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Development of the (Nurtorture) Device

March 2017


The arrival of my Amino BioProduction Lab courtesy of Julie Legault from Amino Labs prompts the next stage in the development of the nurtorture device.

This DIY system will be custom designed to operate specifically for the purposes of maintaining my living thoughts.

The BioProduction Lab enables a range of DIY-bio experiments.  It is possible to purchase and have one in your home in the USA, but in the UK there are certain restrictions on its use.  I will not be able to use the BioProduction Lab unless based in a facility that is licensed to work with genetically modified organisms.  Therefore until I have a permanent licensed location for the BioProduction Lab, I will only be able to test it without my living thoughts.

A significant part of the project involves finding a permanent location for my E. coli that is GM licensed.

Julie has been amazingly generous with her work, her time and her intellectual contribution to the project.  We have discussed the liveliness of the material that we both work with and whilst Julie understands that I have many questions with regards to the creation of bio-assemblages, she is also open to the idea of expanding discourse around the the use of genetically modified organisms and to finding new ways in which to grow and maintain these new forms of living material.

April 2017


Our first prototype for the section of the nurtorture device that will house the bio-assemblage.  


The term 'nurtorture' is contentious.  It arose from a discussion with scientist colleagues around the maintaining of my bio-assemblages.  I described my means of maintaining them romantically, as a form of care.  This generated a level of amusement, symptomatic of the abstraction experienced in working with life as tool instead of as 'lively material', but one scientist on hearing my description described what I was doing more as a form of torture.  Thus many positions exist simultaneously. When I discuss 'nurtorture' it generates a level of discomfort.  This is important I think.  It is symptomatic of a Western culture that compartmentalises and controls forms of being.  It is worth reflecting upon what other forms of nurtorture device exist: cages, pens, zoos... care homes... hospitals... prisons...?  Areas intended for care but that also impose power structures.

This prototype has been created in collaboration with Robyn Hare, Glassblower at Newcastle University.  We are developing a double insulated structure that will house the bio-assemblages and connect them directly to the BioProduction Lab. The vessel will have three connecting tubes or 'ports'.  The form is intended to resemble both a crafted vessel and a womb-like structure, similar to my earlier work, Pithos, that housed Bio-Assemblage #1.  The form seemed a fitting source of bio-artefactuality: part techné, part bio.  Ideally the material that houses the E. coli would be more lively, skin or cellulose based, perhaps this will be a future iteration.

June 2017

I had the opportunity to take part in a Conductive Glass Workshop, run by Northumbria Design School and the National Glass Centre in Sunderland.  The workshop presented me with an opportunity to explore methods of connecting copper and glass.  I saw the potential this offered in constructing the nurtorture device.  I had been thinking for some time of finding a way to rock my bio-assemblages, as they are rocked in the incubator, but perhaps in a less aggressive and mechanical manner.  Might it be more interesting perhaps to have my bio-assemblages move in motion that somehow related to my own movement?  Perhaps as a result of the motion detected from my mobile phone, for example?  That digital extension of me that I carry around so essential to my being now becomes connected to the living entities that have become a bio-assemblage of my subjective self.

We made several rapid prototypes over a space of a few days, working with different techniques to bind the copper to the glass.  I began by wanting to create a vein-like structure around the glass, encasing the womb-like vessel, but I was tempted by copper staples with their geometric form, loaded with industrial symbols of binding and text.

The aim was to determine whether the glass would be conductive, after firing with various forms of copper.  Connectivity was important, therefore the first samples were of arrangements of staples, placed in a vein-like structure.  My favourite examples however were where I chose to place a random assortment of staples, hoping for connectivity through chance almost, as the staples fell into connection with each other, rather than as a result of my specific placement of them.

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