Emerge 2017: Frankenstein


Emerge 2017: Frankenstein

The festival’s 2017 theme is Frankenstein, a 200-year old novel that still motivates us to think critically about our creative agency and scientific responsibility. The festival revisits the past in order to reframe our sense of the present and inspire imagination of plausible futures, and asks what we can learn today by looking at emerging science and technology through the lens of art. [embed]https://vimeo.com/209821004[/embed]

Radio Healer

Radio Healer is a Native American and Xicano led artist collective in Phoenix, Arizona. The collective is Edgar Cardenas, Randy Kemp, Ashya Flint, Mere Martinez, Rykelle Kemp, Cristóbal Martínez, Melissa S. Rex, Devin Armstrong-Best, and Raven Kemp. As a group, these hacker-artists create indigenous electronic tools, which they use with traditional indigenous tools to perform indigenous reimagined ceremony. Through their immersive environments, comprised of moving images, tools, regalia, performance, and sound, the collective bends media to position visual and sonic metaphors that evoke a heightened sense of criticality about the systems we create and maintain in our world.

Electric Breath

Electric Breath is a screening series that traces Frankensteinian themes in film history and contemporary video and animation. From monstrous avatars struggling to thrive in, or escape from, virtual worlds to animal-headed humans narrating a drowned city, the screening presents a forecast by turns satirical, dreamy and dystopian. Works byMarina ZurkowClaudia HartEva DavidovaTakashi MurataCarla GannisEdison Studios and Hilary Harp and Suzie Silver explore the parables that haunt modernity’s ongoing encounter with the seductions of technology. An outdoor screening will take place on the lawn next to University Club and an indoor series will screen inside the building in the Sky Room. For further information please visit:https://electricbreathemergeblog.wordpress.com/

Biodesign Challenge

The Biodesign Challenge is an annual research program and national competition that offers art and design students the opportunity to envision future applications of biotechnology. On view will be two of the winning projects: Stabilimentum is a couture mask that filters air using live spiders and the electrostatic properties of their silk. Starter Culture Kit is a biomaterials starter kit designed to introduce makers to the expansive world of biomaterials, which include bioplastics, mycelium and silk proteins, which can be propagated and shared among makers. ASU’s students will be competing next year.


Edibleskin imagines a future where fashion becomes merely an extension of the body. Through rituals; from growing and consuming second-skins, to grown materials extending and altering the relationship with materials on the body, to swallowable pills that cause cellulose-material to form on the surface of skin. These artworks explore future rituals that use biotechnology and biomaterial to explore an alternative future where the relation between living, non- living, things and bodies is expanded and blurred, ultimately inviting critical discussion of the ways that we shape biotechnology in relation to everyday life.

Cloud Services

Cloud Services is a transmedia exploration of a proposal to use the atmosphere as an apparatus for data storage and transmission by encoding data into the genomes of bacteria that affect the weather. Addressing the potential of new computational and biotechnological practices as well as the ethical risks of experimenting with life forms and geophysical cycles, the work engages its audience in reflections on how we are altering our environments and how we should govern emerging technologies in order to use them towards desirable futures.

An Experiment on a Cloud in an Airpump

At the opening of the festival the cast of EMERGE will stage a tableau vivant or ‘living picture’ based on Joseph Wright of Derby’s 1768 painting An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump, with each of the artists and scholars taking the role of one of the figures depicted in this classic painting of science on public display. Historical painter Rupert Nesbit will spend the rest of the evening creating a new image, with Karolina Sobecka’s air pump experiment Cloud Services at the center: An Experiment on a Cloud in an Air Pump. The original painting holds central importance in the history and sociology of science as an image that represents key figures and ideas about how knowledge is produced through scientific experimentation. The men, women and children that watch and bear witness to the experiment embody social, gender and class roles that informed Mary Shelley in her fictionalization of trends present in the science of her day—trends that continue to structure science today. This theatrical performance and painting will explore new subject positions, forms of social authority, gender expression, and divisions between expert and audience that are emerging as modern distinctions between the arts, sciences and technology begin to blur in the 21st century.

Fly Blimps

Fly Blimps is an installation consisting of a series autonomous helium filled blimps whose movements are controlled by small collectives of houseflies. The flies are essentially the brain of each of the devices, determining how they interact and respond to the space as well as the other devices. The floating, wandering blimps are separate but intersecting community vehicles. The flies exist in their own self-contained and self-sustaining worlds, collectively creating an amplified and exaggerated expression of group behavior.


Kombucha, tea fermented by a symbiosis between bacteria and yeast, was touted in antiquity as an elixir of life – a panacea for countless ills. Today, we know that the microbes contained within the solution are the same species that spoil wine, beer, and contaminate preserved foods. During the fermentation process, they produce a fleshy, skin-like mass called a biofilm that protects and encapsulates the community. Just as Victor Frankenstein’s patchwork creation emerged from discarded and decaying material, so too does kombucha produce a new form of cooperative life from microbes thought to be undesirable and even dangerous. And, just like the monster from Mary Shelley’s tale, the grotesque and repulsive sight of kombucha obscures a complex, sophisticated creature within.

Neurocomic and Beyond

Not content to work only in his neuroscience lab or to draw his beloved comics, this author has brought his two loves together by illustrating science comics that introduce new ideas from science and offer moments for reflection and creative thought. Written in collaboration with Dr. Hana Roš, Neurocomic features a cartoon adventurer exploring the brain and cutting edge neuroscience. Farinella’s recognizable aesthetics bring together visual narrative and raise questions about how we think about science communication and the imagination required for new ideas in science. The author of Neurocomic will draw Frankenstein inspired comics and bioart depictions in his fast and observant style, while discussing art and neuroscience with the public.

Democracy as a Service

Today Google and Amazon provide countless corporations with cloud-based infrastructure solutions to achieve a greater level of efficiency and optimization. Yet government remains stuck in the physical realm, dependent on flesh-and-blood politicians. To confront the challenges of political gridlock, bureaucratic corruption, and unreliable officials, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats is developing Democracy-as-a-Service, which augments principles as old as the Founding Fathers with 21st century computer science and biotechnology. In the tradition of The Great Exhibition of 1851, where one of the earliest automated voting systems was first displayed, Keats will showcase his new balloting system at the 2017 Emerge Festival.

Frankenstein for Families

Come play in our Frankenstein Lab!
Piper Lawn (South of the University Club) Kids of all ages will enjoy these hands-on activities! You can create a new creature out of Frankentoy parts, create a creature that scribbles, and build a battery! Frankentoys are made by mixing and matching parts from different stuffed animals. As with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we ask, “Should people create new forms of life? Should there be laws that allow or forbid it?” You can also create a Scribbler! Give a scribbler the spark of life by using the motor from an electric toothbrush and create a drawing! Are you the artist or is the scribbler the artist? And if you need something more electric, you can learn how to build your own battery. Mary Shelley was inspired by the invention of the voltaic battery. Make a voltaic battery and learn how a battery works.

Parlor of Futures

What happens when we combine ancient divination techniques with contemporary scenario planning and forecasting methods? Use our specially designed card decks inspired by the 17th century Tarot of Marseille, American cultural mythos, and our School for the Future of Innovation in Society interests, and creatively engage with old and new ways of inventing and imagining futures. Discuss science, technology, and various public issues, hopes and dreams with our 21st century SFIS Tarot deck. Reimagine the future of the American Dream with American Dream Tarot cards and create new dreams to share with friends and strangers alike. Design the future of jobs oracle and speculative food scenarios in the workshops.  Prototype with microfluidics and various circuits to create your cards about the future following our documentation at futureparlor.tumblr.com

Documentary Biotechnology

Award-winning documentary, Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement, explores the social implications of human augmentation. Haunting and humorous, poignant and political, Fixed rethinks “disability” and “normalcy” by exploring technologies that promise to change our bodies and minds forever. Whose Future? The Promise and Perils of Human Gene Editing examines the use of CRISPR/Cas9. This documentary film is a work in progress with generous support from Arizona State University.

Paradise Lost: Transfix at the Salton Sea

Paradise Lost: Transfix at the Salton Sea is a roaming site-specific atmospheric performance that merges video projections and live performance, transforming the ASU campus into a poetic, theatrical landscape. Using hand-held projectors, the performers project quotes from Frankenstein and photographs of Transfix taken at the Salton Sea—an abandoned resort town in California that was once a thriving destination but is now a toxic environmental disaster. The haunting text and images form a visual essay that offers stark reminders of the causes and consequences of the boom and bust economy. Connecting to the story of 1816 and the ‘Year Without Summer’ when Mary Shelley began writing the novel, Paradise Lost: Transfix at the Salton Sea imagines a desolate world of perpetual summer.