1. MzTEK Invites you to tea…

    The Chi-TEK Tea Party at the V&A Digital Design Weekend / London Design Festival 2011

    Chi-TEK Tea Party Flyer

    Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 September 2011

    11:00 – 16:30

    Tea, cake, and a brilliant display of hacked / modified tea pots.

    Celebrate the talent and innovation women bring to arts and technology.  Come join MzTEK in a weekend of tea & cake, tinkering, play, and an electric showcase of interactive teapots.

    This event is free.

  2. The Chi-TEK Teapots are coming in…

    We are getting really excited about the artwork that is coming in.  Take a look at some of the pieces that will be on display over the next 3 months in the Sackler Centre in the V&A, and in our garden Tea Party on 24 & 25  September (hosted at the V&A’s Digital Design Weekend).

    Tine Bech’s The Lightpot

    Shu Lea’s Stormy Weather Teapot

    Shu Lea found this yellow Tetley teapot laying quietly among vintage silver Morrocan teapots in the cupboard at the home of madame Rokia Ben Brahim, a 93 year old Algerian woman working all her life as a cleaning lady in Paris. Inside is soldered a Vive la Resistance aka NanoSmano Sajica , a mini circuit with an oscillator and a resistive gas sensor. It produces sound responding to touch and breath.

    Artemis Papageorgiou’s This Is Not A Teapot


    This Is Not A Teapot is inspired by the semiotics of language used in the homonym painting of Magritte (Ceci n’est pas une pipe).  You can read more about Artemis’s project on her website at http://artemispapageorgiou.wordpress.com

    Mika Satomi’s Self-destructing Teapot

    Mika’s teapot constantly hits itself with nails, and is on the verge of self destructing. See the tea pot in action here.

    Anna Dumitriu’s Biohacked Tea Cosy

    Bio Hacked Teacosy

    Read more about Anna’s experience of making her Biohacked Tea Cosy for Chi-TEK here.

  3. Chi-TEK Teapot: A Biohacked Tea Cosy by Anna Dumitriu

    Post by Anna Dumitriu (www.normalflora.co.uk)

    Bio Hacked Teacosy

    I struggled long and hard with the issue of what to do with the plain, white and highly uninspiring teapot I received in the post from MzTEK several months ago, mulling a series of scenarios in my head over and over again. I am very supporting of MzTEK and their aims and was really happy to be involved. But when I opened up the parcel my heart slightly sank.

    I considered taking a Pico projector apart and trying to get the teapot to project tea pouring from the spout when tilted (cool but too expensive considering the risk of breaking the projector), turning the teapot into a piece of lab equipment (nice but would that work within the constraints of a ‘tea party’ and what would it do?), smashing it and rebuilding it as a bionic version or simply strapping it to a robot chassis so it would roll up and down the table. None of these ideas really convinced me though. It felt like a backwards way of working. Usually the overall concept and the final artwork are intrinsically linked for me from the very start. This constraint of the teapot felt exceptionally restricting, like I was back at school working on a project with a brief. If I was a designer then it might have made sense, but I am not, I’d probably describe myself as a kind of ‘conceptual artist’, I often make tangible objects but they are always very much ideas led.

    My art practice is really centred on two main areas of very much linked research. I work with microbiology, I am currently Leverhulme Artist is Residence on the Modernising Medical Microbiology Project, University of Oxford who are looking at how transmission of pathogenic bacteria operates, what (near) real-time whole genome mapping of bacteria can tell us and also with robotics, working in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire’s Adaptive Systems Group. The themes that reoccur in my work are the microbiological life, artificial life, ethics and public engagement in science (which I view as a political issue considering how much misinformation is put out by the media). I make installations, interventions and performances using a range of digital, biological and traditional media including live bacteria, interactive technologies and textiles.

    Finally I started to think deeply about tea itself and its properties. Since the beginning of the year I have been experimenting with dyeing embroidery silks with natural and man-made antibiotics: from turmeric to Vancomycin. My recent work the “MRSA Quilt” uses the tools we have against this well-known hospital pathogen in combination with fabric stained with actual MRSA bacteria (grown on chromogenic agar). For instance the polka dots on the quilt fabric are made with Vancomycin susceptibility disks (the way they can tell in the lab if a bacterium can be treated with that drug). I remembered that green tea is a natural antibiotic and an effective dye and started to think about that.

    I began to try to culture a green tea resistant bacterium and to use it as a stain. I had previously developed an embroidery using green tea stained thread and it occurred to me that I could use kitchen/lab technology to create a textile piece that was stained with bacteria (sourced from tea, biscuits and cake) in interplay with the green tea’s antibiotic effects. Additional later embroidery is impregnated with negligible amounts of Vancomycin. The bacterial culture medium (Dr Simon Park’s “Park’s Kitchen Agar”) was created from supermarket ingredients and lab equipment was sourced from the local pound shop (and ebay). I had a failed attempt trying to culture Lactobacillus when I discovered they are microaerophiles and not likely to grow in air and at one point I went crazy and crumbled a chocolate biscuit on it. After 2 days I had signs of life and then went away for the weekend. Upon my return I had even more of signs of life and moulds had started to take over, sending their filaments deep into the cloth. Finally I made it safe and killed off all that life. Taking no chances I used surgical spirit, boiling water, mould killer and pasteurization, so that should do the trick. Pasteurization (originally developed by pioneering microbiologist Louis Pasteur to stop wine from spoiling) should be enough in itself but the mould killer will do for any spores remaining after rinsing. The risk of culturing anything nasty was also severely limited by the fact that all the bacteria were sourced from tea and biscuits and cultured at around 20 degrees Celsius (much less than the human body temperature).

    The embroidery shows my first attempt at ‘Cutwork’, which is a technique, where in portions of cloth are cut away and the resulting ‘hole’ is reinforced and filled with embroidery. I wanted to do this as I have also embedded a video screen in the work, showing my processes. I was quite intimidated in many ways to think my embroidery would be shown in the V & A Museum, alongside so many of the world’s best textile works. But for me working in embroidery is a conceptual choice rather than a demonstration of my craft skills.

    Around the time of the enlightenment the perversely difficult practice of whitework embroidery was considered to be one of the highest levels of achievement for a woman. They would sew in the evenings by candlelight straining their eyes to see the tiny stitches, hunched over their embroidery hoops, their bodies twisted and constricted by tight corsetry, one pinprick of blood meaning the whole piece would be ruined. This coincided with the period in which many of their male counterparts started to become ‘gentleman scientists’ beginning to rigorously study the world around them ‘scientifically’. This was the time when the scientific method was developed and disciplinary boundaries were drawn between art and science. I’ve made several large whitework embroidered pieces inspired by these ideas which for me is a way to consider paradigmatic changes in the process of research and current moves towards transdisciplinarity, alongside a consideration of what ‘feminine’ approaches to science and technology might mean.

    Finally the textile pieces were stitched together to create what I am guessing is the first ever bio-hacked tea cosy/video installation!

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  4. Chi-TEK Fever!

    How to tell your tea’s temperature is coming down.


    Join in Chi-TEK – get your teapot hacks to us at info@mztek.org and we’ll post them on our website :)


    Just a quick hack I made up today :) Really good for showing that you should be getting on with some tea drinking before it’s to late!

    We’d like to say a big thanks to our friends at sugru! They have given us a load of packs of sugru to give away with donations to our Chi-TEK project. :) Thats the green stuff sticking the thermometer to the side of the teapot. It’s indestructible when it sets, so will stay on through the wash and is heat proof – which is good for teapots.

    Get a sample of sugru when you donate £10 to Chi-TEK! :)

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  5. Chi-TEK Funding Campaign

    Please help raise money for Chi-TEK, a brilliant women’s art and technology project by MzTEK, involving technologically modified teapots!

    The project involves techi tea related workshops for women, a show case of tea pots and a tea party in the V&A garden, which you are all invited to.

    We have set up a sponsorship page here: http://www.indiegogo.com/Chi-TEK with a chance to get a limited edition Chi-TEK goodie as a thank you. ;o)

    There are only have 10 days to go, so don’t miss out!


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