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e6.1 - *particle group* Installation
*particle group* Installation
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Particles of Interest: Tales of the Matter Market


One layer of the *particle group* project is the *Particles of Interest* interactive installation of poetic meditations from around the world that allows visitors to encounter the global chorus on nanotechnology, culture, and property. The installation creates a *sonic-simulation* of particle data scanning gestures.

Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of materials and the creation of structures and systems that exist at the scale of atoms and molecules. A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter. By way of comparison, a DNA molecule is roughly 2.5 nm, a red blood cell 7,000 nm, and a human hair cell is 80,000 nm wide. The existing body of toxicological literature indicates that nanoparticles have a greater risk of toxicity than larger particles.

The *particle sniffer* prototype by *particle group* is a sniff-scan technology that captures nano-scale elements, such as nanoparticles of carbon 60, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide that have clustered on or beneath the skin of individuals who have unknowingly been using nano-based particle products ranging from transparent suntan lotions, a large number skin care products, and a wide variety of makeup products to some types of fabrics. The *particle sniffer* sonic-simulation installation is based on a nano-sized surface acoustic wave chip, which works by measuring disturbances in sound waves as they pass across micro-quartz crystals. This "dog on a chip" sensor is coated with a thin layer of cloned antibody proteins that bond to specific particles, such as carbon 60. The sound waves passing through that sensor can then be compared with an uncoated control crystal: differences in the waves mean the chip has picked up trace amounts of the target particles. Each time an individual passes through the installation and a particle is captured, the installation alerts the individual to the level of trans-patented particle traces that have been found on him or her, and to the toxicity tales of others that have had nano-clusters found on them or in them.

Somatic Scripts, Transduction Circuits, and Hackable Soft Spots

Nina Waisman

Theorist Brian Massumi has described the human body as a collection of transducers.1 My work mines bodily transduction circuits—the physical, sonic and logical circuits imposed on bodies moving through today's scripted spaces. I'm particularly interested in creating choreographies that generate awareness through the body's multi-sensory, parallel processing of related scripts.

For example, in re-designing the PITMM piece for the San Diego Museum of Art, I became interested in intertwining five key scripts at play in that particular space, to see what kinds of gaps and overlaps might emerge from mashing up old and new systems of control. These systems were: 1) the classic museum scripting of a body's movement through galleries—a choreography that physically circulates a visitor so that she might receive important cultural ideas and objects, 2) the scripts and expectations attached to the pedestal as form—how museum visitors place themselves and behave in relation to a pedestal and its "contents"—versus the slightly different dance encouraged between pedestals and visitors with our piece, 3) controls imposed by the central nervous system of the museum—the electrical and air circulation systems (the tubes through which our piece circulates air and information are visibly connected to the inputs/outputs of this museum infrastructure), 4) nanotechnology's invasive scripting of the body—its invisible penetration of the body's surface and interior, in order to perform scripts both known and unknown, and 5) sound's similar meeting and scripting of the body through its invisible penetration of both the ontological and the bodily surfaces and interiors.

What kind of agency might a visitor feel being lost and/or created in this heavily scripted, but not atypical, contemporary space? The observer-becoming-participant seemingly gains more control as she moves through the piece, for a wider range of sounds and manipulations become available as she proceeds. But in order to gain this "control," she offers more of her body/mind to the interests of the multiple systems structuring her experience. Specifically, as she spends time in front of the pedestals, her body is scanned and mined for loose nanoparticles, a listing of which is read out loud for all to hear. Nano slogans and products are pitched as she advances further through the various Scyllas and Charybdises of the installation, converting her body into a host for a range of interactions run by unseen, speculative scripts. Put differently, she, like so many, is lured into giving up agency through the very illusion of increasing control, where "the system" captures and imparts its heart's desires at so many levels at her expense (where she gains but a facade of control over its surface effects).

On the other hand, the visitor who invests the most time and curiosity in the piece finds hidden sweet spots that produce texts, tales, and sonic detritus undermining the dominant nano sales appeals. So, while, indeed, in taking the time to find the sweet spots, the visitor continuously offers up her body to be read and experimented upon by interests she may be unaware of, she also discovers opportunities for hacking into the continuous loop. Notably, the pedestals can be played as sound instruments, defying the logical sense of the information they attempt to impart. Or, as revealed by prints and spills found on the pedestals, the visitor might use her hands, feet and other materials to "dirty" the white pedestals—disruptions of museum-visitor standard practice. We have noticed that once the door is opened to a broader range of interactions than those expected in a given setting, participants decide variously on the new limits of their engagement. The literal marks that (re)write/(re)script these pedestals point to experiences that resist cataloguing—visible traces of almost invisible actions undermining hegemonic logics. They are the hackable soft spots in the dominant narratives, circuits that simultaneously transduce neo-nano research, institutional controls, and the viewer's low-fi seductions.

1 Massumi, Brian, Parables For The Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham & London, Duke University Press (2002). Note: Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun "transducer" as "a device that is actuated by power from one system and supplies power usually in another form to a second system" (Springfield, Mass, G. & C. Merriam Company [1977]).