Meredith Walsh has undertaken two periods of research at SymbioticA.
Cubomedusae have 24 eyes, many with sophisticated lenses, but no brain that science can see. As some sort of brain is considered indispensable to sight their need for all the sensory hard-ware confounds conventional neuro-scientific logic. Their eyes are not the problem; they fit the standard ocular definition (more or less). The problem is vision without cognition, sight without a central processing unit.
"Confounding anatomic logic is the very basis for my research. How do I know what I am looking at? Without a doubt it is not personal: the power to identify life and consciousness(1) is intrinsic to the bio-sciences. A power that has already raised much critical discussion in relation to its evolutionary form. Arguably in the current era of biological manipulation and environmental crisis it is still crucial to question its power. How does scientific perception occur through experimental practice so that it can define, order and manipulate life?
"To address science’s empirical ability to perceive life according to the capacity of the human brain I am attempting to develop a perception of the jellyfish’s brain for which biological science currently has no concept.
In recent decades the battle for ownership of 'consciousness' has swung towards the neuroscientist’s concept of brain as mechanism, an almost Victorian concept of the 'automata' brought up to date by replacing springs and clockwork with neurons. This materialism has led to a similarly misguided attempt to locate the seat of a characteristic in various groups of neurons: here is the site for religiosity, here the piece of brain determining sexuality. This approach to the brain has recently been proposed as a way to identify those in children who are likely to become adult criminals. However, the imaging methods such as functional MRI used as supporting evidence for the existence of such centres ignores the fact that MRI shows as much variation as consistency when 'the brain' 'thinks'.
April – September, 2009
BioPhone continues to explore the possibility of semi-living communication devices evident in 'Fish and Chips' and MEART (SymbioticA Research Group).
Walsh proposed to challenge the traditional definition of consciousness as localised and individual. By using MMI software (mobile monitoring infrastructure) developed by Ken Taylor at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Walsh's intention was for the neural function of a fish-brain to be stimulated via mobile phone by multiple users from varying and changing locations.
Through developing the work in a fluid and complex way, she aimed at exploring the ethical potential of consciously intelligent communicative instruments.
Three-month residency funded through iVEC, the hub of advanced computing in Western Australia.