About Silent Barrage




Project developed by - Philip Gamblen, Guy Ben-Ary, Peter Gee, Dr. Nathan Scott & Brett Murray in collaboration with Dr. Steve Potter Lab, (Dr. Steve Potter, Douglas Swehla, Stephen Bobic & Riley Zeller-Townson) Georgia Institute of Technology.

Silent Barrage declares its presence in scale and sound. This architectural scale arrangement of noisy pole robots is more then a mere amplification of neuronal activity in a culture dish.

One of the very few real art and science works – in that it is both artistically meaningful and scientifically valid, Silent Barrage investigates the nature of thoughts, free will, and neural dysfunction. The work focuses at the bursts of uncontrolled activity of nerve tissue, a typical characteristic of epilepsy and cultured nerve cells. Silent Barrage uses audience movements in, and responses to the architectural space of amplified neuronal activity to feed it back to the cultured nerve cells in an attempt to silence the barrage of electrical impulses. The scientists hope that this might help them understand better how to quieten the activity in the culture dish, and this in turn would assist in treating epilepsy.

From an artistic perspective Silent Barrage provides an immersive and somewhat overwhelming sensorial manifestation of questions that are in the core of our understanding of the stuff that make us think. Using the presumption of free will of the audience, who chart their own path trough the space, this work draws real and imaginary parallels between the person and nerve cell.     

Each pole in the arrangement represents a region in the culture dish, and the movements of the individual robots correspond to the level of activity in the area. The robots markings on the poles hint to the continuous neuronal activity, conjuring traces of “memories” of past actions.  The movement of audience in the Silent Barrage’s space is used to stimulate the culture. Nerve cells activity usually happens when a certain combination of stimulations reaches a threshold; the same can be said about our decision making. The navigation through Silent Barrage is made out of a series of incremental decisions made in an overly stimulated environment, out of the context of daily life. The nerve cells are also out of context, removed from the brain they once belong to, they are cultured in an artificial environment, trying to make connections with the cells around them. The barrage of activity is a symptom, can pairing cells and the audience can help make “meaningful” connections that will quieten the barrage? Can it happen in a place which is nothing but quiet?   


This project was researched and developed at SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at The School of Anatomy & Human Biology, University of Western Australia and Dr. Steve Potter's lab within the Lab for Neuroengineering, Georgia Tnstitute of Technology.

Silent Barrage has been assisted by the State of Western Australia through the Department of Culture and the Arts and the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body

SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts is a jointly funded initiative between The University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Department of Culture and the Arts (2008 –2011).