Most often rejected as something worthless or unpleasant, urine is making a comeback. The Aqua Vita Project hails the smelly yellow waste product as a natural indicator of our body’s state of wellbeing.
Mike Thompson and Susana Cámara Leret are both graduates of the Design Academy Eindhoven’s Master’s programme. Together they are working on the Aqua Vita Project currently on exhibition at Naturalis in Leiden as one of the recipients of the Designers and Artists 4 Genomics award.
“In this project we are looking at the idea of personalized healthcare,” says Thompson. “We wanted to link elements of traditional Chinese medicine and the study of metabolites so people could monitor their own bodies on a daily basis.”
The point is that what gets flushed down the toilet holds valuable information that reveals a lot about what is going on inside a person’s body.
The collection and study of such matter, however, turns most people off, so Thompson and Cámara Leret wanted to design a way to visualize urine as important and appealing data.
First, they designed flasks to hold specimens and then a fluid analyser (Mass Spectrometry) to analyse it.
“You can play it in real time, but also pause and click and zoom to see which metabolites are present each day,” says Thompson.
The speculative angle to this is looking at how health care might develop in the not so distant future as technology becomes cheaper and more accessible. “These machines are shrinking every year and in ten years time they will be palm-sized,” Thompson says. “What this can lead to is a more personalized health care system with individuals understanding their own systems -- even spotting or diagnosing problems – much more.”
Thompson and Cámara Leret also found that how they communicated about their sense of physical well-being changed. They designed “Echo” a mirror containing voice recognition software that could analyse answers given to questions about sleep, bowel movements, appetite and other typically Chinese medicinal points of interest.
Some objects from the Aqua Vita Project will be on exhibition at Nemo in Amsterdam during the Transnatural Festival.
A film about The Aqua Vita project can be found here.
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