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. This year EMERGE invites visitors into a house of wonder filled with speculative technologies, fortune tellers, music and film, and performative experiments that blur the boundaries between art and science. 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. Held concurrently with Night of the Open Door, during which ASU invites the public into its laboratories and studios, EMERGE focuses a critical eye on the future implications of research taking place on campus and around the world. Visit us at the University Club and the Piper Lawn February 25th, from 3-9PM for installations and performances designed for all ages.

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 make the familiar strange.

Radio Healer is particularly interested in the seemingly ordinary semiotic systems that, when observed, become irrational, inefficient, deceptive, and contradictory. These systems encode assumptions, ideologies in discourses, and dilemmas that concretize the cultural systems that shape notions of reality. Radio Healer’s goals are to disrupt these notions by creating environments that provide audiences with opportunities to engage in a heightened sense of criticality about the systems we create, maintain, and adapt. The collective strives to mediate complexity capable of catalyzing public discourse, and to demonstrate indigenous self-determination through an indigenous knowledge systems approach to design, and uses of hacked tools for hacking semiotic systems. Through these goals, Radio Healer performs inclusive re-imagined ceremonies during which the public is invited to reflect on human exigencies and dilemmas tied to obsolescence, acceleration, warfare, borders, hyper-surveillance, land use, cybernetics, market systems, historical amnesia, hi-velocity global multi-nodal networks, and the trans-mediated market valorization of human bodies.

Radio Healer performs indigenous re-imagined ceremony with electronic and acoustic instruments. To prepare for ceremony, the collective produces software and aesthetically symbolic electronic ceremonial tools that are designed to mediate the collective’s live performances of moving images, sound and dance. The collective applies indigenous intercultural knowledge systems such as Xicana/o rasquache, Lowrider chop shop, and Native American adaptive reuse traditions for the design, construction, and practice of ceremonial tools. These traditions demonstrate appropriations and adaptations of foreign cultural artifacts and materials, as well as the use of local materials to innovate functional and aesthetic musical instrument technologies that encode Radio Healer’s indigenous worldview. The following examples were constructed through hacking via circuit-bending, appropriation, salvaging, coding, recycling, adaptive reuse, and improvisation. As they mediate visual, sonic, and discursive complexity, these implements operationalize the collective’s indigenous sovereignty—they are the Radio Healer’s self-determined adaptations of materials and tools.

Photos by Edgar Cardenas, Courtesy of Radio Healer.

War Arrow (2009) is an granular synthesizer featuring 2 resonance filters and oscillators tuned to a Native American pentatonic flute scale.

Marionette (2015) is a hacked Gametrack Video Game Controller for Sony Playstation 3.

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/


Katie Torn, Breathe Deep

Claudia Hart, Dark Knight


Marina Zurkow, Slurb

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.

Biodesign Challenge, Stabilimentum

Mónica Butler, Rebecca Van Sciver, Jiwon Woo
Latin for support, Stabilimentum is a couture mask that filters air using live spiders and the electrostatic properties of their silk. Inspired by the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microbiome, the fashion accessory creates a symbiosis between human and arachnid.

Biodesign Challenge, Starter Culture
Biodesign Challenge, Starter Culture

Gage Branda, Sarah Whelton, Jake O’Hagan, Emma Whitlock
A biomaterials starter kit designed to introduce makers to the expansive world of biomaterials, the contents of the Starter Culture kit, which include bioplastics, mycelium and silk proteins, can be propagated and shared among makers.


Edibleskin imagines a future in which fashion becomes merely an extension of the body. 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, the work uses biotechnology and biomaterials to explore an alternative future where the relation between living and non-living, things and bodies, is expanded and blurred. These speculative future rituals of self-fashioning ultimately invite critical discussion of the ways in which we shape biotechnology in relation to everyday life.

Ali Schachtschneider, photographed by Hiu Zhi Wei

Ali Schachtschneider, photographed by Hiu Zhi Wei

Ali Schachtschneider, photographed by Hiu Zhi Wei

Cloud Services

With informational weather, Cloud Services inaugurates a new eco-epistemology, new apprehensions of the air that enter into compositions with social experiences. The project is an exploration of the interwoven layers of the infosphere, from the physical and material to the biological, and to cultural – the processes through which we disseminate knowledge, communicate meaning, define our values and beliefs, while, through entanglement of human and natural processes, we physically imprinting ourselves into the materiality of the earth.

In explicit integration of computation and environment, Cloud Services points to the fact that we already have the infosphere in our atmosphere and in our stomachs. Analogous to proposals in fields of synthetic biology, geo-engineering or artificial intelligence, the Cloud Services proposal pits the engineering mindset against our gut instincts suggesting what is in principle possible, but what sounds audacious. We present it as a scenario for developing a meaningful discussion around the ethical, social and governance issues raised by planetary-scale technology deployments and direction of research and innovation. It is also a reflection on the present, on materialities of data and on natural systems conceived as information systems.

Cloud Services founders see this technology as a response to the ecological crisis, leading to an emergence of new structures of power arising from countering the ideal of speed, access on demand, and operability. With the natural channels of the biosphere becoming the physical infrastructure for transmission and storage of data, access to knowledge is reorganized, and new sets of networked relationships develop. Information arrives when the weather arrives, making the weather, once again, not incidental but essential to our lives. We tune in to the flows of the atmosphere, to the exchanges between the land an the air, to the energy transfers of the planetary system.

Cloud Services is based on research into the role that microorganisms play in the atmospheric biome, and the interactions of this biome with the land, and the weather. A field test of Cloud Services technology was done in Finnish Lapland.

Cloud Services field test site in a sparsely populated area in Finnish Lapland

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.

Monstrosity, by Rupert Nesbitt, courtesy of the artist

Fly Blimps

This installation consists of a series of 3 autonomous helium filled blimps whose movements are determined by small swarms of houseflies. The flies are essentially the brain of each of the devices, determining how they interact and respond to the space and the other devices. Up to 50 houseflies live within chambers attached to each blimp unit. These chambers contain food, water and light needed to keep the flies alive and active. The chambers also contain sensors that detect the changing light patterns produced by the movements of the flies. In real-time the sensors send this information to an on board microcontroller which activates motors connected to propellers which move the devices based on the predilections of the flies. 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.

Can the symbiotic community of yeast and bacteria in Kombucha can help to fight off pathogens that single species of microbes cannot? At ASU’s Cooperation and Conflict Lab, Kombucha is being studied as a model system for exploring microbial resource sharing and cooperation. Led by Dr. Athen Akipnis, the Cooperation and Conflict Lab examines diverse systems including human societies, cancer in multicellular bodies, the human microbiome, and cooperative multi-species communities such as kombucha to understand the fundamental principles that are shared across systems and to discover new strategies for addressing challenges. Their goal is to better understand how this fundamental tension has shaped the evolution of life and how the management of cooperation and conflict within us (and between us) can support human health and well-being.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to view and discuss growing vats of kombucha and to observe the system at various stages of development. They will be also invited to participate in a citizen’s science project by swabbing their palms and placing them in both plain sweet tea and kombucha and then join us online to track the pathogen progression in both samples over time.

Neurocomic and Beyond

Not content only to work in his neuroscience lab or to draw his beloved comics, Matteo Farinella brought his two loves together by illustrating science comics. Written in collaboration with fellow neurscientits Dr. Hana Roš, Neurocomic features a cartoon adventurer exploring the brain and reflecting on developments in cutting edge neuroscience. Farinella’s compelling visual narratives illuminate the kind of imagination that is required to generate new ideas in science and raise important questions about how we should communicate scientific ideas. At Emerge, Farinella will discuss art and neuroscience with visitors and use his observation and quick sketch skills to render cartoons of Emerge’s characters and installations.

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.

Shoup, S. R. (1936, September 15). Voting machine [Digital image]. Retrieved January 27, 2017, from google.com

Mecclain, E. (1899, November 21). Voting-machine [Digital image]. Retrieved January 27, 2017, from google.com

Frankenstein for Families

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a modern myth, a 200 year-old science-fiction story that explores themes of human creativity, societal responsibility and scientific ethics. What is life? What does it mean to be human? Why do we create? What responsibility do we bear for our inventions? Two centuries after the tale was written, these questions continue to resonate in our technological age. As citizens with access to incredible tools for creation and transformation of the world, we not only need to understand the fundamentals of science and technology, but also to develop the skills to actively participate in the policy discussions that surround these fields. Arizona State University, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, takes on this challenge by pairing Mary Shelley’s compelling story with an integrated set of digital and hands-on activities designed to inspire deeper conversations about scientific and technological creativity and social responsibility.

The Transmedia Museum advances new approaches to the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments, across digital and physical platforms:

The Frankenstein 200 Experience: An interactive digital narrative incorporating a collection of objects from a broad range of museums, science centers, start-ups and community maker spaces to encourage the development of 21st century skills related to creative collaboration and critical thinking.

Frankenstein’s Footlocker: A tabletop kit for museums, science centers, community centers, and other learning hubs that will support creative and making activities, promote reflection on social and ethical issues, and explore emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, robotics, and bioengineering.

Frankenstein’s Workbench: A set of at-home maker activities, online challenges, and competitions involving hands-on science and other creative activities.

Frankentoy: Create a new creature by mixing and matching parts from different stuffed animals. Should people create new forms of life? Should there be laws that allow or forbid it?

Scribbler: Give a scribbler the spark of life using the motor from an electric toothbrush and create a drawing! Are you the artist or is the scribbler the artist?

Battery Stack: Mary Shelley was inspired by the invention of the voltaic battery. Make a voltaic battery and learn how a battery works.

Scribbler, science center kit activity, photo by Jeannie Colton

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.

Whose Future? The Promise and Perils of Human Gene Editing

Directed and Produced by Regan Brashear & Jamie LeJeune

Gene editing is now radically cheaper, faster, more accurate and accessible with a new technique called CRISPR/Cas9. Decades-old debates over designer babies, that have largely been discounted as science-fiction, are quickly becoming science-fact. While promising an end to genetic diseases and opening a door to human enhancement, the risks and ethical questions are far-reaching. In this Frankenstein tale for the 21st century, who is guiding the research and with what assumptions, and — most importantly — what kind of world do we want to build? This documentary film is a work in progress with generous support from Arizona State University.

Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement

Producer, Director & Editor – Regan Brashear, Co-Producer – Jamie LeJeune, Co-Editor – Josh Peterson, Associate Producer – Hannah Swenson

From botox to bionic limbs, the human body is more “upgradeable” than ever. But how much of it can we alter and still be human? What do we gain or lose in the process? Award-winning documentary, Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement, explores the social impact 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.

Image: Artist: Sue Austin; Photographer: Norman Lomax © www.wearefreewheeling.org.uk

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. Transfix is an interactive, silent performance that will transform the ASU campus into a poetic theatrical landscape. Using hand-held projectors, the performers will project images of Transfix at the Salton Sea—an abandoned resort town in California—once a thriving destination, now a toxic environmental disaster. The photographs are a collaboration between my company Vessel and professional photographer Chris Loomis, who took over 600 images with real film and five different cameras.

Our goal was to capture haunting images as a stark reminder of the cause and effect of the boom and bust economy. Tying into the story of A Year Without Summer when Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein, and themes of sustainability of EMERGE 2017, Paradise Lost: Transfix at the Salton Sea imagines a desolate world of perpetual summer. EMERGE 2017 will be the world premiere of the Transfix at the Salton Sea photographs that will eventually have a gallery show later in the year.