REVITAL COHEN

Electrocyte Appendix

source: cohenvanbalen

The Electrocyte Appendix is an artificial organ that could be implanted into the body to allow people to become electric organisms. Inspired by the electric eel and the way it uses electrocyte cells to produce electrical current from its abdomens, the organ is constructed of artificial cells* that mimic and improve the electrocyte mechanism by converting blood sugar into electricity.

Replacing the vestigial appendix, the artificial organ brings a new functionality to the human anatomy, giving humans the ability to farm and produce electricity directly from their body. By discarding the remains of redundant anatomical functions in favour of new abilities, the body is redesigned in order to sustain its new way of living.

Biotechnology could allow us to transform our genus into something else. The idea of our species changing from Homo-Sapiens into Homo-Evolutis (the human as a species controlling and designing its own evolution) is materialising quickly in research labs. And what kind of genus be constructed when the Homo takes after the Gymnotus?

Forecasts for 2050 point towards technologically assisted reclusiveness, self sufficiency and social isolation. These behaviours are enabled by communication networks which allow one to survive without leaving the home or having physical interactions with others.

In this kind of existence, where electricity becomes vital for survival, should the body adapt to the behaviour and adjust to sustain it? Humans are by nature social animals, by retracting into a self sustaining solitude a person becomes not dissimilar to the electric eel in behaviour.

The eel is a solitary animal, it lives alone, hunts and breeds without any interaction with other organisms, it senses and reacts to the presence of others through electric charges.

As we start behaving this way, should our bodies evolve to provide us with electric energy? In this future scenario the body changes its function; instead of an organism designed to attract, socialise, mate and reproduce with others, it becomes an electricity generating vessel, nurtured and harvested by its owner, designed to sustain a new form of virtual existence for an individual who lives through electronic networks.

* Based on the research Designing artificial cells to harness the biological ion concentration gradient by Jian Xu and David LaVan, Nature Nanotechnology, September 21, 2008.
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source: vimeo

Like Stelarc, Revital Cohen is fascinated by the human body. Especially, she is interested in a particular research area that focuses on creating artificial Nano-cells for medical purposes. Revital’s work for Biotopia deals with the possibility of using these cells to create an artificial body that allows people to become electronic organisms. The work consists of a video projection of documentation and drawings of the artificial body part; the appendicitis.
It is often technology that exposes the human to new situations, which facilitate the enhancement of philosophical studies of ‘ourselves’ and our phenomena (however not as a ’creation’ of something ’new’ – which is considerably more complex affair that makes new phenomena and representations outside the existing representation framework, appear or emerge). We will never be able to see the world as one thing or perceive it as a panorama where we may only describe it within a fixed frame – and from a static point. The point of Biotopia is to point out how things are moving out of their fixed frames. Things should not be seen as phenomena experienced by a subject ‘outside’ the phenomena, but as a result of one, so to speak, collaborative experience horizon, where body and mind interact in affective and sensitive processes. We need to move with things to try to understand them. The exploration of the body by art – as both the transformer of flesh and ideas – is one of the means at our disposal to achieve such a conceptual movement.
All images and films are the copyright of the artist and cannot be used “in any way” without their expressed consent.
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source: iconeye

“Some people get really picky over the details,” Revital Cohen giggles. “One woman asked me: ‘What if you get up at night to go to the toilet? You’ll trip over the sheep and you’ll fall.’”

The recent Royal College of Art Interaction Design graduate is talking about her Dialysis Sheep: a project that uses a specially bred lamb as a dialysis machine, based on work by scientists who genetically modified sheep to have human blood. The concept sounds far-fetched – but meticulously calculated, scientifically sound and presented with working designs, it is entirely feasible. So much so that some forget it is an object for discussion and move straight to the mundanities.

A disciple of interaction designers Dunne & Raby’s “critical design”, Cohen belongs to a new breed of designers using scientific research to design potential future scenarios. By responding to the research with working products, she makes complicated situations tangible so we can look at this future critically – and decide if we want it.

What marks out Cohen’s work is how far she pushes her concepts, something that found her on icon’s list of 20 designers changing the way we think when she was just out of school. “She’s not just trying to make commentary for the sake of it,” says Dunne & Raby’s Tony Dunne. “Her work is not fiction, but it’s not fantasy either because she carefully positions her work so that it is feasible. You can figure out how it works – she’s using the language of design to start a debate.”

Take the Respiratory Dog, a retired racing greyhound that gets a second life as a respiratory device. The designer collaborated with an engineer to build a working harness that uses the dog’s rapid breath rate to pump a bellows and push air into a patient’s lungs. It’s uncomfortable to look at, but dig a little and you find yourself questioning the life-support resources we have now.

“I went to meet people on life-support machines, to see how they feel about their symbiosis with technology,” says Cohen. “I was talking to a lady who started crying – and the machine beeped like crazy. All the nurses ran in and said: ‘Stop crying, you’re messing up the treatment.’ I thought: these machines are so evil. How come if you lose your eyesight you get a lovely guide dog? Maybe using animals could be nicer.”

The dog is saved from a death sentence, so “they keep each other alive”, Cohen argues. “A lot of people get upset about the way I use animals in these projects, but they aren’t upset about eating them, or wearing them, or using them for medicine.”

That said, Cohen takes no authority in her position: “It’s about bringing up things that I can’t answer. And I’m not saying my projects are a good thing to do – I would never stand by that, and I would never want anyone to try them.”

Cohen’s work is deep in pioneering territory, but she says: “My lack of scientific understanding is one of the stronger points in my work. I think if I knew what was happening it wouldn’t leave me room to imagine.” She doesn’t see herself as a mouthpiece for scientific research. The science is just inspiration – “a tool to tell the story and take it to far and exciting places,” she says.

In fact, she sees herself very much as a designer, and the skills from her BA in furniture design continue to be a big part of her design process. “I still obey the rules – form follows function. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a reference point of sorts, and I have to completely dissect the object to all its functions, but my ideas become 3D very quickly.”

Cohen uses familiar forms and typologies to build her objects – harnesses, glass bowls and running machines. She sucks you into her world by lending it a sense of the ordinary. There’s also an element of theatre: once the object is built she uses photography and film to place normal people at the heart of her fantastical scenarios.

Her Electrocyte Appendix, for example, is based on the development of artificial cells that mimic an electric eel’s, and can be implanted into the human body (the scientists were thinking about pacemakers, but Cohen poetically replaces the redundant appendix with an electricity-generating organ).

It’s an unfeasible idea, but there’s a logic to the film that narrates it: a man is sitting down, and two wires connected to electric stubs emerging from his Electrocyte Appendix lead to a hand-held light. He’s reading a book, the light is a bit shaky and he has to put it down to turn a page. Later, he’s working through a plate of sugary meringues to generate enough electricity to keep his Apple Mac on.

There’s something human and imperfect about the scene. And in a sense it’s believable, because “we’re already glued to these things,” Cohen says, pointing to her laptop. “I was looking into this Japanese Hikikomori epidemic where people never leave their home – they shop online, work online, their relationships are online. Maybe we’ve become like a different species, maybe our biology needs to adapt to these new worlds – is it a frightening world?” Cohen looks at the film, running on a loop. “Yes and no.”
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source: bidtorg

假如人体能发电,那会是什么样?

发电阑尾是一个植入人体的人造器官,它使人成为能发电的有机体。设计师观察到电鳗利用发电细胞从腹部产生电流,由此受到启发,发电阑尾亦由人造细胞组成。这种细胞模仿并改进发电机制,将血糖转化为电能。

除替代人体自身退化的阑尾外,该人造器官还为人体带来新的功能,赋予人类靠自身发电并控制这种能量的能力。以新功能取代多余的生理结构残余,人体被重新设计以支持新的生活方式。
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source: z33be

De kritische objecten en provocatieve scenario’s ontworpen door Revital Cohen situeren zich op en verkennen de tweedeling natuurlijk-artificieel. In haar praktijk, die vele vormen aanneemt, werkt Cohen vaak samen met wetenschappers, bio-ethici, dierenopvoeders en medici. Revital Cohen kreeg voor haar werk verschillende prijzen en erkenningen van o.a FactoryDesign, Helen Hamlyn Centre, Science Museum Emerging Artist Commission en Icon Magazine. Haar werk wordt internationaal voorgesteld en gepresenteerd in verschillende contexten, van wetenschappelijke en academische conferenties tot kunstgaleries en designbeurzen.