Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sarah Hermanutz | ill-at-ease seep

In her lecture the artist Sarah Hermanutz discussed the relationship between humans and wetlands, which is the focus in her long-term artistic research. Wetlands are one of the most biologically diverse and important ecosystems for life on earth, but within the past century mankind has destroyed over 50% of them. The artist's work and research explore our historical and contemporary relationship with these environments, including the tropes and prejudices that have marginalised them and justified their continued draining and destruction. Engagement with the uncomfortable sensory and aesthetic experience of wetlands is proposed as essential to reintegrating humans within these ecological communities.

Photo: Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen

Photo: Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen

Photo: Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen

Photo: Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen

Photo: Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen

Photo: Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen

The western world associates wetlands with disease and decay, both physical and moral. Examples from art, literature, and popular culture show fear and horror of these liminal zones, and link them with corporeal "otherness" that is also mapped onto queerness, disability, alien/foreignness, and the 'monstrous-feminine'. These unruly bodies are suppressed and repressed both physically and culturally, for the sake of troubling and purist notions of cleanliness, health, stability, and optimised economically productive systems. Large-scale drainage projects have been considered great feats of human engineering, converting marginal 'wastelands' into clearly defined zones of water and land, useful for anthropocentric agricultural and urban utilization.

Photo: Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen

Photo: Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen


The audience was asked to reconsider the urban ecology of Berlin, as a city built on top of river floodplains and former wetlands. The sights, sounds, textures, tastes and smells of this ecology have been formally exiled to the margins of Berlin, but they continue to seep through. This lecture is an invitation to materially and sensorially engage with wetlands, and their potential to unsettle our defensive boundaries between water/land, self/other, living/nonliving, and human/nonhuman.

Photo courtesy Sarah Hermanutz

Photo courtesy Sarah Hermanutz

Photo courtesy Sarah Hermanutz

Photo courtesy Sarah Hermanutz

Sarah Hermanutz is a visual artist working at the intersections of performance, technology, and ecology. Her sculptures, installations, and performance experiments are preoccupied with wetlands, amphibious creatures, and the mysteries of social cognition. She frequently collaborates with dancers, musicians, and audiences to explore the complex and often unspoken social assumptions between the minds and bodies of audiences, performers, and 'props' (both human and nonhuman). Her artistic research takes place in Berlin at Lacuna Lab, an art and technology collective she co-founded in 2015, and in the media arts department of Bauhaus University Weimar. Her performances and projects have been presented across Europe, the USA, and Canada.
http://sarahhermanutz.com/

Monday, October 23, 2017

'Nonhuman Networks' 30 September - 26 November, 2017


Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj & Anil Podgornik | Heather Barnett

Exhibition runs: 30 September - 26 November, 2017

Fri -Sun 2-6PM and by appointment
Open 27 October until 9PM

Interdisciplinary Conference. Nonhuman Agents in Art, Culture and Theory: 24-26 November, 2017
Nonhuman Networks presents an aesthetics of new forms of communication between human and nonhuman actors. How does the world's largest single celled creature function as a computer? Can we tap into the so-called 'Internet of trees'? Performative works act as enablers for the audience to engage in non-linguistic forms of awareness and contact with several deceptively simple life forms.

Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik combine art, biology and cybernetics to create a platform for inter species communication. In Myconnect the nervous system of a person and fungal mycelium are plugged into a biofeedback loop. By entering the capsule a person is equipped with a heartbeat sensor, headphones and vibrational motors that are placed on various parts of the body. The heartbeat of a person sets the system in motion. The signal travels through the mycelium where it is modulated in real-time. The modulated signal is transferred back to the human body via sound, light and tactile sensory impulses. The overwhelming stimuli that affect the nervous system cause an alteration of the heartbeat. A new loop begins and the circle is closed. A symbiosis of signals begins.

Myconnect is a symbiotic interspecies connector that questions the anthropocentric nature/human division. With its circuit of signals and impulses, generated and translated by biological and technological organisms, Myconnect performs an immersive experience of symbiotic interdependence. Through this experience the technological nature/human distinction can be seen as an arbitrary definition that serves particular biopolitical interests in human society.
The collective has chosen to work with fungi, one of the world's dominant life forms. Mycelium, the hidden, subterranean portion of mushrooms, can grow to huge proportions; one organism in North America may be the world's largest living being. Recent studies show a strong interconnectedness between fungi and forest trees, the so-called 'Internet of trees' which forms vast symbiotic networks. Myconnect is an artistic experiment on social, aesthetic and biological levels, exploring new possible forms of interspecies communication beyond human language.


Myconnect Interspecies Connector, Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik, 2013, Interactive installation with mycelium





Heather Barnett is an artist, researcher and educator working with natural phenomena and biological design, often in collaboration with scientists, artists, participants and organisms. Utilising living materials and imaging technologies, her practice explores how we observe, represent and understand the world around us. Projects include microbial portraiture, systems modelling, and an ongoing 'collaboration' with an intelligent slime mould, Physarum polycephalum, one of the world's largest single-celled organisms.

What makes Physarum polycephalum particularly interesting, is its skilful ability to learn and solve problems from its interactions with the environment. Scientists in Japan and the UK have been studying Physarum polycephalum's ability for spatial computation (whilst foraging for food in the most efficient way). These studies mark an interesting turn in cybernetics, which is already strong influenced by biology Here an organism is studied as both a technological artefact and agent.

Based on years of empirical research and art-science collaboration, Barnett engages the slime mould in a process of negotiated co-creation, resulting in animated films, prints and living sculptures. She has also developed a series of interactive public workshops investigating Physarum polycephalum as material, model and metaphor through collective experimentation - Swarm | Cell | City took place 23/24 September as part of the Nonhuman Agents series, devised in collaboration with the Berlin based collective plan b. This exhibition builds upon her unique combination of interdisciplinary research and participatory practice.


Video: Swarm | Cell | City, Heather Barnett and plan b (Sophia New & Daniel Belasco Rogers), 2017, documentation of workshop, Videography: Tim Deussen, Right on plinth: BioCartographies (Wedding, Berlin) Heather Barnett, 2017, Petri Dish, acrylic model, agar, Physarum polycephalum

Detail: BioCartographies (Wedding, Berlin) Heather Barnett, 2017, Petri Dish, acrylic model, agar, Physarum polycephalum

Left: Resilient Topographies #1: the peninsula of Paljassaare , Heather Barnett, 2017, film. Right: Swarm | Cell | City, Heather Barnett and plan b (Sophia New & Daniel Belasco Rogers), 2017, documentation of workshop, Videography: Tim Deussen


Motion Fields, Heather Barnett, 2017, 2 screen video

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Vernissage of 'Nonhuman Network'

Heather Barnett | Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj & Anil Podgornik

Nonhuman Networks presents an aesthetics of new forms of communication between human and nonhuman actors. How does the world's largest single celled creature function as a computer? Can we tap into the so-called 'Internet of trees'? Performative works act as enablers for the audience to engage in non-linguistic forms of awareness and contact with several deceptively simple life forms.
Photo by Saša Spačal

Photo by Saša Spačal


Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik combine art, biology and cybernetics to create a platform for inter species communication. In Myconnect the nervous system of a person and fungal mycelium are plugged into a biofeedback loop. By entering the capsule a person is equipped with a heartbeat sensor, headphones and vibrational motors that are placed on various parts of the body. The heartbeat of a person sets the system in motion. The signal travels through the mycelium where it is modulated in real-time. The modulated signal is transferred back to the human body via sound, light and tactile sensory impulses. The overwhelming stimuli that affect the nervous system cause an alteration of the heartbeat. A new loop begins and the circle is closed. A symbiosis of signals begins.




Heather Barnett is an artist, researcher and educator working with natural phenomena and biological design, often in collaboration with scientists, artists, participants and organisms. Utilising living materials and imaging technologies, her practice explores how we observe, represent and understand the world around us. Projects include microbial portraiture, systems modelling, and an ongoing 'collaboration' with an intelligent slime mould, Physarum polycephalum. As one of the world's largest single-celled organisms, the slime mould possesses the ability to solve spatial problems and learn from interactions with its environment. The exhibition builds upon Barnett's unique combination of interdisciplinary research and participatory practice.








 Photos by Tim Deussen and Regine Rapp unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Swarm | Cell | City

 A two-day workshop by Heather Barnett + plan b (Sophia New & Daniel Belasco Rogers)The workshop was a participatory experiment on art, performance and biology that preceded the exhibition Nonhuman Networks. The project invited the participants to view the city of Berlin by the nonhuman perspectives of the intelligent single-cell organism, the slime mould, Physarum polycephalum and GPS tracking.



The slime mould is a bright yellow amoeba that possesses primitive intelligence, problem solving skills and memory. It is highly efficient at forming networks between given points and has been used to map the worlds' transport networks, migration routes and desire paths, most notably in 2010 it accurately replicated the Tokyo rail network. It is also quite beautiful, the branching patterns reminiscent of forms seen at varying scales within nature, from blood vessels to tree branches, from river deltas to lightening flashes. It can learn about its environment, remember where it's been and navigate through complex territories - all without any sensory organs and no brain.





Using the historical and contemporary topography of Berlin as inspiration, we propose a series of experiments and activities, which explore collective communication, cooperation and navigation at different scales - in slime mould and in humans!

These organisms offer intriguing models to examine collective behaviours: how ideas spread, how group decisions are made, and how communities cooperate. We want to use the slime mould as a model to look at human systems - urban, social and cultural - exploring how people interact and respond to their environment, how they gather and distribute information. We want to create a platform for exploring alternative ways of seeing and behaving, individually and collectively.






Process
The aim of Swarm | Cell | City was to create the conditions for critical and creative learning to take place, without trying to control the outcomes. By using participatory arts and performance practices to explore the creative potential for bio/social models, we hope to create a collective 'system of enquiry' with everyone as co-creators. Through the workshops participants learned about slime mould intelligence, create annotated maps capturing observations of city exploration, constructed experiments for slime mould growth, devised their own city explorations, and engaged in collective performance experimentation.

The origins of the creative exploration derive from self-organising principles in natural phenomena, for example using stigmergic processes. Stigmergy is a mechanism of indirect coordination, through the environment, between agents or actions. The principle is that a trace left in the environment by one action stimulates the performance of a subsequent action. In this way, actions reinforce and build on each other, leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, apparently systematic activity. Ants leave pheromone signals, slime mould leave membranous trails, termites leave mud balls - all communicating to others important information about environmental conditions. These processes formed a basis for creative improvisation and communication between humans in an urban environment.





Heather Barnett is an artist, researcher and educator working with natural phenomena and biological design, often in collaboration with scientists, artists, participants and organisms. Utilising living materials and imaging technologies, her practice explores how we observe, represent and understand the world around us. Projects include microbial portraiture, systems modelling, and an ongoing 'collaboration' with an intelligent slime mould, Physarum polycephalum. As one of the world's largest single-celled organisms, the slime mould possesses a skilful ability to solve spatial problems and learn from interactions with its environment.
www.heatherbarnett.co.uk
Heather Barnett: What humans can learn from semi-intelligent slime (TED Talk, Berlin 2014)

plan b is the artist duo Sophia New and Daniel Belasco Rogers. Since 2003 (Daniel) and 2007 (Sophia), plan b have recorded and stored every daily movement using GPS technology. Results of this are presented in festivals, galleries and at http://planbperformance.net. In their performance work, they explore topics such as the dynamics of conversation, singing, confessions and cycling. They also work in the fields of installation, new media, fine art and give workshops. Since the establishment of plan b in 2002, they have developed more than 25 projects, which have been and are to be seen in over 27 cities worldwide.

All photos/video stills by Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Theresa Schubert | The forestal psyche

For this project, Theresa Schubert dedicated herself to the potential of slime moulds, mosses and lichens from the forests around Berlin. Slime moulds are the largest known single-celled organisms and live from decaying matter on the forest floor. Certain mosses and lichens are natural remedies as well as indicators of good air quality. Apart from a scientific approach, forests have always been places of myths, legends and fantasies.

Theresa Schubert gave a lecture on the first evening  of the workshop (25 August), which introduced her work and the subject in particular. On the following day (26 August) she led an excursion to the area surrounding Berlin, with the goal of finding organisms in the natural forest habitat, that Schubert has used in her art. Particularly interesting specimens were collected, examined and classified using biotechnological methods.
The use of field microscopes enabled an initial analysis directly on site, making a later artistic evaluation and implementation possible visually and audibly. (More information)






















All photos (c) Tim Deussen/ Studio Deussen


With the generous support of: