Waste to Work: Everyone's Source

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Waste to Work: Everyone's Source
Exhibited at the Schenectady Museum 
 
Waste to Work: Everyone's Source explores the transformation of labor into electric power, using sweat as the link. Sweat is the perfect medium: it is an electrolyte that can be used to make galvanic batteries - "waste" that can be harvested from our labors - and remains an extremely personal commodity that holds our scent, essential salts, fats, pheromones. This project has multiple phases: building sweat batteries and sweat harvesting suits.


Sweat Batteries
The first edition of Wast to Work was a site specific installation at the Schenectady Museum of Science and Art. Inspired by the history and significance of General Electric to the local Schenectady community, this installation focused on visualizing global electrical power and physical labor. The installation was in a triptych format: a display of sweat batteries, a video of the process of collecting sweat, and an electrified map. We videotaped while collecting sweat from individuals living in New York state during our tee shirt exchange effort, and then we used the sweat and recycled containers to create 250 batteries. A system of wires (much like arteries and veins) connects these "organic" batteries to an illuminated LED world map based on the NASA satellite photo of the Earth at night. At the opening, the map was illuminated by the artists and audience as together they "charged" the batteries by adding the collected human sweat to the display of recycled bottles and creating electricity.
 
Process/Technology
Our batteries are based upon galvanic cells which use an electrolyte in order to cause the proper chemical reaction with zinc and copper to produce power. Human sweat is an electrolyte medium. To aid in the development of the sweat batteries, we consulted with scientists at the RPI's Center for Biotechnology through the BioArt Initiative. RPI already has a history of developing sweat based energy sources. Researcher Robert Linhardt has received international attention for his team's work on developing the nano-composite paper battery that utilizes blood, sweat or urine as electrolyte sources.

Sweat Harvesting Suits
The next phase of the project is to create sweat harvesting suits, costumes specifically designed to collect an individual's bodily waste fluids. The costume is designed for efficiency and may include tubes, absorbent padding, body bubbles, stressers, heaters and squeegees. Through collaborations with researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Syracuse University we will explore creating dialysis-based suits. The suits will be employed in series of actions (performances) for collecting sweat that would be documented with video and photo.