Rhythm of Life


The Rhythm of Life
2014 – Ongoing


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The Rhythm of Life is an on-going collaboration between designers / artists Thought Collider and Dave Young, and Leiden University. The project presents a hybrid art/science research instrument, offering participants the possibility to listen in on the electro-chemical messages transmitted by their bodies, in exchange for donating their personal biodata to scientific research.

The artists investigate the potential of sensory data experiences, through an ambiguous data collection process, making use of the Photon-Multiplier Tube (PMT), an experimental medical device designed to measure biophoton emissions from the skin. Biophotons, or light emitted during biological processes, are used in cell to cell communication in plants, bacteria and animals. Invisible to the naked eye, these particles of light belong to the electromagnetic spectrum and are detectable with instruments such as the PMT. Placing their hands in the PMT, participants hear their emissions as complex percussive rhythms, performed in real-time.

Additionally, collaborating with The Data & Ethics Working Group (of which the artists are also members) through a partnering artwork titled Experiment #2: Consent, the works probe the processes and authoritative gestures that legitimise the collection of personal information and how informed consent is attained and defined.

At STRP Biennale 2017, the data performances of the original 56 participants were replayed publicly for the first time. STRP visitors were presented with the opportunity to select and playback the original anonymised performances. In doing so, visitors are asked to question to what extent they sense themselves within the audio data they hear, thus interrogating the ways in which we attribute meaning and value to bodily data.

The Rhythm of Life @ STRP 2017
"Light_Emission_From_Subjects_Hands Light emission recorded at Leiden University. Image provided by Van Wijk, et al. (2013).
003.MIKE-&-SUSANA- Photograph by: Gert Jan van Rooij
004.MIKE-&-SUSANA- Photograph by: Gert Jan van Rooij
005.MIKE-&-SUSANA- Photograph by: Gert Jan van Rooij
002.MIKE-&-SUSANA- Photograph by: Gert Jan van Rooij
Comparative study of Thought Collider and Dave Young's photon emissions

Project Team

The Rhythm of Life is produced by Thought Collider and media artist Dave Young, in collaboration with scientists from Leiden University, and TNO Quality of Life.

Photography by: Gert Jan van Rooij and Adrian Woods
Hardware by: Jasper van Loenen and Jiskar Schmitz
Percussion produced by: Matt Nolan Custom

Dave Young
Leiden University
TNO Quality of Life
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
The Waag Society

Special thanks to: Eduard van Wijk, Yu Yan and Sun Mengmeng at Leiden University, Herman van Wietmarschen at TNO, Evelien van de Garde at Delft University of Technology, De Hoop Amsterdam, Lucas Evers of The Waag Society and the team at STRP.