Grin City: Culture Lab

Grin City uses the collaborative act of making—a sculpture, a play, a dinner, a garden—to bring communities together. Grin City believes that when a community comes together to share experiences, skills or stories, it is more likely to invest personally in the collective improvement of that community and the people who share it. When art-making is integrated into a community, that community thrives. When an artist experiences new communities and narratives, that artist thrives.

As an artist in residence, I traveled to Iowa to participate in Grin City’s Culture Lab residency. The program brought together artists, scientists, engineers and educators to create projects grounded in scientific concepts. From the human body to physics to the solar system, the residency explored many topics and was exhibited in the Science Center of Iowa, the Des Moines Club, among other public spaces. As a team, I worked to help create a biofeedback dance suit and a fiberoptic neuron sculpture.

To design a biofeedback dance suit, a number of Arduino were used to control accelerometers that provided instant biofeedback on the user’s motion. Ultimately, the data captured could be used to explore the wearer’s movements and energy expenditure throughout the day. Accelerometers can be used to translate movement, specifically a vector of force, into data. The accelerometer records both the magnitude and direction of the force so that the Arduino microcontroller converts this data through a coded program that controls the LEDs to change color based on the intensity of the force that is produced by its body part.

Culture Lab is an Art + Science themed residency session with educational programming in Des Moines, Iowa City and Grinnell.