#LAB: Secrets of Periods, Cycles & Languages


NOTE: on display until Monday 13th November 2017 at the Science Gallery London.  Read more  >>

As part of my research and fascination with the evolution, current state, power and value of language, in the broadest sense of the word, I went to see Period Piece, a multimedia installation lifting the lid on contraceptive technologies, including a series of talks.  Period Piece, part of #BLOOD17/Science Gallery London, was conceived through multidisciplinary collaborative conversations between the historian Alana Harris, classical composer Ion Marmarinos and contemporary artist and designer Stephanie Bickford-Smith. 

Period Piece seeks to provoke critical dialogue about shifts in contraceptive technologies and constructions of the ‘natural’ around women’s bodies from the rise of the pill to the emergence of period tracking apps, as well as break the stigma and taboo that, for some, still surrounds the discussion of women’s menstruation, fertility and contraception. 

During the talk with Ion Marmarinos and Stephanie Bickford-Smith I couldn't help but wonder: "Are we reaching the point that our bodies' data are more trusted ways and methods of communication than our own words or feelings? Today’s data is collected through study, measurement, tracking of people with both our consciously and unconsciously consent. Our smartphone is a psychological questionnaire that we are continually providing with personal information and feedback. Most of us are familiar with institutions such as Facebook wanting to know how we are feeling and what we are thinking. Ways of reading our mood, emotions, and actions are expanding rapidly, from face tracking to wearable technology etc.. Entire businesses are now focussing and building on the capacity to read, collect and make connections within big data. Computers and experts are taught through data to interpret human behaviour and our subjective state, and their capacity to judge as well as influence our feelings are growing. 

How happy are you? Is it possible that even if you don’t know yourself, someone else (or a watch or app) can tell you? The reason we solve problems is that feelings drive us, but are we learning more and more to rely on technology to tell us how we feel, instead of knowing to read our own emotions and feelings? Or that of others? Are we losing our language, a uniquely human gift, as well as our consciousness to technology, the ability to feel and share things ourselves, to think and speak for ourselves, to solve problems, to be creative? What changed and why do we trust so many personal information to enter the digital world? What kind of aspirations drives us to do so? Are this behaviour and system only based on monetary incentives or is there more to it than meets the eye? 

I don't have the answers (yet), but my mind was reassured and energised while speaking to Stephanie and Ion and experiencing Period Piece; through our creative minds, collaboration and (big) data we also have the ability to translate ones, zeros and 'taboos’ into a more powerful and multi-sensory language and dialogue.