Charged Heart, Catherine Richard

Catherine Richards is a visual artist who focuses on science, technology and the body. Her installation uses new technology to explore the interaction between humans and the machine. In her installation, “Charged Hearts,” Richards uses a terrella which works as a model of the magnetic earth to create northern- lights pattern. The terrella was used in her design to refer to a nineteenth- century laboratory apparatus. The glass heart would glow when the viewers lift one of the bell jars. The heart glows with the blue light that is triggered by the electrical activity of charged ions. The glass hearts detects heartbeats and react with other glass hearts in the installation as if there is a communication between the viewer’s hearts and the glass heart. The glass hearts in the installation were described as “like holding another person’s heart.” Richards’ glass heart allows viewers to touch it and visually see the rhythm challenges the concept of the availability of the technology and if we, as humans are still autonomous agents or we are already bonded with the technology, as the technology has been advancing so rapidly and wirelessly filling the space around us.


Richards’ installation raised an interesting question and a debate that Wilson also highlighted in his book “ The human itself becomes an interface, and the boundaries and limitation of the body subjectivity are consequently destabilized. How to be autonomous and completely connected at the same time?” The concept of technology determinism stood out to me as the question was bringing up. The technology determinism claims everyone that is born in this era is determined by the technology. There is not a single person can avoid being “in touch” with the technology. As the machines and technology as often regard as the idea of the autonomous subject, Richards installation also responses to the ethical issue we often see in the scientific field. Much of the ethical concerns are due to the disconnection between the human and subject.

Richards said “If the brain is a computer and the spine is a coaxial cable…, then it extends the image of the nervous system as an information network. Thus, shedding the 19th-century perspective of the body(human) as a self-contained organism, the body(human) cannot now, in a sense, be distinguished from the information it requires to function. As such, it is illogical to keep it unplugged from its environment-keeping it in the dark, as it were.”

In the lecture, Professor mentioned that she also does not think the invention of machines or using them are dehumanizing people but another channel to trigger and facilitate our sensory. The sensory to the environment takes a huge role in response to all the matters we encounter. We are living in a fortunate era when excessive tools and information could be so easy to obtain. But, as the excessive information floating around us, our sensory weakened as it is used to the stimuli. I found the artists who work with biology and technology amazing for they figure a way to talk the information into people’s hearts and knit that connection for the viewers to understand.

Sources used,

Wei- Yin (Annie) , Cheng


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