Polyphonic Futures is an invite-only platform. 'Silken Future'- forms will be only supplied during events. We work towards an online submission system, so please come back soon, we appreciate your interest!


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Polyphonic futures is an evolving project and research platform for collective speculation and exchange of knowledge across design, science, and art

The project

Polyphonic Futures is an evolving project and research platform that connects laboratory silk research with imagination. We pursue collective speculation to foster critical and open exchange of knowledge across design, science, and art. Polyphonic Futures has been initiated and is run by the designer Veronica Ranner at the Royal College of Art in London and springs from a collaboration with Tufts University's SilkLab in Boston, as well as London-based Arts Catalyst and Imperial College. She ran the cross-institutional workshop series Living Assemblies to test and develop modes for constructive criticality and a suitable digital platform that supports it.

With this platform we're focussing on the biomaterial reverse engineered silk — a material that is not rejected by the body, but is instead fully absorbed by human tissue. Silk is a biodegradable polymer material that, once it's reverse engineered, can be fabricated into different shapes — clear sheets, tubes, spheres, foams, solids and more. In connection with electronics, it can turn the human body into a receptive digital platform. We feel such capacity and complexity requires critical discourse with the public and invite you to become part of it.

Why are we doing this?

Our team members are experts across fields in art, biotechnology and design. This project provides and platform to converge scientific practices with artistic practices and other communities — from DIY science, design, fashion, technology and the humanities to experiment with methods of speculative and critical design (SCD).

This platform invites critical thought around biotechnology with the intent to increase variety and diversity of participation, imagination and the exchange of knowledge. Since scientists have created methods to reverse engineer silk, we now have the potential to combine this biological medium with digital technology to act as a biodigital gateway into human bodies. This recent technology is powerful and complex and requires more experimental dialogues between scientists and non-scientists to make informed and transparent decisions that actively influence the future of body interfaces.

Features

The platform has been conceived as a collaborative thinking laboratory for collective speculation around reverse engineered silk and the body. On Polyphonic Futures we think through and scrutinise possibilities of the burgeoning domain of the bio-digital — in this case the pragmatic, fantastic and critical future dimensions of silken biomaterial application in and around our bodies.

Inspired by the polymorphic capacity of silk, we found resonance in the work of the Russian philosopher, critic and semiotician Mikhail Bakhtin. His notion of polyphonic dialogism — a conversation with many simultaneous voices — became our mission statement. Not only to understand the multitude of infinite material capacities, but to enable a non-hierarchical platform where scientists and experts from other fields, as well as an interested public, can have a dialogue on the future of silken body interfaces. By including Silken Futures from artists and scientists we invite new members to think through speculative futures that might affect us all.

How can I participate?

You can become a member of this growing collective by joining dedicated real-world events such as workshops and talks, with exciting venue partners such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A) . You can subscribe to our newsletter for updates.

We are keen to promote the reciprocity between imagination and science. In order to participate, new members may submit their own Silken Future to begin a cross-disciplinary dialogue. For more information about the process, either sign up or visit the membership page.
  • A MONTH AGO FROM @polyfuturs

    @crapfutures Good, will check my inbox then :-) All fine in London, would be nice to chat soon + hear your latest. It's been brief at DRS!

  • A MONTH AGO FROM @polyfuturs

    @crapfutures Thanks, that would be great! You still have my email-address? If not, I can send it to you via direct message ...

  • A MONTH AGO FROM @polyfuturs

    Agreed — and enable greater, multivocal diversity in pathway dependency creation, as prototyped w/ @polyfuturshttps://t.co/hFEFLIGcWv

The core team

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Veronica Ranner

Ph.D. Candidate at the Royal College of Art, London

Project role

Founder and creative lead

Bio

Veronica is a designer, artist, and researcher interested in networked cycles, emerging biotechnologies and bio-fabrication, systems design, and new roles for designers. She currently pursues an AHRC funded PhD at the Royal College of Art, examining the burgeoning domain of the bio-digital — a converging knowledge space where computational thinking meets biological matter.

Link

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Prof Dr Fiorenzo Omenetto

Head of SilkLab, Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts

Project role

Science partner and co-founder

Bio

Fiorenzo G. Omenetto is the Frank C. Doble Professor of Engineering, a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University and an adjunct Professor in Physics and Electrical Engineering. Formerly, he was a J. Robert Oppenheimer Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratories, a Guggenheim Fellow, and currently holds a Fellowship of the Optical Society of America and of the American Physical Society. He proposed and pioneered the use of silk as a material platform for advanced technology.

Link

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Claudia Lastra

Programme Manager at the Arts Catalyst, London

Project role

Art partner and co-founder

Bio

Claudia joined Arts Catalyst in February 2012 as Coordinator and became Programme Manager in April 2015. She has project managed several independent educational projects and exhibitions at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), The Bluecoat Gallery, A Foundation, Liverpool and Nordic Intercultural Events. Her background is in Fine Art and she has also completed an MA in Material and Visual Culture in Anthropology at UCL. At Arts Catalyst, she produces exhibitions and programmes public events, and also manages the operational aspects of the organisation.

Link

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Dr Derek Huntley

Senior Teaching Fellow at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College, London

Project role

Scientific advisor

Bio

Derek is a Senior Teaching Fellow at Imperial College. He has a degree in Biology and a PhD in Computing, developing genomic annotation software. He worked for 13 years with the Bioinformatics Support Service at Imperial providing college wide collaborative bioinformatics support, particularly in genomic data analysis and annotation. He currently teaches in the Department of Life Sciences, focusing on bioinformatics and genetics/genomics.

Link

Contributors & cooperators

Ruth Catlow
  • Co-founder and artistic director
  • at Furtherfield Gallery, London.
  • Cooperator to the Living Assemblies
  • workshop, 2015.
Lou Vettier
  • Product designer, École Boulle,
  • Paris.
  • Intern with Veronica Ranner, Jul- Sep 2015.
Clemens Winkler and Luke Franzke Frank Swain
  • Science writer and communities
  • editor at New Scientist, London.
  • Contributor to the Living
  • Assemblies workshop, 2015.
Gjino Sutic
  • Innovator, inventor, scientist, artist
  • and director of the Universal
  • Research Institute in Zagreb, Croatia.
  • Contributor to the Living Assemblies
  • workshop, 2015.
Platform members

Veronica Ranner
  • Veronica Ranner is a designer, artist, and researcher interested in emerging biotechnologies and bio-fabrication, systems design, and new roles for designers.
Test User Two Test User Two
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Jaione Cerrato
  • Visual Communication student at the Royal College of Art (2015-17), freelancer and part of the student led forum Red Tape.
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Website developed by
Inswigo
Design and identity by
Jaione Cerrato
Concept by
Veronica Ranner
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