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UAL Research Online

The Physarum Experiments (and Being Slime Mould)

Barnett, Heather (2016) The Physarum Experiments (and Being Slime Mould). In: Collective Motion 2016: Math, biology, physics and engineering come together, 8-10 June 2016, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Barnett, Heather

Artist Heather Barnett works with Physarum polycephalum, the ‘many headed’ slime mould, observing and manipulating the growth patterns, navigational abilities and seemingly human behaviours of this single-celled organism. Whilst it has no brain or central nervous system, the slime mould demonstrates a primitive form of intelligence and an impressive array of collective behaviours. When placed in proximity, individual cells merge to form a single supercell, working in synchronous harmony.

As an artist and an educator Barnett is interested in the organism’s emergent and adaptive properties and since 2009 she has developed a range of studies, methods and practices employing the slime mould as artistic medium, educational model and participatory metaphor. The Physarum Experiments explore ideas of co-creation with living organisms, and aim to draw connections between complex systems in biological and social contexts and to develop emergent platforms for self-organisation.

Some works have a firm footing within scientific research (Study No:19 The Maze, which pays homage to Nakagaki’s classic experiment https://youtu.be/SdvJ20g4Cbs), whilst other works employ exploratory studio practices (http://heatherbarnett.co.uk/Projects/the-physarum-experiments/) and participatory experimentation (The Slime Mould Collective http://slimoco.ning.com).

The presentation discussed these works and ended with a live collective experiment, Being Slime Mould, an embodied experiment inviting a group of individuals to enact slime mould behaviours in order to test human capacity for navigation, communication and cooperation. The experiment set out to test human collective behaviour when following non-human rules.


Official Website: http://www.collective-behavior.com/collectivemotion2016/collectivemotion2016.html
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: collective behaviour, performance, emergence
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: 9 June 2016
Event Location: Uppsala University, Sweden
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2016 14:28
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 14:28
Item ID: 10200
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/10200

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