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Electrogenic Fish
Electrogenic fish use electric fields in order to navigate and communicate. They naturally emit either a continuous frequency or electrical pulses, which they modulate in order to communicate and interact with other fish. Because of this complex and unique ability, proportionally these fish have a similar brain-to-body-mass ratio as humans, the ability to see 'electrical images', to see in complete darkness, to learn and memorize certain tasks. ENKI is designed to work with any species of 'weakly' electrogenic fish.

These extracts from 4 films document research for the ENKi project. Sound is electrode recording of Electrical Organ Discharge (EOD) signals live from the fish.  

Why Electrogenic fish
Historically there is a deep connection with electric fish and medical 'healing' technologies. The project makes reference to the status of these electric fish and the ethics of their use as neurological research tools; as research specimens they become sacrificial to the greater purpose of furthering human knowledge.

The phenomenon of "animal electricity" was first documented in early Greek and Roman texts. For hundreds of years physicians were routinely employing the use of electric fish electro-therapeutically to treat a multitude of ailments. Later, in the late 1700s and with the development of batteries in the late 19th century, electrotherapy became a medical panacea; able to cure almost anything from cancer to baldness.

The earliest methods of treatment used the direct application of electrical Torpedo fish to the human body; placing the affected painful area, into a pool of water containing fish. The resulting electrical shocks stunned the nervous system allowing an immediate and residual numbness in the extremity.

The deeper motivation for this project, relates to a long-term interest in aquariums both public and private. A typical tropical aquarium is a multi cultural space - consisting of farmed and wild caught species. Aquariums are installed as calming objects, though on closer inspection the contained environment is one of both aggressive conflict, tolerance and submission. The skill of the aquarium keeper is to create harmony among fish - and through this; craft an impossible window into an otherwise wild world by creating a controlled illusion of it."

(Above)A 'Down poker' (Mormryd family), this one from CNRS

(Above) The strange looking Long-nose Elephant Fish Gnathonemus Petersii (Mormryd family), these occur as a series of clicks and pulses, varying in rate and amplitude. Each click is specific to species.

(Above) Black-ghost Knife Fish (Apteronotus albifrons) interacting with sensor.

This large (20cm) Black Ghost Knife fish emits a continuous wave like signal, rather than a pulse, the frequency range, specific to species, can be modulated according to interactions with its own type Communications will occur as 'chirps', an occasional modulation of the sine wave. See Bio-interface

These next images show a different species of knife fish.

This one above is investigating the sensor probe by reversing and scanning over it; the thin part of the tail contains the electric organ, so by positioning this in relation to the object and curving its body, it is able to investigate the artifact. In doing so it is controlling the MAX MSP instrument. See Bio-interface

ENKi introductory video

Links and further reading

Hopkins lab is broadly interested in neuroethology, they study mechanisms of animal communication; The focus is on the electrosensory modality of weakly electric fish...
Hopkins Lab

There are currently 23 sternopygid species which are grouped on the basis of dentition, skeletal structure and sensory pores. These are essentially nocturnal animals that remain undercover by day. At night they will enter open water in search of prey.

What IS an electric fish? A fish is considered to be an electric fish if it can generate electric fields. In this case it is said to be electrogenic. If a fish has the ability to detect electric fields, it is said to be electroreceptive. Most fish that are electrogenic are also electroreceptive.
Nelson Lab