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THU Sept. 7, 2017, 8:00 PM-8:30 PM
SAT Sept. 9, 2017, 5:00 PM-5:30 PM
SUN Sept. 10, 2017, 6:00 PM-6:30 PM
POSTCITY, Train Hall

Credit: Rafaela Pandolfini

Guy Ben-Ary (AU), Nathan Thompson (AU), Andrew Fitch (AU), Darren Moore (AU), Stuart Hodgetts (AU), Mike Edel (AU), Douglas Bakkum (US)

cellF is Guy Ben-Ary’s self-portrait but also the world’s first neural synthesizer. cellF’s “brain” is made of a living neural network that grows in a Petri dish and controls analog synthesizers that work in synergy with the neural network in real time.

Ben-Ary had a biopsy taken from his arm; then he cultivated his skin cells and, using iPS technology, he transformed the skin cells into stem cells, which were then differentiated into neural networks grown over a multi-electrode-array (MEA) dish to become “Guy’s external brain.” The MEA dishes consist of a grid of 8 x 8 electrodes. These can record the electric signals the neurons produce and send stimulations back to the neurons—a read-and-write interface to the “brain”. Human musicians are invited to play with cellF. The human-made music is fed to the neurons as stimulation, and the neurons respond by controlling the synthesizers. Together they perform live, reflexive and improvised sound pieces that are not entirely human. The sound is spatialized into sixteen speakers. The spatialized reflects the pockets of activity within the MEA dish. Walking around the space offers the sensation of walking through Guy’s external brain.

cellF was initiated and spearheaded by the artist Guy Ben-Ary. It is also the result of a collaborative work involving Ben-Ary as well as the designer and new media artist Nathan Thompson, electrical engineer and synthesizer builder Dr. Andrew Fitch, musician Dr. Darren Moore, neuroscientist Dr. Stuart Hodgetts, stem-cell scientist Dr. Michael Edel and neuro-engineer Dr. Douglas Bakkum. Each contributor played an important role in shaping the final outcome.


The project is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and the Department of Culture and the Arts WA.

The project is hosted by SymbioticA @ the University of Western Australia.