Summer School 2022 | Subtle changes, big impact

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The intersection of Art, Biology and the Environment offers unique opportunities to visual artists. This innovative summer course, which is already in its fourth edition, will allow non-specialists to acquire theoretical and practical skills in biological and environmental sciences in connection to the visual arts.

The Summer School explores the interdisciplinary relationship between art, life and environmental sciences through hands-on exercises, combining theory and practice in an informal environment, e.g.: seminars, debates, visits, and the creation of artworks with biological media. The activities in the Summer School at Cultivamos Cultura will address issues such as the cultural representations of technology and science, ethical concerns and the evolution of bioart as a cultural phenomenon. One week program with the opportunity to extend the stay for one or two additional weeks to develop an art project in a collaborative environment.

The practical component will focus on hands-on exercises in the laboratory, workshop, and within the natural environment. The possibility of transforming abstract concepts into art objects, the collection and selection of organisms for artistic purposes will be highlighted, and, finally, visits to different parts of the natural park, will take place.

Summer School diary Andreia D’Oliveira

Hoje iniciamos as experiências com organismos. É curioso como os organismos realmente podem se alimentar de tudo.

Inicialmente, como em todos os projetos que requerem uma certa reflexão quase que “espiritual”, entrei em uma espécie de frenesim interior. Há uma dualidade entre o “querer fazer bem, excecionalmente bem” e querer retirar algum significado interior de nós próprios, como uma busca incansável. Pelo quê? Também não sei… talvez uma individualidade só minha, um significado só meu…. Eu sei, parece algo bastante cansativo.

Mas esta inquietação borbulhante já fez mais ruído do que faz agora. Sinto que agora consigo colocá-lo dentro de uma caixa, um espaço limitado onde ele pode coabitar consigo próprio sem transbordar e contaminar tudo à volta. Pressão de artistas? Não, pressão da vida!

Mas se este lado fica a brincar dentro da caixa como um gato entretido, percebo que sendo eu própria um ser integral, não consigo deixar de fazer algo sem ser eu, sem me ver, porque sou eu que o faço. Há algo mais pessoal que isso?

Longa reflexão? Eu sei, mas esta reflexão é a caixa com que o pequeno gato se entreter.

Tenho a caixa reflexionaria e um gato titânico “controlado”, passando a simplicidade da palavra.

Tenho outro “problema” … ei sei, às vezes as palavras são cruéis com as delicadezas da vida, mas eu preciso delas agora.

Estou disposta a explicar para mim própria como para terceiros, algo que floresce não em palavras, mas em sentimentos, como progredi o meu processo. Percebi ao longo destes 4 semestres que sou uma eterna amante de tudo o que seja novo: a experimentação decorre o meu semestre inteiro, mesmo nos últimos minutos da entrega de um trabalho e depois dele. Eu construo uma espécie de árvore de ramos e galhos infinitos e não uma árvore inversa, que neste caso simbolizaria o afunilamento do pensamento.

Bom, me deem o mundo e eu ficarei no mundo.

Não que seja um aspeto negativo, também não gosto de ditar um julgamento tão duro à minha eterna curiosidade, mas é necessário saber talvez cumprir um objetivo, conduzir o meu processo criativo caótico para algo mais limpo, mais concreto, e esse é realmente o desafio.

Assim, neste projeto da Cultivamos Cultura, decidi que esse seria um aspeto que iria limar.

O primeiro aspeto para dar os primeiros passos foi descomplicar. Quero motivos “simples” para “complicar” e não motivos “complicados” para me perder num mar sem fim. E isto nos leva ao singular: apenas um motivo já é um bom passo.

O meu motivo é o café. Porquê o café? Simplesmente porque todos os dias, após sobrar café na minha chávena do pequeno almoço, me perguntava se poderia bebê-lo passado umas horas.

Então tomava o meu lanche da tarde e observava calmamente a taça com o café frio no fundo, fazendo questões flutuar na minha cabeça.

O que será que está neste momento dentro da taça? Ainda é café? Café deixa de ser café quando está há muito tempo em algum sítio ou em exposição? Será que teve tempo suficiente para se converter numa maternidade de mosquitos? Mosquitos gostam de café? Ou será que moscas põe ovos no café? As larvas podem se desenvolver nas dobras do estomago sem serem fulminadas pelo suco gástrico, isso acontece por exemplo com os anisaquíases…

Eu não sou uma especialista em parasitologia, diria que sou uma entomofobia amadora que tem uma roommate a formar-se em veterinária que me incentiva bastante a conhecer as sebentas repletas de imagens tenebrosas desses parasitas internos. Coisas que gostaria de esquecer, mas agradeço conhecer. A ignorância pode ser cruel também.

Pronto, este pequeno e simples momento diário de reflexão é motivo suficiente. Penso que preenche os critérios para um bom fio condutor para um possível afunilamento do pensamento. Ou seja, estou a testar de quem é a culpa da divagação: Se é a culpa da minha mente saltitante ou se os motivos que escolho fazem a minha mente saltitar.

Acho que estou prestes a descobrir.

Então com o motivo café em mãos, comecei a preparar as minhas petri dishes:

Os meus Petri Dishes inicais

1 – Agar + Plantas;
2 – Agar + Leite + Plantas;
3 – Agar + Leite + Café;
4 – Agar + Leite + Café + Açúcar;
5 – Agar + Leite + Café + Açúcar + Ecoline;
6 – Agar + Café;
7 – Agar + Café + Açúcar;
8 – Agar + Café + Açúcar + Ecoline;
9 – Agar + Café + Saliva;

Após esperar quase uma semana a magia se fez, e dos meus petri dishes afloraram os tão esperados fungos e bactérias.

Foi exatamente destes fungos e bactérias muito variados e coloridos que, com a influência da Marta de Menezes, decidi fazer uma espécie de pinturas em relevo utilizando os fungos e as bactérias de todos os meus colegas como paleta de cores. Achei a ideia acessível, muito experimental e também muito interessante, visto que era o meu primeiro contacto com este mundo dos microrganismos.

Após catalogar a variada paleta de fungos e bactérias, dei início ao meu projeto. Fiz exatamente 4 pinturas com relevos.

A ideia dos relevos nasceu dos meus trabalhos anteriores, trabalhos esses a que me dedicava e dedico a explorar essa plasticidade nas pinturas a negro como uma forma de pensar e sentir sem haver necessariamente uma necessidade de materialização óbvia que se encaixe nos padrões do mundo real, do mundo formal, quase uma representação dos primórdios do pensamento, o pensamento primitivo na sua plasticidade traduzível, mas incompreensível.

Nada melhor que deixar o acaso decidir o destino cromático destes anamorfismos, que na verdade estão e estarão em mutação constante, sem nunca haver uma pintura final, facto que me agrada muito.

Como disse e torno a reforça, no total realizei 4 obras: 2 em tecido e 2 em papel, todas embebecidas em ágar e leite, inclusive as anamorfoses feitas com pasta de papel, que em algum momento montaram o cenário ideal para nascer paisagens lindíssimas. Logo após, pontilhei as obras com a paleta de fungos e bactérias.

E agora?

Esperemos por uma eternidade poética com uma disputa árdua e uma morte dramática.

Ou seja, que se faça a vontade do deus…ou da ciência.

art, life, and care

The summer school at Cultivamos Cultura was a great meeting of beings and ideas.

In this photo you can see the nests of the swallows attached to a wall of the main market of Sao Luis.

Below is a series of encounters with known and unknown beings and traces of life.

After an intense week of theory and practice, I was left with the intention of working with my hands to create an object-place that can be inhabited by other beings.

With the help of Maya and Tiago from Studio 14, I had the opportunity to work on the pottery wheel and build two shelters for non-human life.

Swallows and psychidae larvae (on the right) use materials they find to build their homes. This is done to a greater or lesser extent by most animals. But it is in the way they use the material and how they inhabit it that I was inspired to make these two sculptures. The red one is made with clay that is from the region in an attempt to learn from the swallows and psychidae.

I also built a sculpture which in turn is the support for possible fungi and bacteria since it is covered with agar.

Both the ceramic sculptures and this one are objects and also places that can be inhabited.

How can we create as a species and at the same time take care? Is it possible to live a daily human life where instead of consuming, we give to the other beings with whom we live?

Thank you all for the days we spent together thinking about art, life, and care.


Marthin Rozo
http://www.marthinrozo.com

Summer School diary: Carolina

Day 1.

The uncertainty of a latent infection keeps me away from the people attending the Summer school but still I participate in all the activities by following safety protocols. My body feels strong and the emotion for being at Cultivamos Cultura is stronger than any virus.

We started the day with Marta and she showed us all the spaces at the house. A perfect place to be inspired and submerged into your art. 

After a rigorous cleaning of the Lab space we started talking about microorganisms and how life is used to provoke meaning through art. As a microbiologist, I have always approached microorganisms in an anthropocentric way, figuring out how to use their metabolic potential to resolve problems caused by humanity. But Marta’s talk presented a new perspective on how to relate with them and the importance of making visible the invisible and the imbalance that we are causing to achieve this. 

It was also a beautiful exercise to think about what “food” we want to provide to the microorganisms and not just dilute a commercial culture medium. I chose several lichen samples from around the house and used plums grown there and milk as the nutrients in my experiments. And left some Petri dishes to grow some environmental controls.

Results are coming soon…

Day 2. 

A positive result. Horror, but everyone is very kind and I am feeling fine. Thus, the day started with a talk by Maro about central concepts when presenting works in biological art. Shock/transgression, Transdiscipline, environment, hybrid/collaboration, post human/instrumentalization. 

This talk made me question my relationship with the “objects of study” I have worked with as a scientist and I felt a bit like a villain. By instrumentalizing the bacteria in order to use its metabolic potential to create a solution to an environmental problem, I never really collaborate with the microorganism. There is definitely a lot to question within the scientific practices and there is a need to reconsider the relation established with the living organisms we work/collaborate with. 

The following talk was presented by Andrew and it was very intriguing. I was very attracted to the visual and aesthetic aspects of the watercolor works he showed us. I have always been enchanted by this medium and I loved the way Andrew mixed it with his interest in exploring the human body, its complexity and all the connections within it. The activity after the talk was a bit challenging for me. At the beginning I was very intimidated by the task, the elements given to us were already full of meaning and beauty. Therefore I chose a “blank” space to work on. Thus, I felt really inspired when everyone showed their results and to see how everyone felt so confident intervening in the piece was very enriching. 

 Day 3

The day starts with a brilliant talk by two Colombian artists from the art collective Suratomica: Daniella Brill and Marthin Rozo. I felt amazed by the way they have worked hand by hand with scientists and how through their artistic works they have produced new knowledge and questioned traditional paradigms within science. 

The workshop they proposed was all about questioning scientific “traditions”. Particularly, taxonomic classification of what we consider living organisms. First, they asked us to reconsider the concept of body and we had to look for different types of bodies in our surroundings. We also had to document the context where we found them and think about their complexity: chemical composition, aesthetic and ecological aspects. 

We had the opportunity to look for those bodies in a magical place. In the afternoon we went to the beach in order to collect sea urchins for a workshop with Marta. I was a bit afraid because I always thought that as jellyfish, sea urchins were poisonous to the touch. But NO!! They are incredibly beautiful and “gentle”, you just have to be as delicate and no harm will be done. 

Back in the lab, we learned how to take care of them and to do in vitro fertilization. First we used our bodies to recreate the waves in the ocean to promote the release of the eggs/sperm from the sea urchins. After a passionate attempt and being unable to excite the animals, Marta injected KCl to obtain the sexual cells and it was crazy to see them under the microscope. I felt particularly excited when we found the first fertilized eggs already dividing and being full of life. 

A funny dance session with sounds from around the world was the perfect closure for the day.

Black Pearl

During my two weeks at the Summer School, I have dived together with an outstanding group of artists and scientists, and curious beings into the world of art, biology and environmental health.

The fruits of these endeavors cumulated in a multi-media installation titled Black Pearl, depicting the origin of pearls from a queer, speculative, and non-Western perspective. Black Pearl allows the viewer to dive into a fictional underwater landscape via a guided mediation. It invites the listeners to become with and imagine more-than-human ways of co-existences.

My interest in investigating the origin of pearls sparked when reading an article about the production of artificial nacre (“mother-of-pearl”) using bacteria! (Is there something that bacteria cannot do?)

The recipe
The combination between the bacteria Sporosarcina pasteurii, a calcium source, and urea (a waste product excreted by the kidneys during urination) triggers the crystallization of calcium carbonate. To simulate the multiple layers of nacre (see image below), the crystallized calcium carbonate is placed into a solution of the bacteria Bacillus licheniformis (found in the soil and on bird feathers) and let grow in an incubator.

Electron microscope image of a cross-section of a mollusk shell. The organism builds its shell from the inside out by depositing layers of calcium carbonate nanoparticles. As the particle density increases over time they fuse into large flat crystals embedded in layers of organic material to form nacre.

However, what had sounded like an exciting experiment, I was more intrigued by the fact that pearls are the result of abject bodies.

Pearls come into existence by differentiating between self and others. When an intruder slips between the permeable mantle of an oyster, the oyster’s body suddenly becomes the territory of trouble, targeting all of their thoughts. To get to know the stranger, they will tease it, question it, sense it from different angles, and eventually, the oyster will invite it into their home, covering it under layers of nacre – the-mother-of-pearl coats it, keeping it secure. The intruder becomes part of the body. Indistinguishable from oneself.

Coming from an academic background it was not easy for me to think of a more hands-on/material-based approach to give shape to my interest.

Initially, we experimented in the group with agar, plasticine, and clay which I tried to combine while using oysters, their shapes, and dotted surfaces as a casting form.

Oyster and barnacle moldings made with pink plasticine and greyish clay

The counterintuitive materiality between light and heavy, artificially-alarming pink and earthly-greyish clay kindled my curiosity. I started to place around the oyster casts different objects, creating bit-by-bit a small universe inhabited by curious creatures.

With this tiny universe, I am proposing a more queer and speculative approach to the birth of the pearl referring to the Polynesian legend of the Black Pearl.

After 250 Million years of existence on Gaia, endless layers of traces from past and present touches will eventually form the Black Pearl. 

The pearl is the result of separating the self from the other while including the previous abject into ones one metabolism. The inclination and acceptance of its otherness lead to a queering body that does not think and act in binary systems. Having both semen and eggs in their reproductive organs, they change from male to female back and forth over their lifetime (Ultimately, we also need to think of the pearl as a product of queering bodies).

After their death, their queerness remains in the universe. When oysters are eaten, the contained dopamine leads to horniness and open-mindfulness.

Said this, let’s open up to the world and try to feel into the co-existence of oyster and pearl… 

Progress: day x 1 + 1 or more

Well back in the UK and after my retinal repair I am trying to do a little light work and reflect on Cultivamos Cultura. In the last couple of days, I have started to develop a few watercolours. They seem to be about my eye but reflect on some of the work I was putting together in Sao Luis. One of the driving elements is the amazing visual-mind-based images I seem to be getting in the eye that was operated on, such vibrant colours, such moving life within the image hundreds of flagella on the move. The eye has a gas bubble in it but where the mix of imagery is coming from I have no idea, moving amoeba, driven by small naked human hairs, dashes of electric colours. Some of it reminds me or has come from the film Symbiotic Earth, which I have watched since my return.

Andrew Carnie studio 24 July 2022

Recovery: day X

Well, I am back in the studio in Winchester and now have four to five weeks to spend idley before I fully regain, hopefully, my sight fully. I have to wait for the air bubble that holds my retina in place to reseed. I noticed while I was at Cultivamos Cultura that my vision was a little odd and I struggled particularly in the dark putting Daniela’s work together, and noticed I was not as fluent with the watercolurs work as I should be. The black curtain at the bottom of my right eye, my good eye was the result of a retinal detachment. So I have to be patient, I am not good at this, I do have dreams os Sao Luis and the activities to see me through and I will next week attempt to put together a short backing film for the work

at home in the studio: see https://www.andrewcarnie.uk/at-work

I had hoped to travel to Barcelona next week for the opening of the Brain(s) show at the CCCB: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. But no chance I can’t fly and have to be careful, a wristband and small information card make it all too clear.

Brain(s) 27 July — 11 December 2022

The human brain is the most complex object we know of and the one that raises most questions in the fields of both science and philosophy. Brain(s) looks at how, throughout history, art, science, and philosophy have studied and represented this fascinating organ.

see : – https://www.cccb.org/en/exhibitions/file/brains/237851

The exhibition combines the visions of contemporary artists such as Tomás Saraceno, Patrick Tresset, Ivana Franke, Daniel Alexander, Andrew Carnie, Christian Fogarolli, Greg Dunn, Laramascoto, Louise K Wilson, William Utermohlen, Shona Illingworth, Imogen Stidworthy, Joaquim Jordà, Aya Ben Ron, Roc Parés, Joan Fontcuberta, Stefan Kaegi and Xavi Bou, and comics and films. It also includes historical material such as original drawings by Santiago Ramon y Cajal, period editions of Vesalius and René Descartes, the inventions and machinery of visionary scientists such as Leonardo Torres Quevedo and Lady Ada Lovelace, and scientific projects of leading scientific research institutes.

Dates and hours 27 July — 11 December 2022
From Tuesday to Sunday and bank holidays
11.00 – 20.00

Anyhow in a few days I will try and make some work in a slowed down manner, maybe somethng for Daniela’s cube structure. We will have to wait and see if I am up to it. In the meantime Bob is here keeping me company, the rug he lies on came from the clothes store in the high street of Sao Luis!

Bob on the Sao Luis rug

Cómo imaginar una red de existencias in-disciplinada y queer, un taller de Suratómica durante “cambios sutiles, grandes impactos”

Durante una semana, un grupo de personas interesadas en las conexiones del arte y la biología convivieron en Cultivamos Cultura, en una antigua casa de campo de São Luis, a dos horas al sur de Lisboa para la escuela de verano del 2022. São Luis es un pequeño pueblo, situado en Odemira, en un parque natural y zona protegida. Alrededor de la casa la vegetación crece de forma salvaje, cientos de eucaliptos, alcornoques, cactus, árboles de limón, entre otros. Arañas, lagartijas, abejas, hormigas, serpientes, grillos y otros animales deambulan felices por el lugar, encontrando siempre suficiente comida y espacio para vivir. Lxs humanxs se encuentran viviendo en un lugar que es tan suyo como de las otras especies, y la convivencia se hace evidente a cada momento, ya sea al lavar los platos y encontrar una araña viviendo en el lavaplatos, o al ser despertadx por un grillo a las cuatro de la mañana, o al escuchar el zumbido de las abejas en un árbol al lado de la casa. El tema de la escuela de verano era “cambios sutiles, gran impacto”, y uno de los temas que más se trató fue el lenguaje. En el grupo había personas de todo el mundo, que hablaban principalmente inglés, portugués y español. La ensalada del almuerzo se hizo en diferentes idiomas, los tomates se cortaron en español, mientras que el romero se recogió en alemán. Las acuarelas se explicaron en persa, el cartel se leyó en ucraniano, las bacterias se alimentaron con soya en chino. Nuestro lenguaje para comunicarnos con los erizos de mar fue la danza, para comunicarnos con el perro usamos caricias, para comunicarnos con las estrellas, las piedras y las plantas utilizamos aplicaciones del teléfono y metáforas. El lenguaje se construía y de-construía continuamente, inventábamos palabras, usábamos lenguajes entre nosotrxs aunque no habláramos el mismo idioma, haciéndonos entender a través del contexto o los gestos. Nos comunicamos con tazas de café y trenzas. A través de gotas de agua fresca nos comunicamos con los bebés de los erizos de mar y a través de gestos con las manos con quienes estaban positivos de covid en la casa.

El taller propuesto por daniela brill estrada y Natalia Rivera conectado a Suratómica, se desarrolló en tres momentos diferentes de la semana. La propuesta fue repensar las clasificaciones de la naturaleza que la ciencia ha hecho en los últimos cientos de años, dejando fuera muchas formas de existencia queer que no parecen encajar en ninguna categoría de la taxonomía. Imaginar nuevas formas de explorar la naturaleza fuera del sistema taxonómico occidental, significa también proponer cambiar y abrir el lenguaje e inventar nuevas categorías, o mejor nuevas no-categorías.

En su carta a Michael Marder “Becoming Humans”, la autora Luce Irigaray escribe: “la denominación es probablemente nuestro proceso cultural más básico. Pero, ¿cómo asignar un nombre a lo que está en devenir y cambiar, como es el caso de la vida? Además, si algunas culturas tienen palabras para expresar el movimiento del ser, nuestra cultura occidental carece de ellas. En japonés probablemente podríamos decir que el árbol se arbola, es decir, que se está convirtiendo en árbol a través de su crecimiento, como es posible decir que la nube se nubla. Nosotros no tenemos esta posibilidad. Para nosotros, occidentales, un árbol puede ser un roble, un pino, un haya, etc., y aprendemos a designar y clasificar los tipos de árboles sin interesarnos realmente por las cosas inanimadas, fuera de toda consideración por las relaciones vivas con ellas y entre ellas” (Irigaray y Marder, 2016, p.90) (traducción de daniela brill estrada)

En Suratómica nos preguntamos: ¿podemos imaginar una forma de explorar y preguntarnos por la naturaleza fuera de las estructuras cerradas del conocimiento? Reconociendo el valor que los sistemas taxonómicos occidentales han tenido para la comprensión de la naturaleza, y mirando críticamente sus desventajas y perspectivas ausentes (como el concepto de dark-taxa y la censura académica) desde el punto de vista de la teoría queer, queremos proponer posibles nuevas formas, fuera de la academia y la ciencia occidental para convivir, cuidar y comprender otrxs cuerpxs, entidades y formas de vida. Imaginar otras formas y maneras de entender/relacionarse con la naturaleza considerándonos como parte de la ella, parece difícil, o tal vez incluso utópico, al igual que tratar de imaginar algo fuera del capitalismo.

A través de este taller propusimos los primeros pasos hacia la construcción de una red de comprensiones queer y complejas de esas otras muchas formas de existencia. Una red que acoge un conocimiento evolutivo que se diversifica, muta y coopera, basado no sólo en las partes estéticas y medibles de los diferentes cuerpos, sino imaginando la complejidad de su existencia para estudiarles, entenderles y abrazarles.

Caminamos por Cultivamos Cultura y por la playa de Vila Nova de Milfontes, y recogimos diferentes tipos de cuerpos tratando de verlos no como minerales, orgánicos, vivos/no vivos u otras categorías conocidas, sino como objetos complejos que conforman y son conformados por el entorno y los muchos otros cuerpos a su alrededor. Para este primer taller propusimos tres posibles puntos de vista desde los cuales observarlos: la primera fue a través de la teoría de la simpoiesis propuesta por Lynn Margulis, en la que nos fijamos en las relaciones simbióticas de los cuerpos con su entorno, la segunda en los elementos poéticos, estéticos y sensoriales de los cuerpos, y la tercera en su composición química, no con la intención de dividirlos en sus partes más pequeñas, sino de conectarlos con el resto del universo indagando en la composición de la materia de la que está construido el mundo entero.

Recolección de cuerpos en los caminos alrededor de Cultivamos Cultura

Una vez reunidos muchos cuerpos, construimos la red como una estructura en 3 dimensiones, que parecía imitar una tela de araña, o un sistema neuronal, o una constelación. Una que hablaba muchos lenguajes de muchos tejidos y redes diferentes en la naturaleza. Decidimos relacionar los objetos con cuerdas, lana, metal, algodón. En el proceso de construcción de la telaraña, lxs cuerpxs de lxs artistas y de lxs participantes pasaron a formar parte de ella, entrando y saliendo continuamente, construyendo una estructura viva, una red fluctuante y mutante de objetos, cuerpos, cuerdas, entidades, calor, olores, pegamento, manos.

Sobre la red, Anna proyectó un vídeo de los bebés-erizos que habíamos visto crecer colectivamente, compartiendo un horario cada noche para oxigenar el agua, mirándolos a través microscopio para seguir su crecimiento, compartiendo momentos de felicidad cuando descubríamos que se movían. El vídeo permitía ver también el reflejo y la sombra de los objetos sobre el fondo blanco, haciendo zoom sobre diferentes cuerpos, cambiando su tamaño, y haciéndolos así aún más raros y extraños, más queer. Era posible ver una pequeña semilla del mismo tamaño que un cuerpx humanx, o un huevo de tiburón se expandía y crecía más que cualquier otro objeto de la red, descategorizándolo aún más.

La complejidad de la red creció una vez que empezamos a nombrar las conexiones entre los cuerpos, no nombramos los cuerpos en sí, sino las cosas que tenían en común con otros cuerpos dentro de la red. Podían ser componentes estéticos, como lo esponjosos que eran o parecían, componentes químicos, como el carbonato de calcio, otros eran elementos poéticos, como la palabra “madre” o la palabra “olvidado”. 

Esta red es la representación de conexiones de formas de existir en un lugar concreto del planeta y en un tiempo concreto, y está categorizada (o des-categorizada) por los ojos, las manos, los sentimientos y las historias personales de lxs participantes del taller. Esta es otra forma de estudiar la naturaleza, de forma inclusiva, amplia, compleja y colaborativa, buscando no dejar nada por fuera. Como en la naturaleza misma.

Concepto por: Suratómica, daniela brill estrada y Natalia Rivera 

Dictado por daniela brill estrada con el apoyo de Marthin Rozo 

Participantes: Maro, Arancha, Marta, Anna, Diana, Foad, Yang, Marthin, Oona, Bea, Carolina, Andreia, Andrew, daniela.

Inspiraciones y bibliografía:

Through vegetal being, Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder, Columbia, 2016

All art is ecological, Timothy Morton, Penguin Books, 2021

Symbiotic Planet, Lynn Margulis, Basic Books, 1999

Symbiotic Earth: How Lynn Margulis rocked the boat and started a scientific revolution. Documentary by John Feldman

Estética y Complejidad, elementos para un estado crítico del arte, Carlos Maldonado, Creación Arte & Ciencia, 2021

Grupo de creación „En el filo del Caos“ para Suratómica de Carlos Maldonado

How to imagine an in-disciplined and queer network of existances, a workshop by Suratómica during „subtle changes, big impacts“

For one week a group of humans interested in the connections of art and biology lived together at Cultivamos Cultura, in an old farm house in São Luis, two hours south from Lisbon. São Luis is a small town, located in Odemira, in a natural park and protected area. Around the house the vegetation grows wildly, hundreds of eucalyptus trees, cork trees, cactuses, lemon trees, among others. Spiders, lizards, bees, ants, snakes, crickets, and other animals roam the place happily, always having more than enough food and space. Humans find themselves living in a space that is as much theirs as the other species, and the co-habitation of it becomes obvious every moment, being it while washing the dishes and encountering a spider living in the sink, or being awakened by a cricket at four in the morning, or hearing the bees buzzing in a tree next to the house. The theme of the summer school was “subtle changes, big impact”, and one of the topics that was mainly discussed was language. In the group there were people from all around the world, speaking mainly English, Portuguese, and Spanish. The salad for lunch was made in different languages, the tomatoes were cut in Spanish, while the rosemary was picked in German. The watercolors were explained in Persian, the sign was read in Ukrainian, the bacteria were fed with soy beans in Chinese. Our language to communicate with the sea-urchins was dance, to communicate with the dog we petted, to communicate with the stars, the stones and the plants we used phone apps and metaphors. Language was constructed and deconstructed continuously, we invented words, used languages with each other even if the other did not speak that language but understood anyways, we communicated with cups of coffee and braided hair, through drops of fresh water with the sea-urchin babies and through hand-gestures with the covid-positive people in the house.

The workshop proposed by daniela brill estrada and Natalia Rivera as part of the Suratómica network, took place in three different moments of the week. The proposal was to re-think the classifications of nature that science has done in the last hundreds of years, leaving outside many queer forms of existances that don’t seem to fit into any category of taxonomy. And to imagine new ways of exploring nature outside of the western taxonomic system, meant also to be able to open the language and invent new categories, or better new no-categories.

In her letter to Michael Marder “Becoming Humans”, author Luce Irigaray writes: “denomination is probably our most basic cultural process. But how to assign a name to what is through becoming and changing, as it is the case for life? Furthermore, if some cultures have words to express the motion of being, our western culture lacks them. In Japanese we could probably say that the tree trees, that is, is becoming tree through its growing, as it is possible to say that the cloud clouds. We do not have this opportunity. For us, westerners, a tree can be an oak, a pine, a beech, etc., and we learn how to designate and classify the kinds of trees without taking a real interest as toward inanimate things, outside any consideration for living relations with them and between them” (Irigaray & Marder, 2016, p.90). 

In Suratómica we ask ourselves: can we imagine a way of exploring and wondering about nature outside of closed structures of knowledge? Acknowledging the value western taxonomic systems have had for the understanding of nature, and critically looking at its disadvantages and missing perspectives (such as the concept of dark-taxa and academic censorship) from the point of view of queer theory, we want to propose possible new ways, outside of academia and western science to co-exist, care for and understand other bodies, entities, and life-forms. To imagine other ways and means to understand/relate with nature, considering ourselves as part of it seems difficult, or maybe even utopic, just as trying to imagine anything outside capitalism.

Through this workshop we proposed the first steps towards building a network of queer and complex understandings of those many other ways of existance. A network that embraces an evolutionary knowledge that diversifies, mutates and cooperates, based not only on the aesthetic and measurable parts of the different bodies, but imagining the complexity of their existence to study, understand, and embrace them.

We walked around Cultivamos Cultura and on the beach in Vila Nova de Milfontes, and collected different types of bodies trying to see them not as mineral, organic, living/non-living or other known categories, but as complex objects shaping and being shaped by the environment and other bodies. For this first workshop we proposed three possible ways of looking at them: the first was through the theory of sympoiesis proposed by Lynn Margulis, in which we looked at the symbiotic relationships of the bodies with their surroundings, the second was the poetic, aesthetic and senseable elements of the bodies, and the third one was their chemical composition, not with the intention of dividing them into their smallest parts, but connecting them to the rest of the universe by looking into the composition of the matter of which the whole world is built of. 

Collected objects

Having collected many bodies, we built the network as a 3d structure, one that seemed to imitate a spider’s web, or a neural system, or a constellation. One that spoke many languages of many different webs and networks in nature. We decided to relate the objects with strings, wool, metal, cotton. In the process of constructing the web the bodies of the artists and participants became part of the web, then  they were gone, came back, and so on, building a living structure, a fluctuating and mutating network of objects, bodies, strings, entities, heat, smells, glue, hands. 

On the web Anna projected a video of the sea-urchin-babies that we collectively had been co-parenting, sharing a schedule every night to oxygenate the water, looking at them under the microscope to follow their growth, sharing moments of happiness when we found out they were moving. This video made it possible to see also the reflection and the shade of the objects against the white background, zooming into different objects, changing their size, and thereby making them even more queer and alien. It was possible to see one little seed the same size as a human, or a shark egg take over and be bigger than any other object in the web, de-categorizing it even more.

The complexity of the web grew once we started naming the connections between the bodies, not the bodies themselves, or what they were made of, but the things they had in common with other bodies inside the network. These could be aesthetic components, such as how fluffy they were or seemed to be, chemical components, such as calcium carbonate, others were poetical elements, such as the word “mother” or the word “forgotten”. 

This network is the representation of entanglements of ways of existing in a specific place of the planet and in a specific time, and it is categorized (or de-categorized) by the eyes, hands, feelings and personal histories of the participants of the workshop. This is another way of studying nature, inclusively, extensively, complex and collaboratively aiming not to leave anything outside. Like in nature.

Concept by: Suratómica, daniela brill estrada and Natalia Rivera 

Facilitated by daniela brill estrada with the support of Marthin Rozo 

Participants: Maro, Arancha, Marta, Anna, Diana, Foad, Yang, Marthin, Oona, Bea, Carolina, Andreia, Andrew, daniela.

Inspirations and bibliography:

Through vegetal being, Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder, Columbia, 2016

All art is ecological, Timothy Morton, Penguin Books, 2021

Symbiotic Planet, Lynn Margulis, Basic Books, 1999

Symbiotic Earth: How Lynn Margulis rocked the boat and started a scientific revolution. Documentary by John Feldman

Estética y Complejidad, elementos para un estado crítico del arte, Carlos Maldonado, Creación Arte & Ciencia, 2021

Research group „En el filo del Caos“ for Suratómica by Carlos Maldonado

Picture by Anna
Picture by Anna
Picture by Anna
Picture by daniela
Picture by daniela

Flying: day 7 Sunday

Today for me is travel back to Lisbon and home to London! A bit of a dash and a long way.

In a slightly nervous state, I completed my bit of the ‘concertina book’ just before the final goodbyes and a walk by team Cultivamos Cultura up to the bus stop. I added a set of flying Swifts/Swallows, House Martins which move up the page to chromosomes, and falling stick figures before I left. It seems fitting to be ending with birds as I began with birds on my arrival

The work went well and hopefully, there will be additions through the follow-up week of the Cultivamos Cultura Summer School.

Concertina Book work for Change a head

You can see more such work, watercolours and laser-cut concertina books at : –

https://www.andrewcarnie.uk/watercolours and at https://www.andrewcarnie.uk/laser-cut-books

Concertina Book work for Change a head

Concertina Book work for Change a head

Blood simple: day 6 Saturday

A long day of work before swimming and relaxing at the beach at Vila Nova de Milfontes and super at Marta’s, chicken Piri Piri, and ice cream in town, What could be better, it started this way with Dave and Maro on Saturday 2nd when we just arrived in Sao Luis and ended this way.

A catching-up day, more connecting ‘actions’ between objects in the taxonomic grid made with and through Daniela’s starting point. We added countless labels making the connections.

There was time too, to complete some of the work on the watercolours around the  Change a head project too. We made steady progress on the works.

Also kicked off the concertina bookwork. Dream – Imagine the other, reed sticthing by Bia, blood painting with Maro, seeds from Arancha, the laser cut microscope from Foad, and others to come soon I hope over the next week!!!

Team working on the collective piece

Bellow is a very nice text on the messiness of heart transplant we discussed by the whole project team:-

Med Humanit. 2018 Mar; 44(1): 46–54. Published online 2017 Sep 28. doi: 10.1136/medhum-2017-011212 PMID: 28972037

Messy entanglements: research assemblages in heart transplantation discourses and practices

Margrit Shildrick,1Andrew Carnie,2Alexa Wright,3Patricia McKeever,4Emily Huan-Ching Jan,5Enza De Luca,6Ingrid Bachmann,5Susan Abbey,7Dana Dal Bo,5Jennifer Poole,8Tammer El-Sheikh,5 and Heather Ross6

The work becomes more complex