Bio-art: Preserving aesthetics in intangible heritage with biology and technology
With a bio-art project combining 300 years old biology theory and advanced technology, one of human’s intangible heritages – dance movements, can now be preserved. “Notion – Dance Fiction” (2011) is a performance created by Choy Ka Fai, a Singaporean new media artist and dance director. The performance is a part of his ongoing artwork series “Prospectus of Future Body”, which researches human condition including relations of nervous system and muscle memory. In the performance, significant dance moves in the last century had been translated and become part of a digitalized database. Choy mapped those digitalized muscle movements on the performer’s muscle with mild electric impulses. It was the artist who controlled every single 3 movement of the dancer during the performance.
The performance was well received not only because of its aesthetics of successfully turning inhumane, digital code into smooth and natural dance moves as if the ‘dancer’ was in control, but more importantly, its well received due to its exploration of biology in body condition and its contribution to society and culture.
This performance is seen as an electro-augmentation of the activities between neuron system and muscle of dancers.4 Choy is inspired by Galvanism, a theory established by Italian scientist Galvani in 1780s indicating that muscle contraction is stimulated by electric current.5 With his passion in dance, Choy successfully combined this 300 years old theory with advance technology to capture the intangible dance moves and muscle memories by transforming them into a library of electric shock patterns. Such patterns of impulses were sent from the artist to the sensors that the ‘dancer’ was wearing – as if the signals sending to the sensors were the neuron system and the impulses were the electrons. Through mimicking our body system with technology, the artwork enables one without any...