In the fourth and final project of her series 'K-9 topology', Maja Smrekar reflects on the biotechnological potential between a human being and a non-human other. At the same time, she explores what it means to be a human in a failing ecosystem.
In the ‘ARTE_mis‘ project, the author refers to the theory of Donna Harraway, exploring the importance of the seemingly decolonialising, feminist reproductive freedom in a biologically multi-species world. The myth of humanism, based on universal values and human ingenuity, always excludes those that do not comply with the general norms. The artist invokes a new, all-inclusive social ecology by fusing part of herself with a dog – the closest genetic ancestor of the endangered wild wolf. This way, she combines the cellular materials of three carnivores, reestablishing an equivalent relationship of coexistence. If the general body of knowledge categorizes family as the norm of all other forms of oppression, the author establishes ‘ARTE_mis‘ as a reference for becoming an entity that exists outside and beyond humanist restrictions. The resulting artistic artifact represents the potential for a life that could have a greater chance for survival on a planet ravaged by capitalism.
In light of the current social ecology, which increasingly more overtly segregates people based on gender, race, economic class, cultural and ethnic origin, the author poses the question: what do ethical terms of ‘compromising human dignity‘, based on the conventional laws mean to us, since not all of us can say, that we have always been human?# vimeo.com/214357394 Uploaded 26 Plays 1 Like 0 Comments
Nelo Akamatsu in Kapelica Gallery
Chijikinkutsu' is a coinage especially created for the title of this work by combining two Japanese words: ‘chijiki’ and ‘suikinkutsu’. Chijiki means geomagnetism: terrestrial magnetic properties that have always existed and affect everything on Earth, though it cannot be perceived by the human senses. Some scientific research reports that the behavior of migratory birds, as well as the cause of beautiful aurora, are all related to geomagnetism. A ‘suikinkutsu’ is a sound installation for Japanese traditional gardens, invented in the Edo period. The sounds of drops of water falling through an inverted earthenware pot buried under a stone washbasin resonate through hollow bamboo tubes. Since ancient times, the Japanese have been sensitive to perceiving nature as it is, from the sound of the wind through pine trees or singing of insects.
While the artist carefully listened to the profound sound from underground in the garden of his favorite Kyoto temple, he noticed that his work coincidentally sounded similar to the ‘suikinkutsu’. The concept of the work 'Chijikinkutsu' is not derived from the experimentalism of science and technology on which media arts rely, nor from architectonic theory of western music on which some sound arts are based. While utilizing the action of geomagnetism, which is normally treated as a subject of science, this sound installation expands the subtle sounds of ‘suikinkutsu’ in the context of the Japanese perspective on nature.
'Chijikinkutsu' is made using water, sewing needles, glass tumblers and coils of copper wire. The needles floating on the water in the tumblers are magnetized in advance, so they are affected by geomagnetism and turn themselves in a north-south direction. When electricity is supplied to the coil attached to the outside of the tumblers it creates a temporary magnetic field that draws the needle to the coil. And the faint sound of the needle hitting the glass resonates in the space all around. A MIDI is used to control the system. A DTM sequencer app running on an iPAD sends MIDI data signals to the controllers which were especially designed for the work, and they distribute serial data to each port, switching the electric current to the coils.
A round surface of water in the glass with a floating magnetized needle reminds of a tiny Earth with its geomagnetism. The fainter the sounds of the glass, the more keenly viewers’ sensibility will be sharpened. In the meantime, they realize that the sounds are not coming from outside their bodies, but already exist inside their mind.
The new art work ‘Chozumaki’ consists of a glass vessel filled with water. A small winged magnet rotates and makes a vortex arise at the bottom of the vessel. The tiny bubbles cause curious sounds when they are swallowed into the vortex. Viewers will hear those sounds through the spiral pipe in the shape like a cochlear duct. Countless "Vortexes" exist in the universe, including the enormous revolution of the galaxy and also the minimal spin of electrons. The sight and sound of the water vortex that is always changing its shape will remind viewers of the coming and going over the boundary between the physical world and the psychological world.# vimeo.com/206062365 Uploaded 29 Plays 1 Like 0 Comments
'Strange Encounters' is the third piece of the 'Confronting Vegetal Otherness' series, which looks at plant alterity to reassess subjectivation, ethics, and our attitude towards dividual multiplicity.
I felt it crucial to address plant subjectivities as relational and to look for access - not to them (the plants) but to my human affects and responses in particular encounters with plants, reflecting what could be a fracture in our phenomenological (non)consideration of plant life. In fact, the word ‘plant’ groups together organisms as different as a single-celled algae, lemon grass or a birch tree; there is little these particular kinds of plants have in common beyond a similar cell plan (an analogous sublation would render a human somehow equivalent to a nematode). Thinking about ‘the plant’ is a form of racism, an unjust generalization that neglects the particular being. In an attempt to overcome my inherent bias, I sought situations of engagement that would lay bare my speciest presumptions and force a different consideration of each relationship to the vegetal. I aimed at instigating novel and strange circumstances, which would resist the subjugation of plants to raw material while ambivalently positing humans in a similar role, following Jeffrey Nealon’s insight 'that the vegetable ... (is an) image of thought that far better characterizes our biopolitical present than does the human-animal image of life, which remains tethered to the organism, the individual with its hidden life and its projected world. 'In the deconstruction of plant-human relationships, I searched for modes of human existence that could be perceived as equivalent to plant life. Biotechnology’s alienating molecularization of living entities maintained in defined media and sterile plastic containers demonstrate the ‘human-as-material’ and support thinking about ourselves in terms we afford to plants. Much like algae increasingly employed in the production of biomass and pharmaceuticals, so too are human cells in culture becoming an essential component of our body maintenance program. They can be coaxed into the form and function of a multitude of organs, transplanted into pig embryos, genetically modified to eliminate diseases and selected for particular applications. As cells in culture we are fragmented, decentered, de-essentialised, outsourced, bettered, molded and viscerally spread over large areas. The mission became obvious - to arrange the extraordinary meeting of a human and a plant in vitro.Comparing the ‘tech-riders’ of various plant and human candidates quickly narrowed the choice to the toughest, most resilient types of cells of each kind – Chlorella representing plants and carcinoma of the bladder representing humans. The genus Chlorella and its relatives are free living, single-celled photosynthetic algae populating a variety of ecological niches, from fresh and semi-salty waters to surfaces exposed to air such as roof tiles and recurrent puddles. It is both the smallest and the most abundant morphological form of a photosynthetic eukaryote. Cancer is a disease, but its cells represent an actualization of the emancipatory potential of entities within the ecosystem of the body. Much like the single-celled algae, it is a pre-specialized assemblage of cells, an expression of the reproductive potential of a metastable cellular unit, allocating all available resources to indefinite multiplication. It’s also the most industrially productive form of mammalian cells – the raw material for research and vaccine/antibody production.
Their fate in my laboratory is uncertain. I am performing biopolitics, selecting, orchestrating, monitoring, documenting, narrating. The cancer and the algae negotiate the space I allow for them. Biopower penetrates the plant just as it does the human.
I observe them, I observe myself. The human and the plant, in vitro.
Špela Petrič# vimeo.com/203780192 Uploaded 25 Plays 0 Likes 0 Comments
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