See with the skin, smell with suckers, change colour for social interactions and sense the world with a brain distributed across the body. These octopus abilities shape a mind that is possibly one of the most different non-human forms of intelligence to our own. The octopus inspires us to explore altered ways of being in the world and to gain insights into the relationship between the body and mind.
The development of the work took us on a journey through wide-ranging sources. These include an encounter with a common octopus called Pumpkin, Peter Godfrey-Smith’s book Other Minds, coaching practices, folklore and neuroscience. In response, we built devices to adapt our bodies and extend the mind. In doing so, we discover a veil of reality similar to the aquarium glass where we first met the octopus. We ask: By attempting to feel and experience the octopus, can we gain insights into our mind? If we change our body with technology, how might our mind and perception of reality also change?
Based in London, UK, Burton Nitta is a transdisciplinary art and design studio collaborating with scientists to investigate new technologies in the field of evolutionary future research. Their recent work “New Organs of Creation” (2019), developed in collaboration with scientists at Kings College London, presents a hypothetical development of the human larynx (voice box), using tissue engineering to extend the ability of the voice as a transformational instrument. Their projects such as “Algaculture” (2010), “Instruments of the Afterlife” (2015) and “Landscape Within” (2016) are exhibited and performed internationally, most recently at CID Hornu/Centre Pompidou Paris (2020/2019), Vienna Biennale for Change MAK (2019–24), and Science Gallery London (2019).