Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in |

This project by Hamilton Mestizo (et al) seeks to apply contemporary biotech research to the question of artificial life in a way that has relevance to the traditions of robotics, to the emerging fields of bio-art, and to environmental and ecological issues, as well as to the history of cybernetics and cybernetically inspired biology. Electricium Vitum applies the research of Logan, et al into biological sources of electrical power – bio-batteries – to the construction of a cyborgian life-form, by using the power from the battery (driven by human waste decomposed by E.coli) to drive a microcontroller which monitors its environment (via sensors) in a homeostatic or autopoietic way. This is an important intervention in robotics because, while processing has become relatively easy, electromechanical movement is manageable and sensing is at least tractable in most cases, the question of power remains unsolved, and is hidden under the table in most (autonomous) robotics projects – you charge the batteries at the wall socket. That the generation of its own power is fundamental to Electricium Vitum is, therefore, a rather profound intervention in robotics and artificial life.

It is also profound in that its power is derived from the repugnant, the less than worthless, that matter which, in most cases, is removed, with attendant energy consumption. This aspect of the work makes it a provocative intervention into environmental issues. Electricium Vitum also intervenes in the realm of bio-art. Bio art practices to date have focused largely on specialised technical practices, such as tissue culture, DNA manipulation and synthesis of hybrid cells – all practices made viable for the artist by the boom in genomics and biotech and the attendant availability of mass-produced lab appliances. In this, bio-art follows large scale patterns not unlike the early years of computer art. Electricium Vitum therefore stakes out a new territory on the margins of bio-art and robotics.