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Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj & Anil Podgornik Mycophone_unison, 2014.
Photo : Damjan Švarc, courtesy of Kapelica gallery photo archive

Conceived by Slovenian artist Saša Spačal, in close collaboration with scientist Mirjan Švagelj and designer Anil Podgornik, the sound installation Mycophone_unison is presented as a metaphor for questions about corporeal identity in light of recent discoveries about the human microbiome. At the edge of a large platform representing a star chart, spectators are invited to activate a detonator. This simple gesture triggers a signal to the platform’s central unit, a perforated disk equipped with optical transistors that produce a rhythmic sound, punctuated by lighting effects. The sound emitted is then modulated as it passes through three Petri dishes, each containing microorganisms drawn from various parts of the three creators’ bodies. From this action results a series of ever-changing sounds: because the microbiomes are alive, and thus constantly developing, the electronic resistance produced is modified somewhat each time the signal passes through, thus transforming the sound sequence. By taking part in the system, spectators enter this “global interconnectivity,” as a symbolic link is established among their bodies, the creators’ bodies, and celestial bodies. Thus, the artwork refers to the environment’s influence on our corporeal identity, as our bodies should be, more than ever, understood as an open ecosystem. The Petri dishes in the installation contribute to this meaning. The addition of carbon agar as a culture medium forms a black background against which the microorganisms are deployed, creating confusion between micro and macro levels. This reminds us that it takes only minor changes to our microbiome to provoke scale effects on our health and even our behaviours — a testimony to the dynamic and multiple nature of our bodies.

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This article also appears in the issue 87 – The Living - The Living

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