my video

iceI’m pleased to say that my video is finished, although I am as yet undecided whether  to add a soundtrack to it….?

This video: Tactile, focuses on our senses by portraying a number of pleasant & unpleasant activities. It has been inspired by my observations of the role of organoids. In the laboratory I have learned about the transmission of messaging via our synapses etc.

All I need now is a platform to show this video, never an easy task but certainly 100% more difficult during the pandemic.

Finally I am working on a concept!!

scalpel near my finger

As I have already mentioned in the Returning to my Blog post, the pandemic restrictions have changed the way I work completely.

My previously preferred interactive methodologies involving audience engagement and/or touch have been dropped for the foreseeable future.  More physically distant digital technologies such as video have taken preference for the time being.

Consequently, inspired by the latest research on organoids being carried out by my scientific collaborator: A.Prof. Mirella Dottori,  I am currently working on a video about our sense of touch entitled: Tactile.

This video explores different types of touch & the ways they affect us. It shows my apparently disembodied hands manipulating various items – both pleasant and unpleasant, in the hopes these visual images will evoke a sensory response in viewers.

I’m looking forward to completing this artwork soon and having the opportunity to show it.

Returning to my blog!!

Looking back to my last blog post dated 28/09/19 I am reminded of my excitement about the opportunity to exhibit the outcomes of my Synapse residency at the Ars Electronica 3 Festival ……!!!

Well life has turned upside down for all of us as we have come to terms with the Pandemic and the effects of COVID 19 during 2020.

The 3 Festival was cancelled of course, so options to exhibit my Synapse outcomes are back to square one.

Physical Distancing rules have meant that I must review my preferred viewer immersive & interactive methodologies and develop other more COVID safe options!!!

Physical distancing for coronavirus (COVID-19) | Australian Government Department of Health

I am turning to technology to help me out with these changes and looking around for a suitable techno literate collaborator.

I will also return to Mirella’s lab at IHMRi (A Prof M. Dottori).  My aim is to update aspects of my Synapse residency research outcomes to suit the requirements of COVID-safe artwork exhibitions.

This brings you up to date with my situation and I hope to post regularly about my progress in the coming months.

Ars Electronica: 3Fest, Wollongong

I’m very pleased to report that my proposal for the exhibition during  the 3Fest event has been accepted by the Ars Electronica committee in Linz. This will be the first time Ars Electronica has staged an event in Australia.

Scheduled to take place over 4 days in May 2020, a number of local stakeholders are-involved, including the Wollongong Council and the University of Wollongong School of Art.

The working title of my artwork is Sensory Interpretations, and it represents the outcome of my Synapse residency. Details of this residency have been posted on this blog and now is the time when I begin the creative work to recontextualise this ground breaking scientific data in the form of an interactive installation.

in this video still the neurons can be seen reaching out toward each other to transmit the stimuli around the body

I am reminded of the kymograph once again, and its’ use to measure electronic stimuli before the introduction of computers:

kymographs set up in this quasi-scientific viewer interactive installation, Brisbane Powerhouse, 2003.

It is exciting to develop my new installation, refining older concepts and incorporating recontextualised, recent scientific sensory data!


Whilst I am no longer posting this blog at weekly intervals this definitely does not mean that my laboratory experiences are over – far from it!! I recently spent time with Dr. Rocio Finol-Urdaneta exploring aspects of electrophysiology.

Looking down the microscope at the equipment set up to measure the spiking of the neurons in response to stimuli,  I could see the pipette piercing a group of neurons. When the spiking occurred it was represented on the computer screen nearby – where the spiking levels and frequency were represented in graph form.

Firing activity shown both diagrammatically and visually

Continue reading Electrophysiology

The Next Layer of Complexity: Ion Channel Receptors

Throughout this residency I have been looking at neuronal pathways and message transmission through our bodies.  Designated synaptic clefts allow these transmissions to pass from one dendrite to the next and this is known as the action potential process – I have posted a number of images and  descriptions of this process, according to my understanding of it. However, unsurprisingly, I now find there is more to these complex neurological interactions – also involved are electronic components known as ion channels:

From 1939 to 1952, Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley published a series of seminal papers that successfully described how the flux of ions across membranes is responsible for the generation of the action potential: an action potential is the transient, rapid rise and fall of the membrane voltage ( Rasband, M. N. (2010) Ion Channels and Excitable Cells. Nature Education 3(9):41)

Scientific diagram of ion channel transmission
2006 Nature Publishing Group Zagotta, W. N. Membrane biology: Permutations of permeability. Nature 440, 427-429 (2006).

Continue reading The Next Layer of Complexity: Ion Channel Receptors

When Neurons Fire…

Returning to some earlier research in more detail I have been investigating neuronal firing.

diagram of neuronal firing, Dottori Lab

As has been previously discussed in earlier posts, neuronal firing is the name given to the changes that take to enable neurons to  communicate with each other. This neuronal communication occurs via electrical impulses and neurotransmitters.

As you can see from the chart above, the activity of the cultured sensory neurons can be measured in a number of ways relating to the bursts of activity, spike rate and active channels.

Continue reading When Neurons Fire…

Ars Electronica and Wollongong Opportunities

Since  its initiation in 1979, Ars Electronica, Linz, has developed as an innovative centre for arts and ideas, particularly media art. It has sought to connect these ideas with everyday life through science and research, art and technology.

Deep Space – Exhibition, Ars Electronica

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Ars Electronica was coming to Wollongong  in February 2020 in the form of the 3Festival

Whilst this new venture will maintain the essential aims of the Ars parent organisation, it will have new unique characteristics related to Wollongong and the various stakeholders who are supporting this exciting venture.

Importantly, from my point of view, the 3Festival will have an art/science component where I will have the opportunity to showcase the first artistic outcomes of this Synapse residency..

Continue reading Ars Electronica and Wollongong Opportunities

Synaptic Transmission

I have come to expect that, during my art/science collaborations, I will find myself out of my depth from time to time in a rarefied and highly specific discipline – thoughts here of Steven Wilson and the dilettante question:   – In the Dottori laboratory, as I observe experiments relating to the enormously complex sensory systems within the human body and the way that sensory stimuli are received and travel to and from the brain, I am entering terrain that is far beyond my own expertise.

As a result of this, I recently supplemented my conversations and observations about the creation of neuronal populations and the formation of functional networks by consulting a website aptly entitled:  On this site I took a look at these processes more generally and diagrammatically. The following is a brief outline of what I have abstracted:

The generic process that allows sensory stimuli to pass around our body is known as Synaptic Transmission. When neurons communicate they usually do so in a designated area known as a synapse. Although very close, the neurons do not actually touch each other, but are separated by the synaptic cleft that allows chemical messages to pass across from one neuron to the receptors of another neuron on the other side.

The synapse area where neurons come close enough to each other to transmit messages

The neuron sending the chemical signal is known as the presynaptic neuron and the neuron that receives this message is known as the postsynaptic neuron.

Continue reading Synaptic Transmission

Defining the ‘senses’

An Internet search for ‘senses’ reveals that the current biophysical benchmark consists of five senses: touch, smell, hearing, taste and sight. This basic group of five is sometimes extended to include balance, temperature and proprioception. However this traditional biophysical model has been challenged and extended and today there is really no absolute definition!

It is widely accepted that the earliest systematic consideration of the nature of the senses is found in Aristotle’s De Anima, Book II, ch. 7-11. This text might be described as a type of rumination on the constituent factors of the soul of various living entities in combination with an early concept of biology and, in the case of humans, intellect. Descartes subsequently challenged the notion of relying on personal senses to validate human perceptions, whilst successive thinkers have subsequently destabilised Descartes dualistic outlook,  preferring to use the term ‘vital force’, rater than soul.

The notion of the ‘vital force’ was central to my doctoral thesis research into concepts of ‘humanness’ and experimental links to the nineteenth century developments in galvanics. In particular, the development of electricity led to the invention of machines that could supposedly define the human body and all its component parts.

the kymograph was on such scientific machine developed to measure electrical impulses

Continue reading Defining the ‘senses’