EOD 02 is an installation by Frederik De Wilde created in collaboration with LAb[au]. The title is an acronym for "Electric Organ Discharge."  The work consists of four aquariums, each one containing an electric fish that discharge different electric signals. The artwork explores the capacity of specific species of living blind fish to perceive (electrosense) their environment and communicate with each other by emitting electric signals, either in pulses or waves.

The electric communication between the fish is captured by antennas and transformed into sound. Also, under each aquarium a matrix of LEDs is placed, which pulse according to the intensity and rhythm of the emitted signals. Because of this, the viewer can see that the electric impulses of the fish drive sound, light and an entire audiovisual space. [1]

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The entire world is dominated by electricity and  the applications to use it. In medicine - and particularly in fields more or less connected to neuroscience - electricity is even more pervasive. For example,  sensory reflexes that are based mostly on a crowd of minute electric signals which continuously flow along the nerve fibers of our brain circuits or nervous system. Other life-electricity associations that come to mind are fictional, like the spark that gave life to the monster Frankenstein. Our own nervous system uses an electrochemical signaling system, like an unstoppable ‘electric storm'.


Living electric fish however, are capable of generating low-voltage discharges at all times. They also produce a weak electromagnetic dipole field around their bodies as means of navigation, protection, and communication. When two of these fish meet, one of them will shift its frequency to jam each others electric signals. “The electric organ contains electrically-excitable cells called 'electrocytes', acting as serial-connected batteries, like a car battery. The simultaneous firing of electrocytes results in electric organ discharges (EODs) which are emitted into the surrounding water. You could say that every time they discharge -or zap- they sense and digitize their environment. They also sense pollution in the water and through technology we can make these electric discharges audible. Changes in the rate of pulsing can be used to identify the presence of certain chemicals in the water source.” [2]

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subRosa talks about bio technology. “Today, however, bew biological entities, new bodies and organisms are being created through molecular biology, genetic engineering, and transgenic technologies.” [3] The reason this has to do with EOD 02 is that scientists still have to figure out how the living electric fish stay are producing the electric signals. Mankind can produce the similar signals, but only with the help of technological progress. Looking from this point of view, the fish are a natural predeccor of the modern man (+ technology). Furthermore, “the translation of the fish's electric discharge in form of light and sound references the telegraph and the Morse code; themselves traces of the emerging information society based on the coding and decoding of information into immaterial signals.” [4] If mankind could do the same, new biological entities like the ones subRosa talks about could arise.

 

Sources:

[1] Website LAb[au]

[2] Turbulence.org

[3] in Edward Shanken, red. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009: p. 253

[4] Website LAb[au]