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Silicon Synapse

‘Silicon Synapse’ is an immersive Virtual Reality and psycho-acoustic experience that will take you on a simulated journey into the personified mind of ‘Technology’. Listening to the inner dialogue of ‘Technology’s’ mind as it replays both sides of a lovers’ quarrel. ‘Technology’ and its life partner ‘Nature’ argue about the sustainability of their relationship and their future as a couple. ‘Silicon Synapse’ explores evolution, genetic engineering and transhumanism. Each viewer is engulfed by a conscious dream-like realm, as they travel through intense listening and visual experiences. 

Silicon Synapse is a 30 minute single person immersive Virtual Reality and 25 channel psycho-acoustic audio experience which takes you through various environments, both physical and virtual. Silicon Synapse explores evolution, genetic engineering and transhumanism. Each viewer is engulfed by a conscious, dream-like realm as they travel through bodily forms composed of intense listening and visual experiences.

Silicon Synapse was installed within the repurposed historic setting of the Carnegie Library, Swords (Nov 2019- Jan 2020). This library was once a place of knowledge and learning, shaping the minds and synapses of thousands of people. The audience entered through the remnant doors of the library and were engulfed by the technology that has largely replaced it.

Created by AlanJames Burns, with Writer Sue Rainsford, Artist Jason Dunne and Composer Michael Riordan. The artwork was commissioned by Fingal County Council Arts Office and funded by the Arts Council of Ireland Open Call Award 2019, European Commission’s SciArt Residency programme and Cavan Arts Act Grant  2019. Silicon Synapse coincided with Fingal County Council’s Arts Office Public Art Programme focus on the developing Swords Cultural Quarter project.   

An adapted experience was exhibited concurrently as part of the Datami Festival at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Milan, Italy and Bozar, Brussels, Dec 2019.

Participant Testimonial

“Silicon Synapse was an entirely immersive adventure that expanded beyond the realm of the expected. The experience began even before entering the building that  housed it. Experienced alone, one seemed to side step into a timeless alternate reality well before the anticipated virtual reality came into play. 

On entering the Carnegie Library building, which looked as though it had been tasked with keeping the secrets of what lay within, I was guided through the lobby with its eerie and slightly sinister atmosphere to the waiting room, empty aside from an electric fire and a haunting soundscape. To be left alone in such circumstances  prompted feelings of unease and thoughts of potential escape. Being ushered into a dark corridor through the second door in the room began a trepidatious trip  towards yet another doorway, which was bleeding a mysterious tangerine glow. Opening this door revealed a room filled with dangling tentacles of light, speakers,  and a plethora of neatly arranged wires and cables evocative of an electronic spider web, all encircling a stool and VR headset at the centre of the room. 

Once seated on the stool, I lowered on the headset, which triggered a cacophony of sounds and once the mask was in place I could see that I had entered yet another reality. What followed was a disorientating voyage through organic shapes, natural textures and a rainbow of colours which was the visual accompaniment  to an at first chaotic, but increasingly understandable, 3D aural assault. Traversing this alien landscape then led me through to a more clinical and smooth textured territory with copper coloured flat structures which were simultaneously reminiscent of circuit boards and hieroglyphics, relating back to the timelessness of the piece. 

The journey ended with a view of a virtual stool identical to the one I was sitting on. Taking off the headset at the end of the piece was somewhat jarring. The glowing  lights and the real world took a minute to adjust to and, reluctantly leaving the room, I felt as though I had just awoken from a hypnosis or dream like state.”  HK, Administrator 


Artist: AlanJames Burns 

Public Art Coordinator and Commissioner: Caroline Cowley, Fingal Arts 

Writer: Sue Rainsford

Sound Editor: Michael O’Riordan

Concept Art: Jason Dunne

Unity Design: Robert McGregor

Modelling: Joe Daly, Karen Peaking, Kevin   Ryan

Animation: Kev Ryan

Graphics Coding: Oisin Carroll

Voice Over: Peter Corboy

Project Support and Guidance: Emer Lynch

Invigilator: Silvia Poppmeier

Technicians: Andreas Kindler Von Knobloch, Hugh Hart, Aine McBride, Conal Downs

Administration: Maeve O’Flaherty, Silvia Poppmeier, Lisa Freeman, Ciara McKeon, Marie Farrington

Publicity: Sabrina Sheehan Mission PR, Fingal Press Office.

Photography and Video: Trevor Whelan

Web Design: Cathal Sherlock

Commissioners: Fingal County Council, European Commission.

Funding: Arts Council Ireland Open Call Award 2019

European Commission Coordinator: Adriaan Eeckels

European Commission Curator: Freddy Paul Grunert, Cristina Fiordimela 

European Commission Scientists: Thierry Benoist, Vicky Charisi, Nicole Dewandre