la esfera biológica y la tecnología robótica. Científicos y artistas que intervinieron en el proceso de construcción aseguran que también ayuda a generar métodos para aquietar la actividad en placas de cultivo, lo cual podría tener resultados positivos, por ejemplo, en el tratamiento de la epilepsia. Desde el punto de vista artístico, Silent… ofrece una expresión sensorial envolvente de las cuestiones que están en el núcleo del lenguaje humano, de la capacidad de razonar; investiga al mismo tiempo la naturaleza de los pensamientos, el libre albedrío, y la disfunción neuronal. Es uno de los pocos proyectos que verdaderamente une arte y tecnología, ya que es estética y conceptualmente significativa, además de ser científicamente válida.
Silent Barrage, robots con cerebro biológico | Silent Barrage red neuronal Guy Ben Ary cerebro Los treinta y seis pilares robóticos se distribuyen en forma simétrica dentro de la sala de exposiciones, los espectadores caminan libremente, charlan, hacen comentarios. Cada uno de esos estímulos es recepcionado por el cerebro y transmitidos a los robots, que reaccionan con la información neuronal moviendo anillos mecánicos colocados alrededor de cada uno. La altura y la velocidad de los movimientos están determinadas por la intensidad de los estímulos, el cerebro se estimula, se ejercita o se relaja dependiendo del área de la red neuronal a la que fue dirigida la orden. Algo sorprendente es que, mientras todo esto sucede, el sistema archiva cada una de las respuestas neuronales en Internet: alimenta una memoria maestra que le permite ir ganando autonomía en la decisiones que toma, además de evitar repeticiones en las secuencias de sus dibujos y marcas. “La obra hace uso de libre voluntad de la audiencia, traza su propio camino a través del espacio, pero fundamentalmente traza paralelos reales e imaginarios entre la persona y de las células nerviosas”, explican los artistas.
Silent Barrage, robots con cerebro biológico | Silent Barrage red neuronal Guy Ben Ary cerebro También puede realizarse una lectura más intensiva del funcionamiento de Silent…, relacionada con la comunicación intercelular, es decir: las células nerviosas del sistema están descontextualizadas, inmersas en un medio artificial, pero su funcionamiento depende del comportamiento celular de los espectadores, hay una conexión, casi sintomática, y es allí donde se produce el significado.
Silent Barrage, robots con cerebro biológico | Silent Barrage red neuronal Guy Ben Ary cerebro Ben-Ary comenta que el equipo trabajó más de tres años para crear el cuerpo robótico y su correlato cerebral. “Lo más complicado fue concretar un proyecto artísticamente emocionante, pero al mismo tiempo que tenga relevancia científica. La ciencia es exactitud y el arte es concepto y mensaje. Fue difícil”, señala. Estas tecnologías -agrega el artista- adopta procesos y procedimientos de la ciencia, pero los evalúa de manera artística. Este avance puede tener grandes consecuencias, especialmente en la ingeniería genética y la biotecnología. “Creo que el arte puede y debe desempeñar un papel cultural importante en especular acerca del universo tecnológico, los espectadores deben pensar sobre dónde estamos yendo y generar algún tipo de diálogo. No nos interesa celebrar la tecnología, preferimos ser críticos y conseguir nuevas conclusiones”, dice.
Silent Barrage, robots con cerebro biológico | Silent Barrage red neuronal Guy Ben Ary cerebro Según Ben-Ary, todavía no se conoce en profundidad cuáles van a ser los efectos sociales del monumental advenimiento tecnológico de los últimos quince años. “Todos utilizamos las tecnologías, todos nos perdemos en ella. El arte tiene que actuar como una señal de alerta, plantear cuestiones profundas sobre cómo y quién controla la tecnología. Prefiero una realidad donde se debaten estas cuestiones. El único peligro en el arte es el factor sorpresa: a veces el espectador sólo se queda con aquellos objetos “novedosos” o “cool”, en lugar de interpretarlos como un desafío intelectual”, apunta.
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source: vidafundaciontelefonica

Guy Ben-Ary is an artist that is working in the area of art & biology. Currently living and working in WA. Guy is an artist in resident in SymbioticA – The Art & Science Collaborative Lab, since 2000. He is the manager of the CELLCentral (a microscopy facility) in the School of Anatomy and Human Biology, UWA. He specializes in microscopy, biological & digital imaging & artistic visualization of biological data. His Main research area is cybernetics and the interface of biological material to robotics. Member of the core SymbioticA Research Group that developed “MEART – the semi living artist” project. He collaborated with the Tissue Culture & Art Project for 4 years (1999 – 2003). Guy was invited in the first half of 2006 to be a Research Fellow in the neuro-engineering Lab, Georgia tech, Atlanta, USA and work with Phil Gamblen & Dr. Steve Potter to develop the next generation of MEART. He is also on the part of BioKino that is developing the The “living screen” – Investigating the interface between BioArt & Film theory – Using various living tissues & cells as a screen for the projection of Nano Movies (500 microns square). In the past year Guy worked and developed his new cybernatic entity – silent barrage that has recently been featured in NYC and Ars Electronica.
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source: vidafundaciontelefonica

Phil Gamblen – was born in the UK in 1964 and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1966 where he resided until 1989. During that time he trained and worked as a gem cutter in Toronto during the 1980′s. In 1991, after two years of travel, he moved to Australia and re-settled near Perth, WA where he presently resides. He graduated from the Claremont School of Art in1996 and Curtin University of Technology in 1998 with an Honours Degree in Fine Art, majoring in sculpture.
Since graduating Gamblen has been concentrating on his art practice as well as working in collaboration with others. Most of his work is generally kinetic in form and involves the use of simple mechanisms and electronics. He has been increasingly using robotics in his artwork and has been refining his skill in machine making as well as electronic control systems.
Gamblen is an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Anatomy & Human Biology, UWA, and has worked as an artist in residence in SymboiticA – The art & science collaborative research lab since 1999 where he has been collaborating with other artists and scientists on biological based art projects. The 2 most significant of these, “MEART – The Semi-Living Artist”, has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions and festivals nationally and internationally in the past six years. In 2006 Gamblen was a research fellow at the Steve Potter Neuro-Engineering Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. He, along with collaborators Guy Ben-Ary, Douglas Bakkum and Dr Steve Potter, developed Silent Barrage that has recently been featured in NYC and Ars ELectronica.
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source: vidafundaciontelefonica

Steve Potter has been collaborating with Guy Ben-Ary and Phil Gamblen at SymbioticA since 2002. He is a neuroscientist in the Laboratory for Neuroengineering at Georgia Tech, in Atlanta. His group works with networks of brain cells from rat embryos grown in culture dishes outfitted with 60 neural interfacing electrodes. The multi-electrode arrays send sensory data into the cultured neural networks, in the form of electrical pulses, and read out the networks’ responses, which are used to control the movements of robots. With their Embodied Cultured Networks paradigm, the Potter group is studying learning and memory in a simplified animal, whose brain can be studied in detail under the microscope while its body is somewhere else doing the behaving.
Potter’s lab is interdisciplinary, encompassing cell culture, multi-electrode electrophysiology, computer science, optical microscopy, and artificial intelligence. Potter got his bachelors’ degree in biochemistry from UC San Diego in 1987, and his PhD in neurobiology from UC Irvine in 1993. During his postdoctoral research at Caltech, he developed and improved tools for studying living networks, such as multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy, high-speed imaging of neural signals, and neural cell culture methods. He is an associate professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech, and teaches neuroengineering and neuroscience.
The Potter group has developed hardware, software and techniques for training wetware with artificial sensory input, delivered to living nets via the multi-electrode array culture dishes.
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source: silentbarrage

Project developed by – Philip Gamblen, Guy Ben-Ary, Peter Gee, Dr. Nathan Scott & Brett Murray in collaboration with Dr. Steve Potter Lab, (Dr. Steve Potter, Douglas Swehla, Stephen Bobic & Riley Zeller-Townson) Georgia Institute of Technology.
Silent Barrage declares its presence in scale and sound. This architectural scale arrangement of noisy pole robots is more then a mere amplification of neuronal activity in a culture dish.
One of the very few real art and science works – in that it is both artistically meaningful and scientifically valid, Silent Barrage investigates the nature of thoughts, free will, and neural dysfunction. The work focuses at the bursts of uncontrolled activity of nerve tissue, a typical characteristic of epilepsy and cultured nerve cells. Silent Barrage uses audience movements in, and responses to the architectural space of amplified neuronal activity to feed it back to the cultured nerve cells in an attempt to silence the barrage of electrical impulses. The scientists hope that this might help them understand better how to quieten the activity in the culture dish, and this in turn would assist in treating epilepsy.
From an artistic perspective Silent Barrage provides an immersive and somewhat overwhelming sensorial manifestation of questions that are in the core of our understanding of the stuff that make us think. Using the presumption of free will of the audience, who chart their own path trough the space, this work draws real and imaginary parallels between the person and nerve cell.
Each pole in the arrangement represents a region in the culture dish, and the movements of the individual robots correspond to the level of activity in the area. The robots markings on the poles hint to the continuous neuronal activity, conjuring traces of “memories” of past actions. The movement of audience in the Silent Barrage’s space is used to stimulate the culture. Nerve cells activity usually happens when a certain combination of stimulations reaches a threshold; the same can be said about our decision making. The navigation through Silent Barrage is made out of a series of incremental decisions made in an overly stimulated environment, out of the context of daily life. The nerve cells are also out of context, removed from the brain they once belong to, they are cultured in an artificial environment, trying to make connections with the cells around them. The barrage of activity is a symptom, can pairing cells and the audience can help make “meaningful” connections that will quieten the barrage? Can it happen in a place which is nothing but quiet?

This project was researched and developed at SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at The School of Anatomy & Human Biology, University of Western Australia and Dr. Steve Potter’s lab within the Lab for Neuroengineering, Georgia Tnstitute of Technology.
Silent Barrage has been assisted by the State of Western Australia through the Department of Culture and the Arts and the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body
SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts is a jointly funded initiative between The University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Department of Culture and the Arts (2008 –2011).