Carlos Castellanos

Carlos Castellanos

Research Creation Fellowship
ISEA2017
USA

Aim
The development of a hybrid biological-electronic system in which the variations of the electrical potential of a set of microbial cells (MFCs) are translated into modulations of amplitude, frequency and rhythm in modular electronic sound synthesizers and software. We will also strive to bring the research lab out into the urban space to engage citizens in the conversations surrounding these technologies.

Method

The research will focus on three main areas:

(1) Exploration of various materials and design strategies for MFC architectures. Several different homes will be built and various strategies for display and performance will be explored. Sources such as ponds, rivers, and easily accessible organic materials such as compost, aquatic plants, and sewage will be explored for use as the electricity-generating component of the MFCs. This may include expeditions to local aquatic/wetland environments to build ad-hoc CBMs “in situ” as a facility/performance.

(2) The MFCs will be connected to a Eurorack-based modular synthesizer system and/or a software synthesizer designed specifically for Max/MSP or PD so that the bioelectrical fluctuations of the MFCs can be used as modulation and trigger sources. This will involve building electronic circuitry to amplify the electrical signals generated by the bacteria and software to translate the signals into appropriate control voltage (CV) sources for the synthesizers.

(3) Use of machine learning algorithms as a method of interpreting the changing electrical patterns generated by the bacteria. We will investigate the use of pattern recognition/sorting to trigger synth presets and CV gate signals, and statistical regression to predict variations in electrical potential. If a comprehensive understanding of the bioelectrical patterns can be obtained, it will be used to inform the development of a sonic composition system that is dictated by these patterns. In essence, allowing bacteria to "express themselves" in a sonorous way.

To engage the public in our research, we will also build a mobile laboratory using a cart or trailer, repurposed to serve as a bioenergy demonstration and construction station. We will tour the city collecting organic matter for use in the construction of simple DIY MFC systems and we will carry out interventions and demonstrations in public spaces.
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