Instruments of the Afterlife

Burton Nitta (Michael Burton & Michiko Nitta)


Instruments are created to transform contamination into valuable materials, by employing plants and engineered bacteria. Instead of mining material from geological sources and using fossil fuels that lead to environmental harm, could future generations use the contamination and pollution we leave behind to build their future world? Can they build balanced relationships with the natural world to be a no-waste civilization?

A series of new instruments use synthetic biology, plant science, and nanotechnology. Whilst cleaning the land, they remember the mistakes of the past and create materials to build a post-waste future.

The piece “Instruments of the Afterlife” responds to the scientific research project, Cleaning Land for Wealth (CL4W), funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and supported by Creative Outreach Resource Efficiency (CORE) at Loughborough University. The project involves science teams from universities at Birmingham, Cranfield, Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Warwick.


Burton Nitta in collaboration with:

Artistic team
Composer: Neil Luck
Musician: Lawrence Tatnall
Performer: Timothy Cape (Bastard Assignments)
Performer: Josh Spear (Bastard Assignments)
Actor: Emily Lloyd-Saini
Scientific team
Cleaning Land for Wealth (CL4W)

University of Warwick: Kerry Kirwan, Guy Barker, Maria Sotenko, Neale Grant
University of Edinburgh: Louise Horsfall, Matthew Edmundson, Michael Capeness, Virginia Echavarri-Bravo
Newcastle University: Adam Harvey, Valentine Eze
University of Birmingham: David Book, Dan Reed
Cranfield University: Philip Longhurst, Ying Jiang
Loughborough University: Creative Outreach For Resource Efficiency (CORE): Jacqui Glass
Supported by: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Based in London, Burton Nitta is an interdisciplinary art & design studio founded by Michael Burton (UK) and Michiko Nitta (JP) that collaborates with science and technology to investigate our future world and human evolution. Previous works such as After Agri, Algaculture, The Algae Opera, The Republic of Salivation and The Instruments of the Afterlife are published and exhibited internationally from MoMA, New York, to the V&A Museum, London.