The exploits and musings of an artist-acupuncturist, lecturer and researcher at CoDE, Cambridge School of Art, Cambridge, UK.

Art and Science

Pulse Project Performance: ‘Digital Futures’ at the V&A 11/2/2013


Images of participants appear with consent

Pulse Project was presented at the V&A’s event: ‘Digital Futures’ at the Sackler Centre together with the works of Hayden Jones and Jonathan Munro, Luci Eldrige, Dionysia Mylonaki and Pollie Barden and Chloe Varelidi – which was a fantastic opportunity to present my research at CoDE to a wider audience alongside the latest postgraduate research from Goldsmiths, the RCA and Queen Mary, University of London.

Pulse Project is an ongoing digital performance research series that critically examines the contemporary interfaces between the humanities, medicine, and technology. Pulse Project interrogates the aesthetic and philosophical axioms that underpin contemporary medicine, technology and cognitive embodiment through exploring of their corollary “Others” – pre-modern Chinese medicine and music theory. Using performance-as-research as a methodology, I embody creative research practice through becoming an instrument or medium between myself and others and between cultural traditions for understanding and mediating the body, thereby creating a unique form of research that is able to bridge: a) pre-modern practices with contemporary practices, b) Occidental and Asian approaches to the body and c) the sciences with the humanities.

During the composing process, I try to faithfully reflect my clinical and intuitive impressions of  each participant’s interior waveform landscape through years of experience as a Chinese Medicine practitioner, making clinical notes and graphic notations. Each SuperCollider soundscape is a bespoke algorithmic composition made specifically for each participant and is tailored to respond to the uniqueness of the participant taking part in the research. Each composition is constructed to both mirror participant’s pulses according to Chinese Pulse Diagnostics, yet therapeutic aspects (tones) are applied to the composition to promote health and well-being – specific to what each participant’s pulse indicates is needed. I am of course not providing a medical ‘diagnosis’ in this study, each soundscape forms a sort of musical ‘prescription’ that aims to promote well-being – according to Chinese Medicine therapeutic principles. Compositions aim to ‘harmonise’ the 5 pitches of the pulse, Gong (261.6 Hz), Shang (293.7 Hz), Jiao (329.6 Hz), Zhi (392.0 Hz) and Yu (440.0 Hz).


You can see/hear the new SuperCollider compositions (by March 15th) – or SC compositions of past performances at: 

Some more pics:


Michelle Lewis-King (foreground) with Hayden Jones and Jonathan Munro (background)


A Pulse Composition Graphic Notation


Michelle Lewis-King talking with Irini Papadimitriou (writer, curator and organiser of the Digital Futures event) and Dionysia Mylonaki (background)


research in progress


Overall, I would define my practice as the creation of participatory, socially engaged event-based performances and site-specific projects that use sound as a medium that has considerable connective, transgressive and healing capacities. Loosely located within Digital Performance and Performance-as-Research categories, my research focus has expanded its emphasis from my initial research on ‘pulse-taking’ as an art-as-research method for connecting art, science, eastern and western cultures (which I have posted about earlier in this blog), into the broader and more culturally active theme of the ‘interface’ itself. This only happened after I realised I have been persistently writing about the interface through critically examining what is currently being termed ‘interactive’ art, and the contemporary interfaces between artist, audience, gender and technology.

My creative practice forms a comparative study that investigates notion of the posthuman through contrasting the use of human touch with ‘interactive’ technologies. Touch in my work is not used in generalised or emotive senses, but is instead informed by my clinical and performance art backgrounds and seeks to interrogate the social, political and material cultures engaged in the development of human-computer interfaces and its relationship with the body, with ‘users’ and audiences. Through placing touch that uses the ancient asian healing art of divining and mapping the phenomenal landscape of human cosmology alongside of our contemporary computational mapping and mediation of physical phenomena and the social body, my study  aims to assess digital and analogue interfaces and their capacities to positively and negatively mediate self and other, art and science, human and post-human.

Janna Levin and the sound of time-space


Watch this Ted talk given by the physicist Janna Levin on the sound of Black Holes banging on space-time.

janna levin

and this! (use headphones – it’s made with low frequency sounds)

Prepared Performance

Pulse Reading 1

At the moment I am creating a Chinese Medical Pulse Image lexicon in SuperCollider to use as a source ‘code’ for reading pulses and making compositions… using SC Ugens and combining them with my interpretations of Chinese Pulse Images.

Screen shot 2012-12-15 at 19.18.49

This project brings together my artistic research with the metaphysical art of Chinese Pulse reading in order to create a new method for reading the body (especially internal embodied space) beyond the limitations of western biological and philosophical paradigms:

This research combines analogue / digital technologies with human touch (informed by combining fine art training with training in biomedicine and clinical Chinese Medicine) to explore sound as a transparent relational ‘medium’. My work is not simply a sonic visualisation of western clinical conceptions of the circulatory system and/or the complex metaphysical Chinese zàngfǔ jīngluò body-organ-network system, but also reflects personal intuition of an/other through reading their pulse.


Each individual’s pulse is unique set of sound-waves and images. For each person, I will interpret/read their pulse and create a unique composition of their ‘being’, using digital technology as a means to reflect my interpretations as wells as to document the moment of contact between the artist and participant.

Here is a sample of pulse reading and digital score image:

Pulse Notation 2


For sonic sample link see:

Work influenced and nurtured by Darrell Viner, a British pioneer in cybernetic and sound art.

Having been handed a book the other day titled: ‘a computer in the art room – the origins of british computer arts 1950 -1980’. I was pretty lukewarm about it and just about to put it back on the shelf (being slightly fed up with this subject!) when, the page I opened on contained a long description of the important contributions to this genre that my beloved tutor from Chelsea (the late Darrell Viner) has made… my eyes filled with tears.

Most of my work in the 90’s was only made possible by the persistent encouragement, assistance and donation of materials by the most generous artist I have ever known. Darrell was loved by all his students, despite his anarchistic quietly shocking comments and outrageous behavior. He would totally be fired if he were teaching today.

Darrell’s early work:

Note: this is a majorly sanitized representation of Darrell’s work, ‘the grind’  being closer to what I saw in his studio  and certainly NOT in a glass case – they would have been out in the open- some of his works were even a threat to people in the space…

Here is a talk with his partner about his work which shows his studio as I remember it:

Semaphore at the Chisenhale (1990):

Art Institutions now are so over-controlled and tutors so bereft of time to ever offer the same pastoral care and freedoms we used to take for granted.

Here is my work at Chelsea and just after…

1st – Chelsea College of Art London Mid-Year Show March 1995
A Duchampian Monster

2nd – Installation – Champagne Shower – 1997

3rd – Chorus 1999

3rd – House Music- Mellow Birds London 2000

Just found out I’ll be presenting my first paper at CoDE’s First Annual Conference!!

Please Come Along!!!
Registration for the 1st Cultures of the Digital Economy Conference is now open. The conference is on 27-28 March 2012 at Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge. The conference fee is £40, though this is fully subsidised by CoDE for ARU staff and research students. An optional conference dinner ticket can also be purchased for £30.
Conference details and time schedule are attached. Abstract details will also be available from the conference website in due course ( We look forward to seeing you on 27th March – and please feel free to redistribute this invite.
For those requiring accommodation in Cambridge,  the Regent Hotel, Cambridge &De Vere University Arms Hotel are within walking distance of the University. Other maps and parking details can be found on the ARU main website here: