After… investigates past and present events that form the basis of alternative realities and futures. Publications feature creative outcomes, documentaries, experiments and narratives along wide-ranging curiosities and subjects.

So if you’re interested in how people, technology and futures will change 'who we are' and 'where we are heading', then After… is for you.

After… is created by art duo, Burton Nitta and features their work alongside guest contributors.

 



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NEW ORGANS OF CREATION programme  
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Here are some extracts relating to the programme and book that accompanies the artwork called NEW ORGANS OF CREATIONS which was exhibited at the Science Gallery London.

New Organs of Creation


Mind of the Matter

11th September 2019

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The voice created in New Organs of Creation prototyped an instrument with the ability to directly change physical reality. The voice goes beyond command and language to steer the direction of events leading to change. It also does this directly through the creation of sound frequencies to divert the course of matter through stem cell differentiation (check out http://www.burtonnitta.co.uk/NewOrgansOfCreation.html for further information about the artwork). In this context, the voice revealed an intriguing duality between the mind and body.


New Organs of Creation performance at Science Gallery London, 8th May 2019

We are far from being philosophers and do not claim to fully grasp metaphysical theories, but we turn to the discourse of metaphysics to be able to articulate elements of the voice that go beyond its physicality. We use the term ‘metaphysical’ to explain aspects of the mind, consciousness, one’s identity and being. Metaphysics here refers to its origins in Aristotle’s theories and its contemporary study moving from Descartes to philosophers such as David Chalmers and Nicholas Humphrey. In this regard, the voice is at once material and metaphysical; of the physical body and also an extension of the mind. To clarify this, the biological fabric of the voice is a corporal instrument composed of biological tissue. It is at once versatile, dynamic, fallible and vulnerable; connected to a body-wide system including lungs and bone resonance. On the flip-side is the metaphysical composition of the voice, as a way to explore and define the self.

The metaphysical aspect of the voice captures our identity and affects the surrounding environment and other people in multifarious ways like a tendril outstretched to connect with other minds. Some of these ways are instantaneously obvious, such as a joke provoking the response of a chuckle in the listener. Other transformational effects are harder to capture, such as a rousing speech that sets in motion a chain reaction to spur a movement and inspire action.
“We’re social beings really,” recounts Prof Lucy Di-Silvio as she reads some of her thoughts in reaction to our collaborative work, “and in everyday life, we’re constantly exposed to language, be it written or oral, in our desire to communicate with each other. We cannot escape the fact that our voices precede and follow us throughout our lives creating impressions on those around us and also giving us a sense of identity” she continues.

Lucy introduces something quite amazing and pulls into focus ideas surrounding the project. As social beings, the voice is a metaphysical embrace to other human 'system-shapers' and 'belief-makers'. Through immaterial thoughts made substantial through action, we shape the external world and more importantly the biological fabric within ourselves, with every new synapsis and memory made. The things that manifest out of these actions, further adjust and shape brains and bodies. The study of neuroplasticity, or the study of how the brain changes to our environment and tools throughout life, shows that 'sat-nav' is changing taxi driver's brain construction and the internet is shaping how we assimilate information into reduced attention spans. Similarly, the voice creates myriad possibilities to link us and shape matter and minds.

In New Organs of Creation, the larynx and voice can be seen as an ontological organ - it defines and expresses our identity and who we are. With new vocal ranges created through the proposed larynx, it can also directly affect the course of biological matter in others.

 

 

 

New Organs of Creation


The Performance

1st July 2019

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The live performance enabled us to simulate the voice and observe how it’s low frequencies affect an audience. We captured a sample of audience reactions which highlight some interesting aspects of the new voice.


New Organs of Creation performance at Science Gallery London, 8th May 2019

To reflect on our original intention we aimed to create a voice that would allow the singer to talk directly to the audience on a cellular level. This was based on scientific evidence finding low-frequency ranges of 0.1-100hz can influence the differentiation and eventual form of stem cells. In some studies, the frequencies were found to affect life cycles of cells and how tissue developed.

A reoccurring reaction came from the audience feedback: for many, the voice induced a meditative state. An audience member told us they felt at peace. Another shared their experience of something like an out-of-body experience as if the sound was a physical thing.

It’s easy to forget that sound is physical. The New Organs of Creation composition by Matt Rogers and brought to life by sound designer David Sheppard and performer Louise Ashcroft was both heard and felt. Much of the sound was below the range of human hearing. The careful observer on the night would have noticed different parts of the architectural space vibrating. As Louise and David duetted in vocal ranges below hearing, the voice could be witnessed resonating with different elements in the space.

We propose it was the physicality of the deep frequency ranges produced by the voice and voice-altering technology, that created the emotional reactions reported by the audience.
The state of the audience enabled and incited by the voice was fascinating to observe. There was a marked change throughout the performance. The meditative state that was shared by many resembled that after a yoga session. There was calm and a slow return back to the room from wherever the individuals had travelled in themselves. Importantly, the performer’s voice had achieved this.

The experience also enabled a reflective mind-frame. An audience member shared their thoughts conjured through the voice:

“I thought about how amazing the body is and the way individual cells move and work together for a higher purpose.”

Another piece of feedback recounted the experience as a rare break from the usual pace of life, even going as far to suggest it should “become public access”, to “take a break from civic life”.

These reactions hinted towards the need of the experience, as to induce a reflective state, to be in the moment, perhaps akin to mindfulness practice. We are intrigued to know how the artist’s extended vocal abilities enhanced and enabled these moments. Many religions use chanting to induce meditative or reflective states. The voice we create in New Organs of Creation when viewed alongside chanting traditions reveals further fascinating insights between vibrational resonance and the body. We write further on this in the accompanying book, soon to be available on this website. In future performances and iterations of the piece, we hope to measure and test this aspect of the power of the voice.

 

 

New Organs of Creation


Discoveries so far...

27th March 2019

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We were extremely lucky to meet people from around the UK who contributed their voice and views to the development of the project. We travelled, asked questions, they spoke and we listened. We encourage you to check out the selection of films on our website to hear their stories directly. Here are some extracts and our reflections on what we discovered.




The feeling of being voiceless within the Brexit debate was a reoccurring message. Some reactions included:

“I don’t really have a voice”.

“I don’t like Brexit,
I don’t even talk about it.”

In Cornwall someone told us they felt sidelined in the process and in Elephant and Castle (London), a man refused to talk about Brexit because he was so disillusioned with events. Whether in a remote Cornish coastal village or the populous capital, there existed a feeling of isolation and exclusion. People felt their voices were not being heard.

 

One particular interview with a London resident pulled into focus the tension between our individual and collective identity expression, which alienates many communities throughout the UK.

“I don’t really identify with any nationality, but I was born in London. I try to accept people no matter what their culture is and try to learn about their culture. I don’t like nationalism, I think it brings out the worst in people. I think you should look at a person’s qualities and not where they come from or how much money they have in their bank account.”

Her views prompted us to look beyond a simplified idea of nationalism, and the damaging effects that over-simplification can have. This interview echoed some key questions in the project: How can we embrace national divisions and embed these in new forms of expression of our collective identity? How can we all contribute to creating the world we want and even prepare for post-national citizenship?



The challenges of oversimplification within how we connect with the broadest sense of ‘citizen’ was echoed by the people we met in Brighton.

In particular, one man gave us an insight into the socially voiceless. 

“I did try to vote last time, but when you’re living on the streets you have to go to the Day Centre to do your voting. When I went to vote, they said they didn’t recognise me there and I couldn’t vote. Even though the rules say homeless people can vote, in practicality it’s almost impossible. You have to find out where your polling station is…it’s usually miles away and when you’re on the streets it’s difficult to get about.”

“We should encourage people to come to this country, they all have something to contribute… it takes away so much opportunities to restrict people’s movements."

We travelled to the Isle of Man, an island nestled in the Irish Sea and met a choir called The Manx Voices. They spoke about the social role of joining their voices and through their interview, helped us realise a crucial relationship when considering the voice. The choirmaster outlined one of the most difficult elements of choral singing:

 


“One of the hardest things to do in a group of people is unison singing, where you’re all on the same note, and it should sound like one beautifully rounded voice. That’s enormously difficult. Sometimes we have songs that finish on a unison quiet note. That’s really challenging because you have to listen and be aware of the sound you’re making. Not just the vowel, or tuning, but the quality of the sound.”

A central message we took away from the interview was when making a unison voice, the members of the choir were required to hone their listening skills. Although the Choirmaster was talking about the choral voice, a bigger message could be gleaned - to have a powerful voice, people require an acute ability to listen.

When we considered how to make a voice heard, we often found that size mattered. In the animal kingdom, the bigger the size, the louder and lower the voice. Famously when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to power, she lowered the pitch of her voice to gain gravitas. In the realms of social media, the bigger your following and audience, the more weight your voice has. Yet standing in the face of these trends, is a defiant champion for the ‘under-dog’; or perhaps that should be redefined as the ‘under-marsupial’.



An interview with Dr David Reby from the University of Sussex, revealed our proposal to extend vocal abilities, is not unique to our species. His research included a study of the koala who has evolved to have two sets of vocal organs giving it a vocal range on a par with much larger animals such as elephants.

 

 

"Koalas are very interesting because they are quite small animals, but they produce very low vocalisations. One of my colleagues Ben Charlton and I studied the anatomy of these calls in koalas. What we found was they do not use their larynx to produce these vocalisations. Their larynx is quite tiny and when they use it to produce vocalisations with the larynx, they are very high pitched… But what we discovered was they have a velum (soft palate), the ceiling of the oral cavity that is not ossified, that is involved in snoring, this has become specialised in the koala. The velum has evolved to develop two lips that are very much like the second set of vocal folds. And because these are a lot thicker and longer than the koala’s vocal folds, it allows them to produce these extremely low pitched bellows.”

The koala became a point of inspiration in the development of the project. As we grew a prototype new vocal organ in the lab, the koala’s low vocalisation revealed that we were not the first animal to develop a second set of vocal folds. Through its evolutionary development, despite its small stature, the koala was able to enhance its voice to produce a call that could be heard and felt over large distances.

If the koala was a spectacular voice of the animal kingdom, we also looked back at our own species for examples of vocal elite athletes. We didn’t need to look far, as in London many professional singers come to train and perform in one of the numerous theatres. However, the singer’s dream is not always helped when relying on a bodily instrument that is vulnerable to injury and changes with age.

 

 

There was a cautionary message given in an interview with an expert in vocal issues resulting from injuries to the larynx. Declan Costello had a unique position as an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon specialising in voice disorders and also as a singer who still regularly performs. Declan gave us insights into the demands on professional singers and the stigma attached towards a singer who might require time to rest or rehabilitate their voice.

“The pace and demands on performers are ever greater. The West End shows, they are doing eight shows a week in really high-intensity singing. Depending on the show, they [the singer] can really feel the pressure to push through. They know if they drop-out of a few shows, they are seen as being vulnerable, they might be dropped from the show, and they might not get another gig. That’s very distressing for them. Actually, this is the same for other professions. Teachers are an incredibly devoted group of people and if they have an issue with their voice, their instinct is to carry on. Barristers, teachers, clergy, call centre workers - there is almost no-one who doesn't use their voice for professional work these days. … the vast amount of people require their voice for their job."

As we look back, the project has become rich through connecting with others and the broad ranges of voices we have heard from. The piece began through a discussion with an opera singer, Louise Ashcroft. She explained the demands on the performers' voice in contemporary theatre and performance, as is ever more demanding. When the voice is a creative instrument, there is always a fear that it can be injured and at that moment, your career taken away. She wished she could have a spare voice.

We were intrigued by the body as a creative instrument, where there are no clear paths of what the body is asked to achieve. For instance, athletes train to be faster or stronger. For the creative body, demands are less rigid and adjust to developments in art-forms, movements and fashion. It prompted us to ask: what if we could create a spare voice? If achievable, it would be an opportunity to create a voice that could go beyond current abilities. And if so, how might it be shaped to strengthen vocal health, react to current socio-political events and used to form an expression of the early twenty-first century.
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The piece New Organs of Creation couldn’t help but develop ‘deep-reflections’ on some of the biggest questions of our times. The stories we heard through the interviews, revealed social struggles and the perils of oversimplification of the stories we tell regarding our national identity.

We found some unexpected lessons when considering the power of the voice. These include the importance of the power to listen, especially pertinent for the Manx Voices to create unison. The choir members shared the social impact of joining their voices together; individually and for the community. From this perspective, we can all learn that in the daily cacophony of voices we are exposed to in social media, what gives meaning to our voice is perhaps not how far it reaches, but how deeply it is heard.

The interviews also hit on an interesting challenge of how we express our collective identity, beyond traditional nationalistic narratives, but instead in a way that embraces the vital differences shared between people.

The voices we encountered enriched our journey. They prompted important questions including: if a spare voice could be created, how could it be amplified to speak to us on deep levels and be felt as well as heard? How could a voice be created for the voiceless?

We took up the challenge and as a result, we grew a prototype spare voice using tissue engineering in collaboration with Prof. Lucy Di-Silvio. However, the project doesn’t stop here, but perhaps the true success of its outcome is still to come as a platform inviting others to share their voice and ultimately shape our collective future.


This article is part of the NEW ORGANS OF CREATION programme found in our AFTER AFTER SHOP here.

More about NEW ORGANS OF CREATION here on burtonnitta.co.uk.

If you enjoy some of these extracts, don't miss the full range of works in the programme, available from our AFTER AFTER SHOP.




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