As a collaborative practice, we often invent systems and titles to capture abstract concepts. Once these are within a discourse, we can ‘sync’ our minds and test the ideas. We think this process of invention is natural when working across disciplines. These placeholders help to make ideas that are ‘fluffy’, vague or indistinct, into something tangible and relatable. In some ways, the process is essentially an act of discovery. It’s a manifestation method to shift the new or unknown towards detail and the explorable.
Instruments of the Afterlife
One such term we invented for this reason is the Transformosphere. This conceptual framework was born out of a project called Instruments of the Afterlife in 2016. The word borrows the context of the biosphere where features such as food chains, life cycles and elemental cycles all contribute to life-sustaining dynamic systems. However, the name also plots transformative elements such as human technology, man-made impact, beliefs, extreme events and heightened realities, that create consequences and possibilities.
The concept also considers how the use of elements and their trajectory within the system can combine to give multiple outcomes. The Transformosphere term soon became more than just a placeholder; it became a conceptual framework to discover future systems/artefacts that would ‘push and pull’ reality in particular directions. In a nutshell, the Transformosphere is a dynamic system of many actors and factors trans-versing scales (time, size, process, assembly and entropy) and possibilities for transformations. We look for convergences within our Transformosphere model to find alternative possibilities.
We consider these convergences to be niches or points of change and opportunity. Patterns linking the convergences share similar characteristics; past events transform by emerging technologies, disruptive events or shifts in beliefs on refracted trajectories.
The Transformosphere repeatedly appears in our work. Here are some examples:
The veil between our reality and other dimensions was peeled back, dissected and cultured into vocal folds. We created a voice that could straddle the divide of realities, transporting us between dimensions. This voice was a new organ of creation, able to speak to the dead and the living on additional levels.
The voice-box within New Organs of Creation occupies a curious niche in the Transformosphere.
It is an ontological organ that expresses the essence of existence at a meeting point of body and mind. It is a seat of the living and the dead. This voice is a phenomenal instrument of power, that is a bridge between the metaphysical and reality. The voice took a key role in our evolutionary past, and through the project we endowed it with the possibility to change living material and the bodies of the listeners.
Landscape Within revealed spirals of reincarnation through guts made for a species trapped in accelerated entropic cycles, where waste circles across time and scale to pollute minds and sully bodies. Adaptations in the human microbiome give respite, protect cognition and power adaptations.
Within the Transformosphere the project revealed a complex tangle of influences that form us. These tangles reveal we embody and embed ourselves in not only local but global landscapes. And influences on our sense of self extends by not only current situations, but by people who we have been and past global communities (through epigenetics and contamination exposure).
Altered Ways of Being challenge the construction of reality. Minds alien to us, inspire alternative possibilities for the human body and as a result extend our design of being and reality.
In this artwork, elements including cephalopods (the family of animals that include octopus), stories, coaching, neuroplasticity and mind exoskeletons, converge to enable us to direct reality-making.
We distil these projects from the Transformosphere, as a map and concept to discover transformative tools that act as catalysts to go beyond our current human being.
The Transformosphere map is dynamic. It takes the role of a protagonist as encountered in an Indiana Jones film, or as an astrological divination chart that promises a future path. Its materiality comprises a paper 2D chart, an instrument such as an astrolabe, a satellite real-time eye-view or AI simulation. The map may act as a navigation tool, a measuring or plotting device, or a priming influence to create self-fulfilling prophecies and holder of a conceptual framework. As a map to discover a catalyst of transformational alchemic power, the plotting may not relate to landscape or space, but instead be a map to artefact creation. And in terms of a map of an artefact ‘to be’, what form might this relic, device or object take?
All outcomes of the Transformosphere disrupt reality, and here we explore the processes involved.
The Transformosphere exists on the premise that everything connects. It reveals the connections more clearly when looking back in the past and with the gift of hindsight. The links between events, matter and ideas spiral to the present. The associations are a mix of intentional plans alongside chance serendipitous accidents. When we look from the present into the future, there are a myriad of directions these connections could take. The result of these undulating tendrils that expand to mesh and create our world create the realities we live within and those of the future. At the heart of these futures are the tools, ideas, mindsets, technologies, religions, cultures and political paths that steer the realities we live within and embody. In short, the things we think and make remake us.
The subject of tools that can construct reality is an area covered by Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows. He outlines four ways our technologies extend human abilities. A fascinating group of technologies construct other realities through their potential to alter the mind.
Within this group Carr includes the map, clock, globe, newspaper, school and the library, the computer and Internet. The map in this context is interesting when enabling changes in the mind. Beyond the representation of regions of earth, the map can also capture, plan or speculate an abstract notion (like the spread of disease or strategic plan). When we think about the conceptual framework of the Transformosphere, we think of this as a map.
Carr quotes Arthur Robinson a cartographic historian: “more impressive is how the map advanced the evolution of abstract thinking.” Particular aspects of the map that advanced the mind include, he continues, “the reduction of reality and the construct of an analogical space”. Carr writes: “the technology of the map gave to man a new and more comprehending mind, better able to understand the unseen forces that shape his surroundings and his existence.”
In this vein, the Transformosphere acts as a map to test and probe the possibilities of how we might construct realities through the things we make and concepts we live within, and how they change us.
The Transformosphere originated from a project called Instruments of the Afterlife we made in 2016/17. We made the work in collaboration with a consortium of scientists from varying disciplines. These ranged from synthetic biologists in Edinburgh University to nanotechnologists at Birmingham University and plant biologists at Warwick University.
The mix of individual technologies to create alternative possibilities inspired us to consider how else an alchemy of disciplines and approaches could give us alternative ways of living and making.
To navigate the complexity of the proposal, we created a concept called the Transformosphere.
The Transformosphere mapped the different scales and elements involved in the project. Size spanned from the nano-scale (the tiny) to planetary-scale impact. Timescales ranged from the past to the future.
The Transformosphere also created a space to engage critically in the consequences of how these technologies come together and also the potential for how they can create alternatives to how we use the landscape and other ways of being.
Once we began using the Transformosphere concept, we saw its presence in every project we worked on.
As human beings, there is an innate limit on the knowledge we can retain and draw upon. However, artificial intelligence (AI) offers tools to draw on an entirety of human knowledge and fluid assemblages and connections. An AI assisted Transformosphere will speed up the process and produce maps to a vast array of objects of transformation. In this reality, we enter a taxonomy of alien potential interventions, products, systems, artefacts, things and stuff. These will be other-worldly, exotic and create a myriad of possibilities that do not exist. They will redefine who we are and create endless possibilities to shape us into different human animals.
We are developing some overarching frameworks in our interests and research. We are exploring the Transformosphere further. We see convergences within the Transformosphere in key areas, such as the gut, city, sewers, and the mind. Each niche reveals interesting insights into how we might steer or design reality and our evolution. The Transformosphere navigates the endless possibilities available to direct evolutionary trajectories and how this affects on our humanness.
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