The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Simon Penny: Phatus

Simon Penny (UCI / Arts+Engineering) Faculty

The goal of the Phatus project is to build physical machines which emulate human non-speech vocal sounds. This involves the development of lung- like machines, larynx-like devices and vocal tract-like structures.  The relation between the embodied nature of affect (emotions are, in some sense, of the body, not the mind) and the cognitivist leanings of computer science and specifically of voice synthesis come into question – drawing us toward reflection on paradigms of embodied and enactive cognition.

Simon Penny is an artist and theorist in the fields of digital cultural practices, embodied interaction, and interactive art. He is Professor of Arts and Engineering at University of California at Irvine and is the founding director of UCI’s interdisciplinary graduate program in Arts, Computation, and Engineering. More information on his work can be found at his website.


Update 2011: Roughly on the anniversary of Simon’s arrival in Evanston last year, the video documentation of work done on the Phatus project (mechanico-pneumatic voice synthesis machines) at Northwestern in Fall 2010 (and at UCI in Summer 2010) is now online, as 11 short videos addressing aspects of the project. Searching ‘Phatus, Simon Penny’ on youtube seems to bring them up.


The videos are also compiled as a 22 minute compilation.
There is a Phatus page on the website at, and the videos will also soon be embedded there.


Thanks to Nate Bartlett for vidoeography, editing and production. Nate is also producing and edition of DVDs.

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