Science of the Unseen Banner

Amy M. Youngs


I create situations that make visible – and palpable – the connections between the human and non-human. Immersed within participatory artworks, or in networks that include machines, plants or animals, the human experiences self as a mutually dependent being, intermeshing and intermingling with the non-human parts.

In HandShake, I performed a three-hour handshake on live broadcast webcam as a way to acknowledge composting worms as important ecological partners. Worms are difficult to see, as they hide from visible light, which is harmful to them. This handshake was staged inside a dark box illuminated by an infra-red light which was invisible to my eye and to the light detectors of the worms, but sensed by the camera documenting the event. This extrasensory, technological agent allows us to see beyond our biological senses and it provides a view into the interconnected system that we participate in. The networked camera revealed the event as it unfolded in a three-hour timespan, but the span of human attention does not easily match this scale. I chose to time-lapse and color-enhance the documentation as a way to shift it towards human perception. I endeavor to employ technology in this way; as a means of highlighting the interdependent systems that include all of us – worms, people, dirt, cameras and ecosystems. These worms are the continuation of a colony of worms that have been with me for twenty years. We have shared many meals. They have transformed my waste products into fertilizer that I have fed to my plants. Once in awhile, when I bite into the juiciest strawberry, I remember to thank the worms for their part.

Media Used: Video, Music by Matt Ogborn.

Amy M. Youngs creates biological art, interactive sculptures and installations that explore interdependencies between technology, plants and animals – human and non-human. She has created systems that amplify the sounds and movements of living worms, indoor ecosystems that grow edible plants, an internet-enabled museum for insects, a multi-channel interactive video sculpture for a science museum, videos and community media projects.

Youngs has exhibited her works nationally and internationally at venues such as the Te Papa Museum in New Zealand, the Trondheim Electronic Arts Centre in Norway, the Biennale of Electronic Arts in Australia, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Spain and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. She has published articles in Leonardo and Antennae and her work was profiled in the book, Art in Action, Nature, Creativity & our Collective Future. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999.