Out of the Blue art installation 2020
The Out of the Blue art installation was part of Illuminating the self, an art-meets-science endeavour funded by the Wellcome Trust to increase awareness about the topic of focal epilepsy and introduce the CANDO: Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics using Optogenetics project to the general public. The installation opened on January 17th at the Hatton and Vane galleries in Newcastle upon Tyne and, unfortunately, prematurely closed on March 23rd due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
To bring Out of the Blue to life, we have partnered with artist Susan Aldworth, who sourced 100 pieces of white Victorian garments and had them embroidered with testimonials from epilepsy sufferers. These pieces of clothing were divided across 20 rows, then hanged from a custom-built frame and moved in a choreography designed to simulate normal and pathological neural activity during epileptic seizures.
The NGNI team was instrumental in the design and delivery of this installation, with the team working closely with the artist to transform neural signals into an aesthetically appealing choreography that was also feasible from a technological point of view. Mr Matthew Cavuto designed and prototyped the pulley system and the mechanical structure featured in the final installation, ensuring survivability of the whole system for 6 months of continuous use. The electronic interfaces was developed by Mr Alan Bannon and, for each row, comprised a 36V power supply, a motor driver, and a motion control unit (composed of a 5V regulation system, a CAN bus interface, a motor driver interface and a current sensor to monitor motor power consumption). This was accompanied by a lighting control unit to control the blue lights that are hanged with the garments and allow the fluorescent thread used in the embroidering to shine. Both the clothing movement and the lights were controlled and synchronised through a raspberry pi-4 with a CAN interface and a touchscreen.