24.01.11

Visceral: Interview with Boo Chapple

This week I got to ask artist and researcher, Boo Chapple, a few questions about her Visceral installation, Transjuicer. As is to be expected from Visceral exhibits, Transjuicer features a strange and unique element – in this case, audio speakers created from bone tissue. The reason bone can be used to create this unusual stereo experience lies in its piezoelectric nature. Piezoelectricity is the electrical charge that is generated in some materials [crystals, ceramics, bone…] when they are put under mechanical pressure.

We last saw piezoelectricity at Science Gallery in the form of a Green Machines exhibit that converted the pressure from footsteps into useful electricity. Now, for Visceral, the bone audio speakers in Transjuicer will exploit another feature of piezoelectric materials; that when an oscillating voltage is applied to them, they vibrate.

Boo was kind enough to tell me about how Transjuicer relates to her ongoing development of these speakers, how residencies at SymbioticA have influenced her work, and what she thinks about the public discussion that may ensue.

Bone audio speakers

Hi Boo. So, first of all, what point of your journey to develop bone audio speakers does Transjuicer represent?

Transjuicer represents that moment, some time after the journey's end, when one is far enough removed from the experience to be able to stop and reflect upon it. What did I do? Why did I do that? What does it mean that I did that? The installation is less an exhibition of the speakers per se and more an outcome of this retrospective reflection upon the process and its embeddedness within a larger cultural-economic sphere.

Why did you choose to do a residency at SymbioticA; and how did this residency influence your work?

I was really drawn to the combination of material practice and philosophical investigation, hands-on lab access and critical reflection on the life sciences, that Symbiotica represents. Before my residencies at Symbiotica (2004 and 2006) I worked primarily in digital media. Being in the labs gave me much more of a feel for material process and practice and work that I have done since this time is indicative of this influence.

During my time at Symbiotica, I was struck by how difficult it was to make work about technology without producing instrumentally focused outcomes, that is without becoming caught up with the operation of the technology at the expense of the art. This led me to change my focus and begin making work that had less concern for function and was more concerned with narrative and fiction.

Do you think that work like yours helps to open up science to public discussion and debate; and does this interest you?

I'm not sure that Transjuicer is so much about science as it is about belief, the economy of human-animal relations, and the politics of material transformation. These are all things that are inherent to the practice of science but perhaps not what one might think of when one thinks of public debate around particular scientific discoveries, or technologies.

While I am interested in the philosophical parameters of these debates, I do not see my art practice as an instrument of communication in this respect, nor is Transjuicer engaged with any hot topics of the moment, or designed in such a way as to reveal the technical processes that were employed in making the bone audio speakers.

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