Exhibition View: Holobiont. Life is Other

Presentation of bodies, environments, texts, media, machines and biological organisms condensed into pictorial spaces / Oct 2022–Jan 2023

Curated by Judith Reichart, Lucie Strecker, Thomas Feuerstein, Jens Hauser

Exhibition view, please note the following presentation does only show parts of the artworks from the exhibition.
On Microperformativity, Wall paper based on the Journal Performance Research 25 (3), edited by Jens Hauser and Lucie Strecker with two monitors.

In the context of the exhibition, a multimedia wall newspaper presented artistic and theoretical contributions on the potential of microscopic physiological, chemical or biotechnological processes, taken from the journal ‘On Microperformativity’.

Microperformative positions ask how artistic methods can critically engage with technologies that manipulate life at the microscopic and molecular levels, merging around bio- and digital media. For this finissage the contributions by international authors of the special volume of the journal Performance Research 25 (3), ‘On Microperformativity’ were presented and discussed. The term microperformativity denotes a current trend in theories of performativity and performative artistic practices to destabilize human scales (both spatial and temporal) as the dominant plane of reference and to emphasize biological and technological micro-aspects that relate the invisibility of the microscopic to the intangibility of the macroscopic. Investigations into microperformativity redefine what art, philosophy, and the technosciences now consider ‘body’ at a time when performance art is moving toward a generalized and ubiquitous performativity in art.

Lucie Strecker – Brains’ Shit for Shit Brains (2020) / With literary text by KT Zakravsky

Brain's Shit for Shit Brains speculates on the importance of microbial diversity in sociopolitical contexts. Not only biobanks have recently been advertising the shit of celebrities, but pharmacological and medical research is also investigating the importance of microorganisms in the stool and their influence on mental and cognitive functions via the so-called microbiota-gut-brain axis.

Lucie Strecker designed a shooting gallery in which a microbial suppository becomes the grand prize. Porcelain anuses are the targets, placed in a coordinate system of social positions according to the French sociologist and anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu.

Lucie Strecker collected stool samples from people from different socio-political spaces and extracted microbes from them. They were preserved as a ‘pharmakon.’ The pharmakon is ambivalent in its effect: as magic and power it can be – simultaneously or consecutively – healing and damaging. For this installation, the literary artist KT Zakravsky wrote a literary game manual.

Henrik Plenge Jakobsen – Freiheit ist ein Geheimnis (2021). Teaching installation with a blackboard, bench, mylar curtains, stones from the Rickbach, Hörbranz.

The installation by Henrik Plenge Jakobson is an imaginative lesson with rocks from the lake waiting for their teacher to appear so she can begin her lesson on where the concept of freedom is hidden. It will likely be a complex session about existence and its relationship to the environment, and where exactly the cracks of emancipation can be found within that relationship.

ECOLALIA by Klaus Spiess / Ulla Rauter / Emanuel Gollob / Rotraud Kern (2022)

'The performance installation ECOLALIA uses artificial intelligence to uncover the complex balance between the needs of our oral microbiome and a future language. Our lab data show that the tonal, vibrating voice that unfolds primarily in singing and moaning stimulates microbes to grow, while the noise of alphabetic speech, as amplified by whispering, stresses oral microbes and causes them to die.’ — ECOLALIA makes a statement about the simultaneous loss of diversity of microbiota and languages. It shows in real time that the oral flora uses vowels differently from consonants for its growth. The flourishing of the flora, supported by artificial intelligence and a speech synthesiser, suggests new sounds for new languages.

Thomas Feuerstein, GREEN HYDRA (2021). Hydras (many-headed Hydra viridissima), green algae (Chlorella vulgaris), glass, plastic, pump technology, refrigerator

HYDRA (2021) by Thomas Feuerstein is a mouth-blown glass sculpture in the form of a many-headed hydra, inside of which freshwater polyps – called Hydra viridissima – are cultivated. The hydras live in a chamber of the sculpture filled with water and enter into symbiosis with chlorella algae. Through their transparent bodies, the chlorophyll of the microalgae glows and colors them green. Both creatures mutually complement their animal and plant metabolism and use light and plankton as a source of energy and food. – Symbiotic communities have gained metaphorical prominence in recent years in the debate over new models of society.

Maja Smrekar, Opus et Domus (2018). Glass house, metal spinning wheel, serotonin, dog hair, human hair, microfluidic lab system, hot plate

Maja Smrekar includes her Hybrid Family in the Opus et Domus by producing yarn from her dog companion’s and her own body hair that she collected since 2017, spun into a social fabric that was defined by their hybrid relationship, including artifially produced serotonine, an odoriferous mixture, combining serotonin taken from the blood of the artist with that taken from her dog. The advanced technology implemented into the installation serves to underline the contrast to the symptoms of the ever regressing society. The archetypal relationship depicted in this tableau vivant thus paraphrases a conclusion that the roots of politics are older than humanity; a thought suggesting that nowadays hybrid processes in society are solely political statements.

Close Reading – David Berry/Lucie Strecker (2021). Microphone stand, perforated plate, glass petri dishes, nutrient medium, PH index, Journal of Performance Research 25(3).

Close Reading by David Berry/Lucie Strecker (2021) — In literary studies, close reading refers to the careful interpretation of a passage of text, a precise reading that traces all textual details, nuances of meaning, and linguistic effects, focusing on the text as an object. Such an approach places great emphasis on the specific as opposed to the general, paying close attention to individual words, syntax, and the order of sentences and words.

As an installation, Close Reading is an invitation to visitors to select a short passage from the journal, read it aloud, and ‘discuss’ the Petri dish which is placed in the microphone stand with their breath and the microbes in it. The petri dish is closed and the quote is written on the lid. From that moment on, the individual microorganisms continue to grow on the nutrient medium over the period of the exhibition.

‘We’ experience ‘us’ as transitory beings drifting between digital and molecular worlds and sense the twisting of boundaries within us as the possibility of a new language beyond a symbolic distance from the world. With the exhibition Holobiont. Life is Other, the Angewandte Interdisciplinary Lab presents bodies, environments, texts, media, machines and biological organisms condensed into pictorial spaces – each of which represents a narrative about another life and about the lives of others.

More about the exhibition

With contributions by

Art Orienté Objet, Irini Athanassakis, David Berry, Julia Borovaya, Adam Brown, Juan M. Castro & Akihiro Kubota, Tagny Duff, Thomas Feuerstein, Karmen Franinovic, Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, Luis Hernan/Pei-Ying Lin/Carolina Ramirez-Figueroa, Hideo Iwasaki, Henrik Plenge Jakobsen, Eduardo Kac, Roman Kirschner, Lynn Margulis/Dorion Sagan/Bruce Clarke/David McConville, Yann Marussich, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, ORLAN, Špela Petrič, Chris Salter, Maja Smrekar, Klaus Spiess/Ulla Rauter/Emanuel Gollob, Lucie Strecker/KT Zakravsky, Tina Tarpgaard, Paul Vanouse, M R Vishnuprasad, Peter Weibel, and authors of the special issue On Micorperformativity, Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, 2020, 25 (3).

Scenography: Wolfgang Fiel, Institute for cultural policy

The exhibition was curated originally for the Magazin 4 exhibition space in Bregenz. The content was adapted and expanded for display at Angewandte Interdisciplinary Lab (AIL).

All photos: Lea Dörl