Saturday, 12 March 2011

Natalie Jeremijenko

Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering. Jeremijenko’s projects explore socio-technical changes and have been exhibited by several museums and galleries, including the MASSMoCA, the Whitney, Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt.

One of her projects that I find very interesting is called 'OOZ' (zoo spelt backwards). Unlike a traditional zoo, OOZ is a place where animals remain by choice, a zoo without cages. Like a traditional zoo, it is a series of sites where animals and humans interact. However, activity at an OOZ site differs from that of a Zoo. OOZ is interactive - it provides humans a set of actions, the animals provide reactions and these couplets add to a collective pool of observations.

The human/animal interface has two components: 1) an architecture of reciprocity, i.e. any action you can direct at an animal, it can direct at you, and 2) an information architecture of collective observation and interpretation. OOZ addresses learning that reveals interconnections among complex natural systems and the ongoing political effect of changing someone's ideas about their role in the local environment.

Although animal models are the basis of the biological sciences and contemporary medical knowledge, it is the use of animals as social and political models that Jeremijenko makes explicit in the OOZ project.

Ooz project is an experiment in 'interspecies communication,' challenging human understandings about the quality of life of animal species in settings designed by humans.

The first phase of the project, sited in Zeewolde (the Netherlands) is an experiment in the distributed human interpretation of goose communication. Human participants saddle up in a 'goose chair' and contort their bodies to control a robotic goose out on the water in hopes of successfully communicating with live geese.

Meanwhile, throughout the range of planned Ooz communication habitats (horses, water striders and bats), the animals can learn to control the human 'spectators' by pressing the appropriately designed button or lever that communicates in human speech. For example, a button may trigger the recorded voice: "Yo! If you are going to stare, how ‘bout inserting 25cents and delivering a dose of that beaver biscuit!"

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